My son turned two last year, a week before his little sister was born. They were both born in the six years since Todd McKinnon and I founded Okta-two major milestones that can’t be compared or explained. What I can attempt to explain is how I’ve managed to make it all work.
Being a relatively new parent and an executive at a high-growth company isn’t easy, but it can be done. It’s really all about efficiency. Here are seven pieces of advice for high-powered moms and dads looking to optimize their time at home and in the office.
1) Stay connected to your spouse: Being in constant communication with my wife keeps me grounded. She’s a physician so she’s stretched for time, attention and energy herself, but we take time to call, text and email throughout the day-and even more so when I’m on the road. I’ll never schedule something over our monthly date night. Staying connected helps us stay on the same page, and team even when it’s challenging. And always knowing what’s going on with her keeps me focused on what’s most important: my family.
2) Schedule everything: Keeping an impeccable calendar can help you reach the highest levels of efficiency. Beyond the customer meetings and conference calls on my schedule, I also block off time for catching up on the news, family dinners, reading to my kids before bedtime and my weekly late-night hockey games with the local rec league. My calendar might look daunting, but it keeps me organized and on the ball, and it gets me home at a decent hour. The key is not to stray from what you’ve set out for yourself. If you give yourself an hour to work on one project, only spend that hour. It’s not worth pushing everything else back to finish it-you can come back to it later.
3) Do what you can at home: Whatever you can accomplish from home, do it. I’m not talking about your day-to-day work, because I’m in no way a proponent of regular WFH days. But late night emailing? 100%. Hobbies and entertainment? Absolutely. It’s important to be a regular presence at home, even if you’re sometimes behind your computer screen or doing your own thing. I invested in a stationary bike so I could exercise before the kids wake up in the morning, and I watch hockey recaps on my iPad while cycling in the evenings. It’s the best of both worlds-I wake my kids up in the morning and put them to bed at night, and I’m able to give myself the time I need to unwind.
4) Make the most of your time on-the-move: Another key to efficiency is taking advantage of your commuting time. I schedule my east coast and international customer calls during my drive to and from work, and when I take public transportation, I crank through emails and read the morning and evening news on my iPhone.When I get into the office in the morning, I’ve either already done some business or I know what’s going on in our market before I’ve even had my first cup of coffee. And by working on my way home, I buy myself few hours to enjoy the company of my family. I don’t waste a minute.
5) Take advantage of technology: Okta securely connects people and technology, so I spend a lot of time talking to CIOs and IT leaders about the technology their employees use at work. As a result, I try to take advantage of the best productivity and communications tools to balance work and family time. I use Evernote to organize by my weekly to-dos by priority and function, RSS feeds for reading the news, TweetDeck to see what my favorite people and channels are talking about and FaceTime for chatting with the kids whenever I’m away from home.
6) Once a week, do something for yourself: When your schedule’s demanding, it’s important to set aside time every week for yourself-even if it’s only 30 minutes. Studies show that alone time (no matter how it’s spent) can improve your health, productivity contentedness. When you put everything on your calendar like I do, it’s easy to schedule time to workout or listen to the San Jose Sharks on the radio. Those activities will keep you grounded, happy and focused when back at work.
7) Don’t work while on vacation: Last but not least, when I take time off, I’m off. As I’ve written in the past, we take a top-down approach at Okta, encouraging employees to take full advantage their time-off opportunities by setting an example and not responding to emails while on vacation. Both Todd and I sign off for a week or more every spring or summer and during the holiday season and invite others to do the same. We’re upfront about employees taking regular time-off to unplug and reconnect to others outside of work. That could be your family, friends, or maybe yourself.
When balancing parenting and a high-powered job, you’re going to have to make sacrifices, no matter how well you calendar or take advantage of your commute. You’ll likely miss a few dance recitals or soccer games, or you’ll need to reschedule a few meetings. Accept that you can’t be everywhere so you can enjoy where you are. After all, when you take a step back, running a company and being a parent are privileges not everyone will experience. Have fun with them.
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