I'll never forget that headline: Work, Sleep, Family, Fitness, or Friends: Pick 3.
Randi Zuckerberg called it the "Entrepreneur's Dilemma" and it sounded all too familiar.
At the time I was a mother of two preschool aged children and had just launched my career as a storytelling expert and public speaker. When the business took off faster than I imagined, I made it my mission to hack the system so I could have it all: Work, Sleep, Family, Fitness and Friends.
Here is how I systematically designed my life to fit in all five.
1. Find your minimums.
With only so many hours in the day, I first set out to determine how many hours I needed (and didn't need) for sleeping and working out. Sleep was first.
I held out hope that maybe I was a member of the sleepless elite; the 1 percent of people who need very little sleep. I was not. I need sleep to function. Exactly how much shuteye? That's what I figured out next.
I tested and eventually determined seven hours was ideal, six was manageable. I determined my fitness minimum next: five cardio workouts in a week (30 to 60 minutes each) and four weight workouts (10 minutes each) and I looked pretty good.
By knowing the minimum numbers you need for optimal performance, everything else can work around it. Have a project you need to stay up late for? Go to bed at 2 a.m., wake up at 8am. Workout all week? More time for friends on the weekend. Know your minimums, build from there.
2. Double up.
When my business got busier, happy hours and weekend hangouts were the first things to go which meant less time for friendships. Refusing to give up on one of my five, I started doubling up. Instead of meeting a friend for a 5 p.m. cocktail, we met for a 5 a.m. spin class. Two birds, one stone.
I also used this strategy to give myself a break. If I spent an hour digging holes on the beach with my kids, that counted as fitness and family time. No need to run five miles with sand in my shoes.
3. Be 100 percent where you are.
The worst part about being an entrepreneur and a parent is the sense that part of you is always somewhere else. Head to the office but have a sick kid at home, you're only half at work. Arrive in time for dinner but have an unruly Inbox screaming for your attention, you're only half home.
This was the hardest for me. Then one morning as I was leaving, my one-year-old daughter cried to me. I looked into her big hazel eyes and made a promise: Every time I left her to do my work, I would leave her 100 percent.
I would put 100 percent into the job I had to do. And when I got home, I was 100 percent home. No emails, no calls, no work allowed.
Balance is a fallacy. 50 percent mom and 50 percent business owner doesn't work.
Be 100 percent where you are when you are there.
4. Track it all.
Years ago I started using a goal setting program where you establish three goals for the year, three for each month, three for each week and then track your activities toward those goals every day.
You can't change what you don't measure.
Every night before bed I track the behaviors that help me overcome the Entrepreneur's Dilemma. If ever I feel one of the five areas is slipping, all I need to do is refer to my behaviors to have my answer and solution. (Not to mention, in the four years since I started tracking, my income has doubled each year.)
I've always believed we must be wary of the stories we tell ourselves. That was the bigger dilemma I faced the day I read that fateful article. Was "Picking 3" as good as it gets? I could have adopted that story for myself. Instead, I fought to find a new one.
Tell yourself you can have it all and then go make it happen.