The Value of Off-Time on Your Work
Like countless entrepreneurs, I often have several projects on my plate at any given moment and enjoy the challenge of this balancing act. I’ve started companies while working full-time and led multiple companies simultaneously. The common wisdom is not to do this. The common wisdom is “put everything you have into one company because that’s what the competition is doing.”
I have found, however, that there is tremendous value gained from working on dissimilar projects. I was the president of a mobile app company while building a fitness equipment company. At first glance, there is no common ground between the two businesses. Yet, time and again, I learned something from one company that was applicable to the other. The industry, function, customer base, and marketing channels were very different, but I learned a lot about sales, relationships, vendor management, and community-building from my experience at a technology company that has helped me tremendously in growing Flyte Fitness.
I’m a big advocate of taking experiences from outside the direct industry and applying them to the one you’re in. This helps us learn, and spurs innovation. This works for me, but it may not work for you. Everyone is different.
Beyond synergistic parallel work experiences, there are activities I do in my off-time that I find tremendously productive for my work. Running and oil painting are activities I enjoy that have no direct relationship to my work (operating and advising companies). However, both activities put me in a state that is quite conducive to “organic problem-solving.”
When I run, I don’t listen to music or a podcast. I picked up this habit after training for, and participating in, marathons that strongly discourage audio distractions for safety reasons. As a result, my mind wanders after the first few miles. Even though I don’t expressly set out to run in order to come up with a new idea or solve a problem, more often than not, that is the result. I tend to have business challenges fermenting in the back of my head, and, over the course of a run, I come up with ideas. I often use a mnemonic device in the form of an acronym to help me remember these ideas (with no phone or paper in hand).
Painting has served me similarly. It is a creative, rather than a physical, outlet. I do tend to listen to podcasts or audiobooks while painting — always outside. I find that my mind wanders, but I can have more intense insights into business while I’m multitasking. I walk away from oil painting sessions with new ideas for my businesses.
I don’t think there’s anything unique about running or painting. I know successful people who use walking, weight lifting, swimming, cycling, and even driving as activities to drive business innovation.
This article was written by Avenue Group Founder Jeremy Greenberg