Editor's note: Inc. asked eight entrepreneurs at the top of their game to track for one day (Tuesday, November 29, 2016) how they spent every single hour. Productivity expert and author Laura Vanderkam then weighed in on what they're doing right, what they may be doing wrong, and how you can apply their productivity skills to your life.
After 16 years as an entrepreneur, the co-founder of Method, Eric Ryan, 44, is now CEO and co-founder of supplements company Olly, an operating partner at investing firm Encore Consumer Capital, and a single father. He's also still involved in Method, the eco-friendly cleaning-products company he sold to Ecover in 2012. He does it all by keeping a solid wall between family and work, and asking for help when he needs it.
12:00-4:00 a.m. Sleep.
4:00 a.m. Two kids have found their way into my bed and are hogging the pillow.
5:00-7:00 a.m. I set my clock for 5 but I'm not afraid to snooze, followed by a dose of regret for oversleeping. I make coffee, and work until 7. This is my most productive time of the day, and I find I have the most clarity to tackle challenging problems. I try to use this time for high-level, meaningful work, such as a strategy for a new product or working through a major retail presentation, versus email or working through a punch list. I set goals yearly, monthly, weekly, and daily. For yearly, they are structured around health, wealth, and happiness, and for weekly and daily, I use digital stickies on my laptop. Every morning, I look at the punch list for the week and that day.
Laura says: Seduced by the snooze button.
The snooze button is evil. Nine-minute chunks of sleep don't give you the deep restorative slumber you need, and you're not getting out of bed and starting your day either. It's the worst of all worlds! Decide the night before when, realistically, you intend to get out of bed, and set your alarm for that time. Then enjoy every last minute of sleep right until that moment.
7:00 a.m. I wake my three kids to get them ready for school. The next 60 minutes, we run the gauntlet to get everyone out the door by 8. I'm a single dad, so I need to be well organized to get everyone fed and dressed and their lunches made. I get clothes organized the night before, along with all backpacks, shoes, and lunch materials. I have a family assistant who comes at 7:30 and will split school drop-offs with me, since the kids have to be at different schools at the same time. We alternate drop-offs, which allows me to be with my daughter every other day. On her day, we can walk the five minutes to her school, which is our special time. Being a single dad has brought several gifts, and one of them is better life balance because it creates better discipline. When I am with the kids, I am 100 percent focused on them. I try to stay off my phone or laptop around them. But when I am away from the kids, I work really hard so I can be there for them when they are back.
Laura says: Ask for help.
Eric invests wisely in family support. One person can't be in three places at once, but you'd be surprised how many people try, and then wonder why they're always late for kid pickup.
8:00 a.m. Once everyone is dropped off, at 8:30, I typically call our head of sales during the drive to work. I'm fortunate to live in Marin County, on the north side of the Golden Gate Bridge. Olly is headquartered in the Presidio, a national park on the south side of the bridge. Method is headquartered downtown, which is a longer commute. I purposely chose the park for Olly's location, to gain life balance.
9:00-11:00 a.m. I typically have meetings from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. I minimize the number of standing weekly meetings, but every Thursday we alternate between our leadership team meeting and our product innovation meeting. I am very structured about this Thursday meeting, with an agenda going out a week in advance, pre-reads, and clear goals for what we need to get done in two hours.
11:00 a.m. Walking one-on-one meeting with our creative director. Since we work in a park, I enjoy "walk and talks" and do about three of these a day. I can think better in motion, and people are more open walking in a park than they are sitting in a conference room. It's also incredibly healthy to walk multiple times a day versus just sitting. I see this as a way of living the brand. We then head back to the studio to review a new product concept that we are working on for a visit from Target next week. I work visually, so we have all major development projects built out on giant whiteboards. I believe that if projects are shared visually, it helps people connect the dots on new ideas and feel more welcome to build on those ideas and collaborate.
12:00 p.m. Recess! Part of our culture is to never forget that we work in a park. A ritual of our culture is to regularly have recess, which anyone can initiate and organize. It's ranged from yoga to kickball. On this particular day, we play musical chairs outside on these giant art installation chairs the park recently set up. We grab sandwiches on the way back.
1:00 p.m. Interview a candidate for a social media manager position. Since Olly is quickly scaling, we are rapidly hiring. I always take candidates for a walk and find that it relaxes them and they put their guard down, which tends to be a better interview. Every finalist is expected to present what we call "homework," and one of the questions is "How will you help make life better in the park?" I ask candidates about their personal life and how they can contribute to our culture. At 1:30, I have a quick check-in call with our Target buyer to talk about his visit next week. As a founder, I feel my most important role is to stay close to our retailers and work with them as thought partners. Since I didn't know how to sell when I started Method, I treated retailers as clients, because that is what I knew
from advertising and it just stuck.
2:00 p.m. If it's a day I have the kids, I leave work at 2 and try to never miss a pickup or a drop-off for school. My executive assistant, Season, will try to schedule a call during my 30-minute drive to the school so I can be productive. She does a great job of monitoring everything and "clearing the deck" so when I am with the kids, I can be focused on them and not have to worry about work.
Laura says: Define your own balance.
Eric has a lot on his plate. He's wise to split his schedule in half, working less when he has the kids and working a lot when they're elsewhere. People who need to travel for work can do the same thing. Work long hours when you're gone, because there's no opportunity cost. When you get home, work fewer hours so you can be focused on your family. It all evens out in the end.
3:00 p.m. I pick up the boys at 3 and run them home before walking up to get my daughter at 3:30. My family assistant helps me juggle the kids' being in multiple places, and most days after school involve a lot of running between sports practices, after-school activities, play dates, and appointments, since I can't physically be in three places at once.
4:00 p.m. My middle child has a coding class, which he loves, and the youngest has basketball practice, so my daughter and I play a game outside before walking to the corner market to pick up a couple of extra things for dinner.
5:00 p.m. Homework and getting ready for dinner. The kids do a little independent playing while I get dinner on the table.
6:00 p.m. Dinner with the kids, and we tend to play a lot. On this evening, we play Uno, Magna-Tiles, and Ping-Pong.
7:00 p.m. Following a little screen time, which helps me catch my breath, it's time for final snacks, baths, and teeth brushing.
8:00 p.m. Start getting everyone into bed. I rotate from room to room with the ritual of reading books followed by back rubs or spelling on their backs. I finish with my daughter by 9. Just when I think everyone is down, my youngest comes out saying he is hungry. He's played this game before.
9:00 p.m. After finally getting everyone down, I prep for the next day and put the house back together. I jump on my laptop to wrap up anything left on my to-do list, and reset it for the next day.
10:00 p.m. At 10:30, I jump into bed and read for 30 minutes.
11:00 p.m. Off to sleep, and if my mind is feeling restless, I'll take an Olly Sleep.