For those entrepreneurs, CEOs, and executives who do not have bosses, it can be difficult to schedule and grow a business, especially if you can pick your schedule every day.
2013 was a busy year for me. I was working on STR, Mingle, C&M Group, and still trying to have a life with my friends and family. First off, I highly recommend you NOT start three businesses around the same time, simply because you will not be able to keep up with the demands of a startup (unless you are Elon Musk).
After moving to C&M Group full time, and focusing on growth as the company’s CEO, I realized I was spending every waking hour working.
And I mean working. Every. Single. Hour.
Some of my friends, including founders in Boston, always tell me that they work extremely hard, day and night to make their startup dreams happen.
Working 24/7 may work for some, but it certainly does not work for me, especially continuously.
After being burned out, I have discovered a few “rules that I live by,” especially during the building businesses phase.
Here they are:
1. Emails start and end your day
On average, I get about 100 emails per day. About 75% of them are emails where I have to be thoughtful and respond. The other 25% are generally emails that have great information (i.e., subscriptions to things such as the Hubspot blog, Buffer blog, etc.).
I love to meditate to start my morning, and usually after that I turn on the stove and get my oatmeal going while I get ready for the day.
Because of the amount of business we do in India (we recently hired in India), I have about half my emails from Indian entrepreneurs or businesses looking for advice, where a few of these turn into C&M Group deals.
For this reason, I tackle email in the morning. When I say tackle, I mean I try my very best to get my inbox down to 0 emails before my first meetings of the day.
One caveat: I ONLY will check and RESPOND to my email during the morning or evening time, which is usually right before I go to bed.
Generally during the week, I will continuously check my C&M Group account on my iPhone in case of a cancellation or urgent email.
Otherwise, no emails. What I have experienced is emails can severely slow down whatever you are doing. In fact, I used to be such a nut when it came to emails that I would respond to emails while talking to people.
One way to tackle this is to leave conversations short and direct. Of course, for some people, this is hard to do.
A trick I learned from Steve Jobs (indirectly) is to have a “sent from my iPhone” signature attached to all my emails, including my computer ones.
That way, people will think that I am responding from my phone and cannot write out lengthy emails. Better yet, I will just pick up the phone and talk. But I still keep my meetings to a short 30 minutes.
2. Do the fun things when you are tired
As my clients, friends, and family know, I love people. Sometimes, not having people around me makes me depressed.
If you were to ask me what my favorite part about my career is, it is advising and helping others. This is one of the main reasons I started C&M Group.
Because I wake up early, I usually get pretty tired in the afternoon, which usually means I become extremely unproductive.
To combat this, I usually schedule the most difficult, thought-intensive tasks during the morning when I am fresh, and tasks that are less intensive when I am less busy.
For example, because I love people and talking with them, I schedule my phone meetings with clients after lunch. The only reason I wouldn’t schedule a meeting after lunch is if I have too many meetings and need to spread them out during the week.
This is an example of a typical day:
5:30 AM – Wake up, tweets, emails, schedule for today
5:45 – 6:30 – Meditate
6:30 – 7:00 – Make my oatmeal and get ready
7:00 – 8:00 – Emails, emails, emails + oatmeal
8:00 – 12:30 – Intensive works (client work, writing blogs)
12:30 – 1:00 – Lunch (and a talk from an entrepreneur*)
1:00 – 6:00 – Phone calls, client facing work, interviews, etc.
6:00 – 7:00 – Quick workout
7:00 PM – Meditation
7:30 PM – Eat dinner (and a talk from an entrepreneur)
7:30 – 10:00 – Blog, check remaining emails
10:00 – 11:00 – Emails, emails, emails, read a book
11:30 – Lights out
* I usually listen to a talk from an entrepreneur I am intrigued by and want to learn more from. For example, last week, I wanted to learn more about building culture at BookBoi Inc., so I decided to watch as many videos as I could featuring Tony Hsieh, the king of culture building.
3. Have a (rough) schedule day by day
Remember how I mentioned I was burning out constantly? I realized that I did this because I did not have many breaks or opportunities to relax.
After my breakdown in the beginning of 2014, I realized that I needed to figure out a better method to organize my day. Thanks to Jack Dorsey, I found it.
Here is the official Chirag Kulkarni weekly schedule:
Monday – Employees, culture
Tuesday – Clients
Wednesday – Clients
Thursday – Clients, partners
Friday – CSR commitment, advising entrepreneurs
Saturday – Personal development. Limited device usage
Sunday – Personal reflection and direction
Let me go into depth.
Monday is a day that I spend focusing on culture and employees. This is the day that I do employee check-ins, culture development, working on making sure our team members are on track for their personal and professional growth. Of course, I deal with clients, but I will generally prefer meetings with clients on other days.
Tuesdays and Wednesday are client-focused days. Period.
Thursday is client- as well as partner-focused. One thing I learned early on is that business can be more fun if you can find win-win relationships. We usually check in with our partners in India and explore various business development opportunities. For example, we are exploring opportunities with business intelligence platforms and companies.
Friday is a day that I focus on helping out entrepreneurs in the Boston, United States, and India startup ecosystems. Completely for free. This usually happens because people are interested in bouncing ideas off of me, chatting about strategy, growth, or other things I love. I also speak, so I will have calls regarding this on this day.
Saturday is an electronics-free day. Every day of the week (except for today) I am plugged to my phone, laptop, and every other device. I take this day for myself. Hang out with friends and family, go on a walk through Boston, read books, whatever I want. In other words, NO EMAILS.
Sunday is usually a day of self-reflection. I usually have a bunch of emails from the weekend, so I get a light start on those, but otherwise, I am setting goals short term, as well as assessing my long-term goals.
Entrepreneurs are busy and passionate people. Sometimes we can get carried away with our work. Although it is important to find balance, it can be hard.
That is why I have found my method useful. It allows me to work extremely hard, while giving myself a recovery period so I can continue with the schedule for (hopefully) years.
What do you think of my schedule? What has worked for you?
Chirag Kulkarni is a serial entrepreneur and advisor. He is currently the CEO of C&M Group, an entrepreneurial strategy consulting firm focused on growth and new product innovation for startups to Fortune 500s. Previously, he cofounded STR, a B2C and B2B racquet-stringing company, and sold it in 2013.