This CEO's Calendar Strategy Will Help You Reclaim Your Life

Katherine Wintsch, the founder and CEO of The Mom Complex, spends her days helping giant consumer brands like Johnson & Johnson, Unilever, and LEGO understand one of their most important demographics: moms. It doesn't hurt that she is one herself.

Wintsch recently spoke with Fast Company to explain her philosophies for running a family-friendly company—and to share a calendar-engineering strategy that will probably change your life.

FAST COMPANY: Can you talk a little bit about your routine—what you do before and after work, and then on weekends?

KATHERINE WINTSCH: I'll drop the kids off at school and then do yoga, usually 8:30 to 9:30, and then go into the office. I usually don't get to the office until around 10, and then have a pretty pressure-packed, intense day until 6-ish.

Another thing I do is I usually take time away from work to do personal errands versus doing them on the weekends. So if I have to get my hair cut, if I have to go buy a birthday present, I'd rather take an hour from work on Tuesday to get that done instead of taking an hour away from my family. So it's kind of extracting time from work versus my family. And then I can make up the hour on the weekend doing email or something.

Do you feel that sets a good example for your employees? 

I am a really high performer and I get a lot done. And I take pride in being able to do it at kind of crazy hours, whether it's before, during, or after work. I hold everybody in my company to the same standards. You don't have to sit here all day, but we're going to achieve extraordinary results together. We actually have a status sheet for the whole company that's everybody's to-do list for the whole week. We go over it Monday morning. And so I know by Friday, actually by Sunday, all that's going to get done, and I don't care when or how. If it doesn't get done, then you don't work here—but I don't care how it gets done.

I set the bar and the example about quality of product instead of quantity of face time together. The results have to be there.

Do you find yourself working a "second shift" after your kids are in bed? If so, how many hours is that, typically? 

Yes—two hours of pretty intense, dedicated work. I can clear out my inbox. I actually enjoy it, have a glass of wine. And I feel like I can start the next day not behind, and that's very important to me because, again, I’m not really going to be in the office until 10 a.m. And then I squeeze in meditation. I started waking up before the rest of the house to do 20 minutes of meditation.

Do you use an app?

I do a lot of Deepak Chopra's 21-Day Meditation. It's 20 minutes, guided. Well, guided in that he gives you this mantra, something to think about. He talks for five minutes, and then it's 15 minutes of silent meditation on that topic. I've been doing it for three years. Meditation is calming in the moment, but it calms me four or five hours later, when something is going wrong in the office or a client project is on fire, and I want to lose my mind. In the morning, it can be jarring to be woken up by children from a dead sleep. One day, one of my friends said, 'Why don't you get up 30 minutes earlier?' The energy you can gain from waking up 30 minutes earlier is more than the energy you would maintain from sleeping longer. When my children wake up now, I've done my meditation, I'm prepared for them, and I'm prepared for the chaos.

You've talked about creating free time in your schedule for meditation and other interests. How do you make sure that doesn't get pushed out when you get busy? 

What I do is I go to my calendar 60 days from now. There's a couple recurring meetings that I have, but it's a pretty blank slate. From there, I put the biggest "rocks" in. And for me, the biggest rocks are meditation and yoga and tennis. So I block them on my calendar, usually four or five days a week, as a recurring meeting. So meditation, noon on Wednesdays, every Wednesday.

Then, my whole world revolves around my calendar. When two months arrives I have work-life balance built in to my life. What I have found is that if I put the big rocks in the jar first, all the little pebbles, all the little rocks—meaning meetings, updates, phone calls—fill up the rest of the time. I still get just as much done, but the big rocks are protected. And if I choose to not do it, I actually have to delete it from my calendar.

The other thing I do is color code [free time] purple so that when the two months come around I can see all the blue, which is all the rest of life, but I can see the flow of purple, and if there is not enough purple, then I know that I'm deleting too much or I'm not taking advantage of the big rocks.

That is pretty brilliant. Did someone teach you that technique? 

My whole calendar kept filling up with 30-minute meetings, and one day I was like, If I just get out in front of it when the day arrives, it'll be full of stuff I actually want to do. And then I found that I still got everything done. And now my whole team does it. And if you look at our joint calendars . . . I mean, it's crazy, all the personal wellness and wellbeing that people are taking advantage of, yet still getting everything done.