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Martin Varsavsky Headshot

On Managing My Time

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One of the most frequent questions I get from journalists during interviews is "how do you have time to do everything you do? You run Fon, you are an active angel investor in so many companies, you teach at IE, speak at conferences, run your foundation, and on top of that you have a wife, 5 children, and you cycle, sail, and so on. How do you do it?"

My answer generally centers around the fact that I have a great team of managers, that they are so good and reliable, that Fon has an amazing pool of talent, I also talk about how much I delegate, and that is all true.

There is another side to this question that I have not told journalists.  I have not done it because I fear sounding obnoxious, or elitist, or just weird.  But this is my blog so if I don't do it here where else?  So here's the other answer, the more private answer of how I manage my time and in one way or another I have managed my time like this throughout my life.  Some of these tips are probably useful to you so here they go.

- I almost never watch TV, that seems to consume 20 hours a week of the average person. If I watch anything it's Netflix or Youtube, that's where I get my TV content and movies from.  I also never go to movie theaters and watch all movies in our home theater with the family.

- I am not interested in professional sports, another activity that seems to consume endless hours of many people including most of my guy friends. Like yesterday was the Super Bowl, and it went unnoticed to me. I only watch the World Cup and that is once every four years.

- I read few books, I just don't have 30 hours to devote to each one of them.  I read a lot on the net however, and some magazines and short stories.  But just like I practice sports much more than I watch sports (I cycle around 8 hours a week) I write much more than I read. I read a lot in my 20s, now it's my time to contribute to others.  Yes, I did read the Steve Jobs bio, or some Nick Hornby, Martin Amis novels. But reading whole books takes too much time for me to be able to do it on a daily basis.  I wait to go on vacation for that.  I read when I sail.  That makes a perfect combination for me.

- Personal grooming: many top business people spend a great deal of time selecting their clothes, getting haircuts, manicures, pedicures, and all sorts of time consuming personal grooming activities. I instead sometimes cut my own hair, dress simply, wear sneakers and jeans, never wear ties or suit. Also I don`t spend much time shopping, almost everything I buy I buy online.

- Logistics and commute: I sometimes drive, but I have a driver and while I go anywhere I work in my car. This is clearly a luxury but it is a time saving luxury. Also by design my home is 10 minutes from my office and 20 minutes from the airport also near my kids schools. I also have another special luxury which is a small private jet and therefore spend much less time at airports and travel more efficiently around Europe, Turkey, Israel, Morocco, (my plane does not cross the Atlantic). Private jets are clearly a luxury but small jets that fly less than 4 hours cost 1/10 of what large jets that cross oceans cost. They do have an environmental footprint and I have built a lot of wind farms to pay for my sins :)

- Even though my company's name is Fon I rarely make phone calls.  I communicate over every imaginable platform, bbm, whatsapp, skype for chat, google talk, you name it, but phone calls are mostly for family and friends and even those are rare.  I prefer electronic media or in person meetings.  That also saves me an hour a day compared to others, or more.

- I don't drink. Yes this one is a shocker but I rarely drink, if anything a glass of wine with a meal. I dislike beer and liquor. Drinking is something that consumes an incredible amount of time in the lives of other people and renders them useless for a lot of other activities for a significant percentage of their lives. Not drinking has put me in difficult positions doing business, especially in Japan, but it's not that I am against it, it makes me want to puke. Same with drugs, I tried many, but didn't like them.  And cigarettes, cigars, I haven't smoked a whole one in my life, only a few joints and that was not a success either. Being sober at nights, on weekends, already puts me ahead of most of the population!

- I rarely do business lunches and dinners and spend most meals with family and friends. Business meetings are at the office and in the morning. I work from 9 to 2. Afternoons are for family and sports. Business meetings are invariably short. Then of course I am always online and work online. But I don't like to be at the office just for being at the office. Now when I am at Fon, my door is open and people can walk in for short meetings.  People at Fon know that I treasure my time, but they also know that I am there every time I am really needed.

- I make social media work for me, sometimes people say, how do you get work done if you spend so much time on social media, but I use social media to take notes, like I have an idea for a business and I blog it, I share it, I work collectively with people, social media looks like a waste of time for others but it saves me time, I recruit on twitter, I brainstorm on Google+ or my blog, I work inside social media, get ideas, its a sanity check many times, crowdsourcing saves me time. When tweeting I use tweetdeck to time my tweets so they appear at different times of the day when I am doing other things. This allows me to tweet across time zones although sometimes it angers people when they think I don't answer and I am asleep. I also developed an Android app to listen to my social media on my bike. It's called Radiome and it reads your social media while it plays music, it's perfect for my bike.

- Against what many think I sleep and I sleep well, 8 hours or so. Sleeping is an important time of the day. I sleep much better with my wife than alone when I travel without her. Lately I sleep with our 5 month old baby and I still manage to sleep reasonably well because we are lucky enough to have a baby who sleeps 11 hours almost every night. She sleeps much better than my older kids and I think it's because we adopted co sleeping.

- Lastly I say no to a lot of invitations, events, dinners and business meetings. I see time as sailors see wind, or photographers see light, as something to use, manage, and shape, not as something to be a victim of, or to see go by. I am punctual.

And yes, I do have a great team of people who work for me and help me out and I am very, very thankful for what they do.

PD there's a shorter version of this article and a debate as well in Google+