This Philly Exec Uses Google’s Goal-Setting Techniques to Strike Work-Life Balance
At the start of the year, Slyce’s chief product officer set out to be more mentally and emotionally present at home and at work. Here’s how he’s making out.
It’s only three months into 2018, but we were curious to see the kind of progress Philly business leaders are making on their personal and professional goals for the year. Kyle Martin, chief product office at the visual search company Slyce, created an elaborate plan at the beginning of the year to spend more time with his family and less time looking at a screen. Here’s how his plan is holding up.
BizPhilly: What specific goals did you set for yourself at the start of the year and why?
Martin: The theme for my goals was inspired by the words of the great American philosopher Ferris Bueller who once said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while you can miss it.”
As a leader of a technology startup that’s competing in a rapidly evolving landscape, and as the father of two rapidly growing children, I can attest that time does go by too damn fast. I’ve found myself slipping into a pattern of missing family dinners, pulling all nighters, and spending most of my day staring at a screen. What was even more frustrating was that despite my efforts, I was growing increasingly unsatisfied with my output. I was constantly tired, stressed and angry at myself for neglecting my family, friends and health. I was totally missing it.
Toward the end of last year, my wife and I found out that we were expecting our third child. It was the push I needed to seek out a change. I created a series of goals designed to challenge my daily process and behaviors, with the end goal being to use my time wisely to accomplish the things that are most important to me.
- Be in the moment — be mentally and emotionally available at home, at the office and everywhere in between.
- Spend more energy on the important stuff — implement a new daily schedule that prioritizes a healthy work-life balance.
- Launch a passion project – pick up a project that got put down due to “life,” brush off the dust and ship it!
BizPhilly: How are you making out on these three objectives?
Martin: Things are working out much better than I expected, honestly. I was nervous about setting a goal that would require me to rewire so much of my day. To keep me on the right track, I started by setting key results for each objective. For example, one of the key results I set for my “be in the moment” objective was to implement “screen-free” policies for home and work. At the start of meetings, I’ve shut down my laptop and phone to focus 100 percent of my attention on the moderator, subject and attendees. At home, my wife and I have started putting our phones in a basket by the door. I still see important calls and messages coming in using my Apple Watch, but avoid the temptation to mindlessly skim e-mails, Twitter or Slack.
BizPhilly: What else have you worked in to your schedule to meet your objectives?
Martin: To combat stress and fatigue, a friend recommended that I try meditation – a cliché, I know. I was skeptical, but he convinced me to download the Headspace app and give it a try. I set a key result to meditate for 15 minutes, five days a week. The results have been incredible! I try to start my day with a 15-20 minute session every morning. I’m less groggy, and my stress level is way down. I’m now starting to use it throughout the day, five minutes here and five minutes there.
BizPhilly: What’s your biggest roadblock so far?
Martin: The most difficult challenge has been committing to a new daily schedule. The first key result was to assign activities to time slots. My day is supposed to look something like this:
- 6:00 – 6:30 a.m.: Mediation
- 6:30-8:00 a.m.: Exercise
- 8:00-9:30 a.m.: Breakfast with the family (and get kids changed, packed and out the door!)
- 9:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m.: Work
- 6:30-9:30 p.m.: Dinner and family time.
- 9:30 – 11:30 p.m.: Creative time
- 11:30 p.m.-12:30 p.m.: Netflix. Wind down.
- 12:30-6:00 a.m.: …ZzZz…
I’d say I’m doing an OK job following the schedule. It’s tough. Some steps are easier to follow than others. Rather than trying to be perfect, I’ve prioritized select steps for this quarter:
- Dinner and family time – Four nights/week (up from two)
- Meditation – Five days/week (up from zero)
- Work – five days/week (down from six)
- Creative time – three nights/week (up from one)
While my new routine has left me with less actual “work” time, I’ve found that balancing out the rest of my day has made it easier to be more productive at the office.
BizPhilly: How do you measure progress on these goals? For example, do you write them down somewhere? Do you have a tracking system in place?
Martin: I’m a product management geek, so I use an OKR (Objective and Key Results) framework for defining and tracking objectives and their outcomes. If you’re not familiar with it, watch this video:
I keep a notebook where I jot down some quick thoughts about my mood and what I did during the day. One day, I’ll get around to moving it over to a spreadsheet.
BizPhilly: What have you learned about setting goals at the beginning of the year?
Martin: I try to be honest with myself when I set a goal and choose something that’s attainable, not just aspirational. I believe objectives should be bold, specific and quantitative.
Personally, I’ve found that sharing my goals with my family or friends has been very effective at keeping me invested and honest.
Lastly, when possible, I try to draw a connection between my personal goals and my professional goals. The incentive is that achieving your goal will benefit your personal wellbeing as well as your career.