Any business owner will tell you that there are never enough hours in the day and since founding PeoplePerHour I have been on a mission to become as productive as I possibly can. I've put together the ten tips that have worked for me over the last ten years.
1. Stop thinking of yourself as the boss. Think of yourself as the customer
The culture of telling people what to do because you're the boss is dangerous . First it removes accountability from people taking decisions and creates a safety net to fall back on. Ultimately it came from you so you can't really argue with the 'you told me so' argument. If you're the customer on the other hand, define what really matters to you and its their job to deliver it or step out.
2. Get out of the office
Today I spend a lot more time working out of co-working spaces, hotel lobbies, coffee shops and anywhere else I happen to be. Its the beauty and freedom that cloud computing bestows on us . I find that when I'm in busier more happening and serendipitous surroundings I think better, focus more and get more done while tiring less.
3. Block time in your calendar to think
Funnily enough things like appointments and meetings get slotted in the calendar for most people but more important things like thinking about real complex problems don't. We subconsciously think to ourselves we will turn to them when we have time, or because there is no physical event we just procrastinate and don't see the need to slot them in. In the end they keep getting pushed back and never happen. Block time to think about the things that really matter.
4. Press the reset button every morning
I find that backlogs are very contaminating. They contaminate the past present and future. You never clear them out and in the end you are constantly playing catch up with yourself. I change this by wiping my backlog clean every day. I wake up with complete amnesia of what I didn't manage to complete yesterday and I ask myself 'what's important today' it helps you reset priorities to what matters now not yesterday.
5. Have no more than 3 priorities
Priorities are often confused with to do lists. Your to do list may be endless but your priorities at any point in time should not be more than 3. If you have trouble selecting exert the stress test: go through the list one by one and ask yourself if I had to get rid of this item today would the world come to an end? You will find that for most the answer is no. They are not priorities they are nice to do's.
6. Remind yourself of your next goal every day
Its so easy to get off track with so many things happening in a startup and forget what you are shooting for. Even if you are not 100% sure what the goal should be with 100% conviction (which is not easy), having none or forgetting them is much worse. Keep reminding yourself of the goal and work backwards to chip closer to it every day. You get there by chipping a little more every day, rarely is it with one big stride.
7. Set yourself big goals that on the face of it are unachievable
Small easily achievable goals are pointless and in fact damaging. They set a precedence of mediocrity and complacency. Set big goals which will stretch everyone to get there and keep rethinking the path to get there each day.
8. Figure out what your optimal modus operandi is
Too many people I know try to optimize themselves based on other people's rules . So some colleague or investor told them that Company X which has a $1bn valuation has whiteboards in the toilet so people can get creative while taking a number 2. The next thing you know is they are off lining the toilets with whiteboard. Some people think better in groups and others better in person. Some while taking a shower, or taking a number 2 , some are early risers and some are night owls. Figure out what you are and ignore the heuristics.
9. Leave time for doing nothing
Some of my most creative time where I get my biggest ideas and breakthroughs is when I am not actually doing anything like just browsing the web, checking out apps serendipitously, zig zagging my way around with no real intent. I'm not looking at emails or answering calls, just playing around, serendipity and chance is really important for creativity and thinking out of the box
10. Get rid of your fears
I know this sounds like a cliche and all too easy but honestly there's parking your fears and there's throwing them away. When you just realize how little you really have to lose in life, and especially in business, a whole weight lifts up from your shoulders and you feel free to create. Your can't afford to go about building a startup treading on eggshells. Don't be reckless either - always follow common sense. But do it fearlessly. You have very little to lose.