There is a saying that floats around the world of business and entrepreneurship that goes like this: “Friends, Family, Fitness, Sleep, Work—Pick Three.”
Randi Zuckerberg, the Founder and CEO of Zuckerberg Media, New York Times best-selling author and SiriusXM radio host, shared on Twitter that this is every entrepreneur’s dilemma: “Maintaining friendships, building a great company, spending time with family, staying fit, getting sleep—pick three.”
However, in a recent interview I conducted with Zuckerberg I realized what makes her mentality different is that she does not see that “pick three” decision as being a commitment to forever. In fact, her mentality is more of a balance in extremes, each day waking up and deciding, “These are the three I choose for today.”
“That has been my mantra for a long time,” said Zuckerberg. “And the wonderful thing is that each day you get to pick a different three. And that’s how you handle the messiness that comes with being an entrepreneur. Instead of putting pressure on ourselves to be well balanced in a 24-hour period, I think that expectation is what sets so many of us up for failure. You’re never going to be able to balance it all in one day. So what I like to do is give myself permission to be is a little lopsided—one day I might be really focused on my career, the next day I might be dedicating more time to being a mom, another day might be packed with tons of meetings with companies I want to invest in, etc. You can’t pressure yourself to do all those things in a single day,” said Zuckerberg.
In addition, she shared the importance of being able to step back and see the bigger picture. Zuckerberg is a huge advocate for “untangling” when it comes to our relationship with technology. So much so, that she founded Dot Complicated, an online community that helps readers navigate and “untangle” their wired lives.
“At some point, I noticed there were a handful of apps that I had on my phone I sort of just always mindlessly opened whenever I had some downtime in the day. I call it ‘junk food’ now. I’d be in line at Starbucks, in a taxi, waiting for the subway, and wouldn’t even realize my habit of opening them on my phone and mindlessly scrolling through them. Since then, I have tried hard to be more aware of my relationship with the technology I use, so that I am able to achieve more balance in my life,” said Zuckerberg.
She went on to explain that balancing something like technology use should not just be a personal practice, but a topic of discussion in our personal lives and relationships—especially within families.
“Every household has different comfort levels with how much screen time kids should be allowed. Different households have different ages where children get their first mobile phone or their first social media account. So, since it’s the beginning of the year, this is a great time to sit down with the family and say, ‘What is your digital allowance?’ I am a big advocate of having some kind of a digital allowance that is an open discussion between parents and children,” said Zuckerberg. “But most importantly, as adults, we also need to shine a light on ourselves and think about our own tech usage. And especially at the top of the year, it’s important to ask, ‘Are my own behaviors around technology healthy?’”
Going back to her point of choosing a “different three” each day, one of the biggest issues entrepreneurs face is maintaining awareness on how to keep each of those different elements of their lives in check.
When things are going well in your career, it can be easy to forget to spend time with your family. Or when things aren’t going so well, it becomes tougher to be able to let go for an hour and make it to the gym to stay healthy. All of these elements are important, and to Zuckerberg’s point, it’s not about trying to cram them all into a single day, but rather keep them in check across longer periods of time—how often you go to the gym, for example, in a week, or a month. That is a better data set to look at than simply 24 hours.
“Another thing that makes maintaining balance so difficult is that all this technology has made it so easy to be reachable, and being reachable means you can be interrupted,” said Zuckerberg. “I remember two years ago, I was in the show Rock of Ages, an ‘80s rock musical. And for eight shows a week, I was forced to unplug for 3 hours, because when you’re singing and dancing on Broadway, you’re not going to say, ‘Sorry, audience who’s paying $150 a ticket, I have to go answer a text message backstage.’ You have to put your phone in your dressing room, and then you’re going to come back to it 3 hours later when the show is over. And that was the first time in my life I had ever stepped away from my phone for 3 hours almost every single day, and guess what—the world didn’t end!”
Zuckerberg then explained how one of the fundamental challenges entrepreneurs face in balancing Friends, Family, Fitness, Sleep & Work comes down to our lack of boundaries. By always being reachable, we allow for a significant amount of distraction into our lives, and it makes it more difficult for us to set the priorities we need for ourselves.
As Zuckerberg suggested, we need to start drawing those boundaries for ourselves, because no one else is going to respect your time if you don’t respect your time.
“Maybe that means you unplug on Saturdays,” said Zuckerberg. “And at first, people are going to be impatient with that, but they’re eventually going to learn that they can’t reach you on Saturdays, and that’s on you to establish in the relationship.”
Her final words of wisdom when it comes to work-life balance had to do with the importance of being patient with one another. Just because something is a top priority for you, doesn’t mean it’s a top priority for the person on the other end of the email chain—and that’s OK. If you are reaching out to them through six different channels, imagine all the other people that are also reaching out to them through six different channels (and vice versa).
“It’s just something we all need to be increasingly mindful of,” said Zuckerberg. “We live in a world where everyone is reachable, all the time. Therefore, we expect that everyone is at our beck and call, and they’re not.”
So, how do you find balance in 2017? Set boundaries, establish your priorities, and finally, realize that each day will be a different blend of Friends, Family, Fitness, Sleep & Work. It’s not about doing everything perfectly, every day. It’s about finding a balance of them all over the long-term.