Your start-up is in a competitive business community like Singapore.
That is why it’s hard not to work hard.
So you are willing to work longer hours. As a startup owner, you understand that. You embrace that. In fact, you get respect by doing that.
But have you thought about the minutes or hours you should be spending with your family and friends, for some relaxation, for honing a new skill or learning a new language, or for exploring new opportunities or new places?
Is developing your start-up only about working longer hours? Or is it how your business can help other people and grow yourself at the same time?
Think about it: You can work hard and work smart at the same time.
Getting everything done from 8 am to 9 pm is pretty impressive, but accomplishing tasks that have a lasting impact on your business efficiently and still have time to expand your horizon is a different thing.
How do you that?
The first questions you might want to ask yourself: Where should your energy go and when does it take off?
√ Which part of your business needs your attention the most? Why?
√ What aspects of your startup you do not like doing that much and take up your time a lot?
√ What time of the day do you usually feel you are eager to accomplish something?
√ What time of the day do you typically feel distracted and feel drained?
If you can identify these things, it will be easier for you to determine and pick the right tools and strategies you need to get things done in your business.
A more flexible to-do list
A to-do list may not have a single format or formula.
As a startup owner, your schedule depends on the type of product or service you offer, your network, your people, your energy level, and your work style.
Situation A: For example, if you are effective working on a fixed schedule, your to-do list may have different tasks but must still be done on the same amount of hours each day. You may want to allot 30 minutes to one hour for unexpected tasks or appointments on days that you are working on huge projects.
Situation B: Do you thrive when you work on only one client a day or one project per week? The benefits of this kind of setup are you can focus on your work, deliver quality output, and less stress. Just make sure that your other clients or team members are well-informed of your strategy to avoid miscommunication.
What if you are working on multiple projects with the same deadline?
You can combine Situations A and B: Work on one project a day, but make sure to allot an hour after the end of each day to monitor your overall schedule, to accomplish administrative tasks (follow-up emails, reports, delegation), and communicate with your other clients and teammates.
Buy or create a huge calendar and hang it on the wall.
If it makes you more anxious, get a small calendar that is accessible from your chair.
Whatever productivity scheme you have right now may change but deadlines don’t. Instead of adjusting deadlines, you adjust yourself and your tasks. This way, you are not only respecting the time of your clients or team members, but you are leading yourself to a direction that will actually bring in more results.
You can also use Google Calendar:
Google Drive can help you organize the documents you need for your appointments.
Sunrise Calendar for easy scheduling:
Also, create a simple filing system in your office.
On your desk, label a folder with “next week” and another with “next month”. But make sure you’ve already checked the requirements of the pending tasks so you can prepare ahead and you can actually accomplish them on the said dates. For example, if you are meeting with a potential business partner next week, set aside 30 minutes in the current week to collect the documents you will bring and review your start-up’s presentation.
The not-to-do list
Okay, browsing your Facebook friends’ posts about their dinner last night, the first time they climbed the Great Wall of China or the cutest puppies of 2015? We’re all guilty about this.
Here are techniques you can try slowly but surely:
► Treat Facebook browsing as a reward. When you’re done with one or two major tasks, log in to Facebook and post a quote or maybe a selfie with the caption “this smile = for a productive morning”
► Use it to get close to your ideal customers but don’t go overboard. Relate your start-up to everything you’ll see on Facebook. If your service is a home-based baking lesson and you see a friend’s post about the newest cupcake house in town, let your friend know you are offering lessons on baking. Or post a picture of the cupcakes you baked this morning.
► Avoid liking so many pages that are not related to your business. You can like a few ones, but subscribe more to fan pages that offer resources, tips, and inspiration for start-up owners like you. This way, if you find yourself stuck on Facebook for an hour, at least you’ve learned a skill or gained an entrepreneurial idea that you can truly use on your own business.
Do you work from home as a start-up owner? Do people know where you are working and have an idea of what you are working on? Let’s admit it: not all people understand your work–some have the impression that you are lounging around as cash rolls in so they may find you the go-to person when they need an errand done or an instant babysitter for your nephew.
Accept an invitation to a personal gathering and grab a chance to talk about what you do every day to your family or friends.
Mention to them that having a start-up requires more discipline because you are basically on your own. Setting up your own business will require you to make challenging decisions, and being honest to the people around you may be one of them.
Physical and online tools
Here are a few recommendations:
a. Use productivity apps. There are so many productivity apps today, but you don’t have to use them all. The challenge is in identifying which works for your personality and your business. Some of these apps are:
• Evernote – collects notes and works like your everyday journal
• Asana – for running projects with a team
• Gmail add-ons – to manage your emails effectively
b. Mind your office supplies and office design. Yes, office furniture and tools can increase productivity. Some tips:
• A bar cart – for easier access to water, snacks, and coffee for everyone. Here’s a DIY cart using an IKEA product
• Dedicate a space where all major tasks are done and where your laptop and necessary documents are. Keep the other essentials, such as printer, books, mails, in another area.
Keep in mind that no matter how techie or pretty your tools are, it’s still your attitude that will help you reach more milestones at work every day.
Mastering the art of delegation can help you focus on more critical aspects of your business.
If you are having a hard time giving your team ownership when it comes to projects, it may be time to rethink.
The first step is to hire the right people from the start. The second step is to be clear about their roles in achieving your start-up’s vision and the results you are expecting. The third step is to keep guiding them and inspiring them to develop more skills until they can do the work on their own. It’s a long process, but it’s also a long-term investment.
If you are outsourcing firms to help you with tasks, such as bookkeeping, filing your taxes, or marketing your products and services, check their background, credentials, and how well they understand your business upon your initial consultation with them.
Take quick and long breaks
New research shows that business owners can take a 10-minute power nap to improve their focus and productivity. Results reveal that a 10-minute sleep made a positive impact on all outcome measures, including sleep latency, subjective sleepiness, fatigue, vigor, and cognitive performance. When all projects are done and you have extra time, take a vacation. This will allow you to rest, reflect, and reinvigorate your entrepreneurial spirit.
So are you the kind of start-up owner who does everything from 8 am to 9 pm or the start-up owner who accomplishes tasks that produce more important results and more time to for expanding your horizon?