Over at Inc. yesterday, columnist Jessica Stillman focused on that perennial question of trade-offs. Randi Zuckerberg had tweeted a statement that seemed to encapsulate the entrepreneurial dilemma Stillman wanted to highlight: “Maintaining friendships. Building a great company. Spending time w/family. Staying fit. Getting sleep. Pick 3.”
It is a different version of the old adage tossed at students: Sleep, study, socialize. You may pick 2. I have lost track of how many people have said to me, in a tone that implies this is supposed to be profound, “You can have it all, just not at the same time.”
But is this refreshingly honest? I am not so sure.
If we can truly only pick 3, then all these categories should take roughly the same quantity of time. That is clearly not the case, so I assume the point of the entrepreneurial dilemma is that perhaps our entrepreneur will be able to build a company, and sleep (being human and all), and see his/her family, but everything else is going to have to go. Given that many people think you cannot even sleep and see your family if you want to succeed in business, I appreciate this slightly more abundant perspective on time.
That said, I still think the dilemma is overly gloomy. You can pick all 5 if you want.
Here is why. “Staying fit” is inherently a limited category. When I was studying time logs for I Know How She Does It, I saw that one of my subjects was a distance runner who had recorded her 168 hours when she was 3 weeks out from the Boston Marathon. That is pretty much the peak of training time before the taper, and people who qualify for Boston are very serious runners. This woman was devoting 10 hours a week to physical activity. Merely staying fit requires nowhere near that. Perhaps you cannot be right at the peak before the taper continuously while building a great company, but could you run 30 minutes 5 times per week on your basement (or hotel) treadmill? Probably. That is 2.5 hours.
Then we look at maintaining friendships. This means different things to different people, but if we are going to focus on “maintaining” (rather than trying to meet 10 new friends weekly, or scheduling frequent weekend-long friend excursions), let us assume our entrepreneur has 6 very close friends he/she would like to have play a role in his/her life. Would spending an hour every other week with each of these people do that? That could be combined in a thoughtful way — a 3 hour dinner with 3 of the friends, perhaps, or a weekly long run with 2 of them (which would mean we could double up on the fitness front!). Human beings have to eat anyway, so our mindful entrepreneur could definitely aim to have breakfast or lunch with one friend a week. Those who are also very busy might be called while our entrepreneur is in a taxi on the way to the airport, or out walking his dog. I think devoting 3 hours per week (or even more!) to friendship maintenance seems possible.
So if we devote 2.5 hours to staying fit, and 3 hours to maintaining friendships, this is 5.5 hours per week. Let us say our entrepreneur plans to sleep 7.5 hours per night, or 52.5 hours per week. Add on the friendships and exercise and you get to 58 hours. There are 168 hours in a week, so this leaves 110 hours for some combination of work and family, and life maintenance. If our entrepreneur planned to work 65 hours, that would leave 45 hours for other things. This obviously presumes that someone else is available for lots of the family matters (e.g. if you have young kids) but let us presume that is true. There is still quite a bit of time.
How much time do you devote to maintaining friendships? Where do you fit this in?
Photo: Must we only pick one?
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