Pay Yourself First

Chris Brogan I’m asked often how I balance my time. I think what you’re asking is, “how can you run two companies, write for several blogs and magazines, write a book, speak professionally, and still have a family?” I do it. I really do manage all that. And most parties in that mix feel like they get a lot of attention from me. But it’s not easy. The way I accomplish it, and the way I’ll do even more going forward is that I pay myself first.

UPDATE: Nate DiNiro points out that Jeremiah Owyang wrote very similar posts back in 2007, in 2008, and 2009. It figures that I’m once again catching up to something Jeremiah’s known for years. : )

Pay Yourself First

You might have heard that expression when learning about how to manage money. The experts say that you have to give yourself your allotment of money before you pay any bills, etc, that it’s the secret to figuring out your finances. I’m using it in a similar way, but in our case, I’m talking about time and efforts.

I spoke with Arianna Huffington the other day in New York City, and she was talking about how she’s working on getting more sleep. She used to be one of those who ran herself ragged and nearly bragged about it, because that’s what it takes to show that you’re dedicated and determined. A recent interview with Mike Arrington in Inc magazine said the same thing, that he used to really burn the candle at both ends, but that he’s backed off from that stance and is doing more to take care of himself. Well, count me in that same group.

Over the last few months, I’ve experimented with getting more sleep. I started going down to rest at the same time I put my kids down (around 8:30PM ET), and then I’d get up with them (around 6:30AM). That has worked out rather well. Sure, I don’t get to squeeze in a few extra things each day the way I used to, but I am also far more rested and far more ready to take on the world when I wake up. That’s just one way that I’m paying myself first, by sleeping an appropriate amount of hours.

Areas Where You Should Pay Yourself First

If you want to improve your lot in life, if you want to balance your priorities, here’s my quick little recipe for paying yourself first:

  • Get as close to 8 hours of sleep a night as you can.
  • Schedule “do not disturb” time with your family as often as possible.
  • Weigh every business opportunity against your change in quality of life.
  • Ask for what you’re worth, so you can work the right number of hours for respectable pay.
  • Work your core projects first over all external projects.
  • Weigh the negatives and positives of any trip you might be asked to take. Decide accordingly.
  • Realize that physical fitness boosts mental fitness and make it a priority, not a nice-to-have.
  • Listen for warning signs (your body tells you when you’re messing with its parameters).
  • Cut out junk: food, hours, consumption, entertainment. Your mind and body deserve the best.
  • Audit how you’re spending your time and validate whether it’s working for you.
  • Get out into nature once every two days at least. Nature is that other window with the higher resolution.

Preaching A Bit

I realize that I might sound a bit preachy in this one. I’m working to answer a question that is frequently asked of me. You don’t have to do it my way. But when you wonder how I’m getting as successful as I am, oddly, it’s because I’m doing the opposite of what you’d suspect. I’m working fewer hours now than I used to work last year. The trick of it all is that I’m working the right hours, and I’m managing my time and demands on my time much better.

I hope with all my heart this is useful. What else can I answer?

And if this really excites you, then consider signing up for my free newsletter that talks about this type of stuff frequently:

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  • Donna Jackson /wiseq

    When the student is ready the teacher arrives. I’m ready and a few weeks ago I was still a candle burner. Sleep is so essential ;) see you soon again in Europe Chris.

  • Jim Mitchem

    Great advice. So much of this I’ve had to learn by default. And the exercise thing is the one I struggle with most. I’m fairly fit for a 46-year-old guy who doesn’t work out (ever) and so it’s easy to skimp on the conditioning. But man, when I do get around to it – it makes such a difference. Oh, and the sleep thing too.

  • kgellman

    Good advice, Chris. Balance is so important. I have been doing this for about a year and feel like I am a better business person, mother and wife. The working out and the nature component keeps me sane. Thanks for another great post.

  • Garrett Ira

    My biggest takeaway: physical fitness needs to be a priority, not a nice-to-have. It’s so true that we can’t be 100% if our bodies aren’t at 100%. For me, it’s the seed that plants success in all other areas.

  • Anonymous

    Great advice. :)

  • Don Metznik

    Interesting thoughts, Chris: thoughts that I didn’t expect to find on a business site. But that’s what makes them refreshing and compelling. I am particularly struck by your comment that success comes from doing the opposite of what is suspected.
    That is a line of thought that has interested me for quite some time and has led me to challenge the conventional meaning of success. I’m not there yet, but I’ve discovered an enormous wealth of insight in what is called wisdom literature. No preaching here, nor religious soap-boxing; just what I would consider sound advice for living a successful life. Let us consider wisdom as time-tested rules to apply in circumstances, both professional and personal, when the rules of law and morality are not sufficient to provide direction. We may also call wisdom a higher form of common sense.
    The treasure trove of this advice, I believe, is the Book of Ecclesiastes. Although authorship is still debated, the historically accepted author – Solomon – is good for me. He had all the means and opportunity to succeed, and invested a good portion of his life, treasure, and power in trying. Yet, what are his opening words but “Vanity of vanities; all is vanity.” By this he refers to the insufficiency of the world to make us truly happy; that wealth can be a snare; and that our best efforts are no assurance of success.
    Your comments suggest to me that you are carving a new path through life, and are discovering your own wisdom. I am very interested in where you are going.
    (BTW, you need a good commentary to understand Ecclesiastes. I am using Matthew Henry’s commentary. He’d make an excellent business commentator today. Unfortunately he was published in 1710.)

  • EasyLunchboxes

    It’s so sad that I’m reading your post at 11:41 at night, knowing I should have been in bed at least 2 hours ago. As usual, your thoughts are right on and I’ve been trying to adhere to what you posted about. Not doing well at all though, and not sure why burning the candle at both ends remains so much more alluring than a cozy bed. I hope to figure that one out sooner than later. Thanks for all your continued sage advice Chris.

  • Kris Putnam-Walkerly

    Thanks Chris, this is terrific advice and an important reminder. I’m definitely taking it to heart.
    –Kris Putnam-Walkerly

  • Rahul @ MazaKaro

    While reading article , i always look for something real , cause that is coming from real experience which helps a lot ,and i found what you said very important about paying your self , i love working hard , because every moment you spend doing your stuff you will be thinking about how much you will be delight at the end with the money or the benefits you will get , i appreciate the fact you shared this cause that helps a lot . Tips were amazing , we all know them but still it’s hard to get strict to them you know , so that will make people do there best to follow it ’cause they know it has been tried and it worked !!!!! :) thank You ! :)

  • Paula

    Great post and worthwhile advice. Thanks for writing it. I’d still love to see a future article about exactly how you schedule your day – two hours for one company, two hours for another, one hour for writing etc. It also seems like you’ve applied certain criteria to things like speaking engagements – how many you will commit to each year etc. All of this falls under the category of planning and prep. Many of us want to shortcut this, yet along with goal setting etc. it seems to hold the key to being effective.
    I look forward to your blog every day. Can’t believe your idea funnel never seems to run dry! TY for doing what you do.

  • Jason Naparstek

    Great article! Maybe you can elaborate on your time management in a future post! It’s still hard to imagine getting all that done and still get to bed at 830.

  • Jason Naparstek

    Great article! Maybe you can elaborate on your time management in a future post! It’s still hard to imagine getting all that done and still get to bed at 830.

  • Las Vegas Social Media – Kris

    Thanks so much for the article Chris! We sometimes forget that we need to have balance in life – the ultimate goal is to enjoy life and live it to the fullest. We should also focus on the 20% of activities that produce 80% of the results. Sometimes when we take a step back to evaluate things, we end up discovering that we’re concentrating on those things that don’t produce results.

    Looking forward to your next articles.


  • Larry Lourcey

    Great advice.
    Cutting out junk is the hard one… at least for me.

  • Anonymous

    Great tips, I have always looked at pay yourself first in the financial terms. But, when you put your personal development into it, you are make deposits into your emotional bank account. Always looking to deposit more that you withdrawal. Thanks for sharing.

  • Babbis22

    Hey Chris,
    I’ve been sitting here listening to the most recent Third Tribe recording and reading your latest posts. This SM thing is really cool but the part I like about it is the ability to connect with people that believe in the same principles and things I do. The fact is I’m a mom of two great kids (16 and 6) and no college education. I am a recovering workaholic since my teens and still have a tendency to over-extend myself in an effort to “prove” myself to others. My sister calls it my superman cape. I know I have to keep up with the times in order to stay relevant but at my age and with all of my “wisdom” I find myself being more reflective and taking note of what really IS important. I don’t know what the future holds for me but what I do know is that whatever it is, it has to be something I’m passionate about and hopefully helping others. Long story short is I can’t tell you how much I appreciate and love your posts or twitters that mention your daughter acing a spelling test or watching your wife do something while you sit back and watch (typical I might add). ;) You’re real, you get it. If this is the path I’m being led to then I’m ok with it because I know that I don’t have to give up what is most important in my life. I like how you don’t compromise your family and I thank you for keeping it real.

  • Victoria Player

    Absolutely! This is a topic that’s dear to my heart. A full 8 hours sleep is currency in my business. Like you, a full nights sleep allows me to be more productive and I achieve so much more in less time when I honour myself in this way.

  • Mark

    Hi Chris, this is a great post and agree that physical exercise is the power station to building an improved quality of life. I’d also add that exercising of the mind by learning new skills, strategies, etc. is also critical.
    Keep the great posts coming!

  • Mark

    Hi Chris, this is a great post and agree that physical exercise is the power station to building an improved quality of life. I’d also add that exercising of the mind by learning new skills, strategies, etc. is also critical.
    Keep the great posts coming!

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  • Ron Davis

    Great post, but on the other hand I don’t know many extremely successful people (with success here being defined in business terms) who lead a very balanced life. From what I’ve observed, to get to the top of your game you need to be obsessed with what you’re doing and sometimes/often other aspects of your life suffer. But hey, we can all dream of having both :)

  • Credit Cards

    I expect the same from my spouse, but when it come to me it is hard to follow. I just can’t turn off things even while I am sleeping my heart and soul is with work.

  • John Spence

    Chris – as someone who lives a fairly similar lifestyle (200+ days a year on the road, blog to write, books to write, speeches to give, company to run…) I think you’ve hit the nail on the head in this post. The way I cope with that sort of schedule is that I’m very clear on my priorities. If something does not match my values, my priorities, the key things that add happiness and joy to my life and the lives of those I love – then I try to find the courage to say no to them. That means almost no TV – no time at the mall – super-efficient on e-mail – outsource anything that I can where I truly do not add value – and guard my calendar with great zeal. Truthfully, I think I end up with more free time than most people I know – because I have made time/life management a fundamental cornerstone of how I live each day. Thanks for the great insights – another superb post.

  • Motorcycle Windscreen

    To pay first to yourself is not that an easy task, but still it’s all upto us to manage the all listed things, specially 8 hour sleep. Now a days there is so much competition in every field that it’s really getting hard to manage with tine.

  • Motorcycle Windscreen

    To pay first to yourself is not that an easy task, but still it’s all upto us to manage the all listed things, specially 8 hour sleep. Now a days there is so much competition in every field that it’s really getting hard to manage with tine.

  • Bob White

    Bob White RE: balance of work and time – I am amazed Chris, that you would go 20 miles out of your way for an incidental item. Every day (only days when I must drive) I make a route map of the NECESSARY stops – incidentals which are on my eventually must be done get done whenever they are DIRECTLY on the necessary route for the day; and I get pleasure in crossing off unimportant items that cost me no extra gas or TIME.
    I gloat the most when I buy groceries at the supermarket right next door to my church.

  • Tyler S.

    Excellent article. I was passed this by a fellow EO member in St. Louis. I think one of the hardest things as a business owner is feeling that you do in fact deserve that time off or not bringing your laptop home every weekend to work. It may be needed at first when getting everything started but it should not be a long term thing. Fitness is also key. Good work

  • learning spanish language

    This scenario is certainly one with which millions of people can relate to. Fortunately, it need not be so. One of the most powerful strategies and the creation of real wealth is to pay yourself first.

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