When people talk about their strategies for staying productive, they often emphasize the importance of keeping a calendar and setting aside large blocks of time to focus on work. These are excellent habits to cultivate, and they’re vital for anyone who wants to run a successful company (or be a good employee, for that matter).
As the CEO of Catch&Release — a company I founded in 2011 to help brands discover and license user-generated content from all over the Internet — I have experienced every stage of the startup process. From the first few conversations around my kitchen table to meetings with initial investors to strategy sessions with major clients, discipline has always been crucial. But you can’t be a disciplined CEO without occasionally doing things that relieve the everyday stresses of launching and running a business.
While your strategies for coping with pressure may differ from mine, the process of discovering and refining these strategies is essential. That’s why I’m sharing three things I do every day to maintain my focus and get even more done when I decide to jump back in.
1. Reading before bed
As the CEO of a startup, I know how crucial it is to never lose sight of our vision. There are a million things to do, big and small, tactical and strategic. To help us stay focused on the bigger picture, we started a book club at Catch&Release that explores topics and themes that relate to our current challenges and interests as a company.
Right now, we’re reading "The Lean Startup" by Eric Ries — a book full of useful information about how startups like ours can effectively grow and scale over time. This has led to a whole lot of discussions about how our product-building process can get leaner, faster, and smarter, as well as how we should address future challenges and opportunities as a multidisciplinary team.
Every night, I try to read at least three chapters of the book and share a few comments on our Slack discussion group. By consistently reading the book and contributing to the discussion, I’m not just fostering an environment where ideas can flow more freely among my colleagues – I’m also organizing my thoughts about what the next steps should be for my company. This regular mental exercise helps us all stay curious and open-minded, which I believe helps us execute with more passion, intelligence and empathy.
Reading always offers a reprieve from the everyday pressures of my job, and it’s an added benefit when the book makes me a better CEO in the process.
2. Listening to inspiring podcasts
Listening to my favorite music is one way to escape from the distractions of work and take a few minutes to appreciate something transcendent. But more often than not, in my free time or during my commute, I listen to podcasts about other entrepreneurs. I’m particularly fond of NPR’s How I Built This with Guy Roz.
While I value taking time to disconnect from my work (and phone!), I’m still always thinking about what’s next for my business, the industry and the future of how people work. Stories about entrepreneurs who have successfully challenged the status quo in huge markets always have a galvanizing effect on me, especially when they contain candid details about mistakes and failures. I also like listening to stories from people who have had success in completely different industries than ours. It’s a great way to learn.
There’s no question that the benefits smartphones provide can be offset the constant temptation to read one more article or respond to one more email (even when I shouldn’t). That’s why it’s important to remember that the little rectangle in your pocket can help reduce the stress in your life – from thousands of your favorite songs at the click of a button to a podcast that puts you in the right state of mind to get things done.
3. Spending time with family
Getting ready in the morning is always a rush, and things are particularly hectic when you and your husband both run your own companies. But that doesn’t prevent me from starting every day with my family.
While my husband showers, our 7-year-old gets ready for school and our 8-month-old eats breakfast. In the meantime, I make their lunch. As my husband and I run around getting ready, one of us always makes coffee. Then I strap my youngest into her carrier and take her for a brisk walk while I listen to music or a podcast, take a call or scan through my email. My chief of staff developed a great format for meeting prep which I review every morning before the day starts, which gets me into the right headspace.
Of course, there are also plenty of times when the best thing you can possibly do is just put the phone, tablet and everything else away to spend some uninterrupted time with your family. It’s important to be fully present for as many precious moments at home as possible, and this often means refusing to allow myself to be pelted with information from the outside world the second I unlock my phone.
Here’s the thing about “tips” like these: You don’t need me to tell you what they can do for your life. Everyone knows that an hour spent with your child is never an hour wasted. Everyone knows how important it is to carve out a few moments for the simple joys that have nothing to do with work. But sometimes we all need a little reminder.
And here’s the best part: After you spend some time relaxing with your loved ones, you’ll be even more of a productive force at work.
Analisa Goodin is the founder & CEO of Catch&Release (C&R), the leading content curation and licensing platform for brands and advertisers. Under her leadership, the company has raised over $3 million in venture capital funding. Customers include top brands like Jeep, Red Lobster, Apple and the NBA. Prior to founding C&R in 2014, Goodin was the founder and chief curator of Visual Catch, an image research company she established upon completing a Masters in Visual and Critical Studies from the California College of Arts in San Francisco.