Every one of us starts the day with the same budget: a little bit of sunlight, 1,440 total minutes, and a finite amount of energy.
But you work at a startup. Every day feels like a race against the clock—and the bottom line. You literally can’t afford to do anything but milk those minutes for all they’re worth. If you want your company to succeed, you’re going to have to find out how to squeeze more water from this sponge.
Here are some productivity hacks that can help you get more done at your startup:
Eliminate Distractions by Committing to Solid Blocks of Work Time
Distractions are bad news. As McKinsey once reported, workers spend over a quarter of their time reading and replying to email messages. And one study found that people tend to compensate for these distractions by working faster—but not better. It leads to stress, poor time management, and lower-quality work.
So how do you eliminate these distractions?
Commit to working in solid blocks of focused work time. Sound like a bummer? Here are a few tips for making that happen:
- Use a browser add-on. An add-on like StayFocusd gives you the option to click a button and block out distraction websites for a period of time. This is especially great for the early portion of the day when you need a good “boost” and to get your mind back on track. (For you Mac users, try SelfControl).
- Check your email in batches. You know the old routine—send an email. Return to it five minutes later to see if you have a response. Rinse. Repeat. It’s not a productive way to work. Avoid the back-and-forth by bringing business phone calls back in vogue or avoiding the inbox altogether for a while.
- Take your breaks in chunks, too. When you take lunch, do you sit at your desk and check work email? That’s a recipe for a stressful “break.” When you were in school, you went outside for recess. Do the next best thing in the office and get away from everything for a little while so you’re fresh when you’re ready to return.
Make Productive Work Inevitable
Let’s say you set a goal of running three miles in the morning. But the night before, you stay up until 2 a.m., you drink one too many glasses of wine, and you let your closet remain a mess. When that alarm goes off and you don’t want to get up to go exercise, do you really think you’re going to summon the willpower?
On the other hand, consider how you might feel with a full night’s rest, a bottle of water waiting for you in the kitchen, and your running clothes already laid out.
It works the same way at the office: you need to find ways to make productive work not just desirable, but inevitable.
- Cut down on your use of Internet tools. Are you using three different email addresses? That’s two too many at work. Do you use five different file-sharing methods with clients? See if you can cut it down to one or two.
- Eliminate physical distractions. Yes, it helps if your office is a great place to work and to enjoy the time you’re there. But if there are just too many distractions—too many tantalizing books, too many snacks, too many fun apps on the smartphone—then it’s only going to make hard work look like the less tantalizing option. Cut down on the distractions and make your office boring enough that productive work sounds like a cakewalk by comparison.
- Take some time each night to plan the next day. Before you clock out for the day, steal a glance at your calendar. What’s the most important work for tomorrow? Do you need to set aside time to prepare for a client meeting? Plan your next day today so that when you arrive in the morning, there’s no question what you have to do.
Find Out What You Can Automate or Delegate
Even if you’re ruthless when it comes to distractions or prioritizing your time, there will still be essential tasks that your business has to accomplish. If these tasks interrupt your work or bite into your most productive time, ask yourself whether you can either automate or delegate these tasks away.
If you’re the leader at your startup, there’s a good chance that this is the first time you’re asking someone else to do work for you. It can be a little scary. It can feel uncomfortable—it’s your money on the line, after all, and delegating work means giving up control over the process.
If you’re worried about it, start small. Delegate a step of a project rather than the whole project itself. Create calendar reminders for checking in on the progress and receiving updates.
Automation is worthy of a post in and of itself—but your approach should be similar. You don’t have to dive in the deep end of the pool. In fact, to ensure that the process goes smoothly, it’s probably better that you don’t. Visit Entrepreneur.com’s tips for automating your business to get a sense of what might be involved and commit to doing just a little bit at a time.
Match Your Music to Your Work
What if you don’t have the resources to delegate and automate just yet?
Remember what Disney said: Whistle while you work.
Being a startup often means that you—yes, you—have to step in and take on the tasks necessary to get things done. That can mean anything from client work to data entry. If you’re going to do it well, it helps to have a little help from your ears.
It helps to know which type of music to select:
- For data entry and other work that makes you feel like a robot, indulge in inspiring music—including music with lots of lyrics.
- For intense concentration like writing, reading, and brainstorming, stick to music with fewer lyrics. Video game music is often designed to keep you entranced without breaking the concentration spell.
Getting Things Done at Your Startup
A startup can be a high-pressure, high-stress work environment—the exact kind of environment in which entrepreneurs either thrive or fizzle. But no matter what “type” of high-pressure worker you might consider yourself, you can always improve your productivity with a little planning. To get things done, make productivity more than the goal: create an entire system for getting things done.
And on top of all of these great hacks, check out Grasshopper's virtual business phone systems app. There's no commitment and no credit card needed. Simply get started with a free trial today to see how it can help get your business up and running with a professional kick.