Effective Productivity Tips From 80 Startup Founders – Part Two

Effective Productivity Tips From 80 Startup Founders – Part Two

We reached out to 80 startup founders and asked them to share their best productivity tips, tricks and hacks that you can hopefully learn from.

Check out part one if you have not yet read the great tips there, and below you’ll find the remaining 40 hot tips you’ll want to test and use to increase your productivity.

When you get an urgent (but not necessarily important) email from a customer or co-worker… WAIT.

Don’t jump in and solve the problem right away. Keep working on what you are working on and in a few hours I find most of the little things get resolved by themselves. Learn to check your response instinct.

Peter Ericson , Founder, Zeen101

My favorite productivity hack is actually just a twist on the old school to-do list, and inspiration from this popular ultra-schedule article from Jessica Hische.

The early-stage startup grind can be so fluid, so to stay on track I schedule five categorized blocks into every day. A block might be ‘Emails’, ‘Calls’, or ‘Financial Work’. I then keep what I like to call a 5 x 5 to-do list (I go super old-school and make it handwritten) – five specific tasks for each of the five block categories.

As each task is completed for a given block I strike through it and if I finish all five tasks for that block, I let myself work on a side project for the rest of that block’s allotted time (a side project that often has nothing to do with startup work). This might seem like lost time, but doing bits of fun and creative work throughout the day keeps me sharp and has inspired some of my best work on the startup side.

I repopulate my 5 x 5 to-do list every morning and being able to toss a fully marked up list at the end of the day is a pretty exciting (not very eco-friendly though, need to work on that). I went through a bunch of scheduling apps early on, but the old-school handwritten schedule and 5 x 5 to-do list has been the way to go for me.

Cabell Maddux , Founder, Give And See

I use IFTTT to stitch email, github, Facebook Pages, twitter, etc. together along with reminders on my Android Wear watch. It sifts and sorts support/fan email, server warnings and general administrative tasks so I can stay on top of things without losing focus on what I need to get done.

Shawn Holland, Co-Founder, ChefTap

My favorite productivity hack is to discipline yourself not to over focus on productivity (KISS), your team is usually small and it is very easy to keep in touch on a productive basis regardless of where you are located.

If you can’t trust in your team, business partners, etc – you’re doomed to fail before you’ve even started. Micromanagement is a reputation & productivity killer, especially in the early stages.

Jon Becker , Co-Founder, eMedCert

I like doing multiple one hour sprints throughout the day. I used to leave tasks until the last minute, and even though I seemed to be creative under pressure, the timing put too much at risk – not to mention the stress. So tackling various tasks within a 1 hour time period creates an artificial sense of urgency without the risk of not meeting a deadline.

Roger Williams , Founder, Perkes

Block off a certain time period focused on dominating your priority inbox and starred emails. Remove distractions and rebuff other responsibilities, and focus on getting down to inbox zero. It can be done!

Michael Anderson , Co-Founder, GameWisp

I use checklists and post-it notes all the time. Reminder apps, calendars, etc always get so full that I’ll end up clicking the notifications just to turn them off. There’s no software out there that has the same effect as a bright yellow post-it on the corner of my monitor to remind me of things I REALLY need to get done.

Brandon Swift , Co-Founder, PayWhirl

Taking a walk in the park every day. Keeps me focused, energized, and helps (even if just a little) counterbalance how much time I spend hunched over a lap top.

Max Slavkin , Co-Founder, Creative Action Network

The biggest impact I have found in keeping myself productive is using delegation. In order for this to work, there are a few prerequisites. First off, you have to hire people that you can trust.

Second, you have to understand the task well enough that you can clearly state the expected goals or objectives, as well as the metrics or processes by which you can measure to ensure success.

Third, you have to relinquish control of the task and allow the other person to own it. This can be hard to do, but it is the only way that your efforts can scale. In a startup, there are always more tasks you can or should be focusing on. Make sure you are focusing on the big picture.

Joe Fox , Founder, CodeNoise

My first and favourite productive hacks is this; “Less is More” (LIM). I truly believe in the less is more philosophy as a way to really focus energy on productive tasks and I try to practice this on a daily basis. At the start of the day, I plan out what needs to be done and go straight to the most important task. I usually outsource the boring and non productive tasks via PeoplePerHour.

Kay Akinwunmi , Founder, LimConcepts

We’re night owls. We don’t work anywhere near as well from 9am – 5pm as we do from noon until 1am. So we just say we operate in PDT. That we can start at 12pm (we’re on the east coast) and still sound like we work normal hours.

Ashwin Muthiah , Co-Founder, Easely

Take breaks. As a startup founder, you face a gargantuan list of to-dos day in, day out. The trick is to realize that the list is endless, and that taking breaks and pacing yourself isn’t going to slow you down in the long-run. Take breaks each day, and on the weekends especially. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t work more than 40 or 50 hours a week, it just means to take small breaks throughout that time.

Everybody is different, especially when it comes to productivity, and you need to find the balance between work and rest that works for you. This is by no means an easy task, but if you can figure it out you’ll be happier, more productive and, most importantly, you’ll avoid getting burnt out.

Micah Roberson , Co-Founder, RadDevelopment

Go to bed early, get up early, work out first thing when you wake up every day. For real. It’s going to get bumpy. Getting enough sleep and enough exercise are going to keep you manage stress.

William Archer , Co-Founder

Never forget Tucker’s rule – there are 24 hours in every day. As I always say… you can get rich by working 1/2 days and it doesn’t matter which 12 hours you work. The reality is that you actually need to work 3/4 days… but who’s counting. If you do this for 10-20 years, you’ll wake up an overnight success!

Brad Brown , Founder, InteliVideo

Stop checking your email every 10 minutes. Do whatever it takes, disable your notifications, place your phone facing down, etc. Checking your email every 10 minutes prevents you from giving your undivided attention to whatever task at hand. By handling the emails by batches, you can not only focus on what you are working, but secure yourself from the risk of replying differently after seeing another email.

Michael Scaria , Co-Founder, Fortheon

1. Putting my headphones on, without any music—it discourages people from pointlessly interrupting me all the time.

2. Taking a 10-minute break at the midde of the day for a short meditation. The Headspace smartphone app is a good guide, and this helps me boost the focus for the second half of the day.

3. A nootropics stack (like piracetame and choline) boosts focus and memory incredibly.

Marius Ursache , Co-Founder, Eterni

I use the offline day during the week whenever I can. Also known as Airplane Day for instance. Whenever I need to get things done, I install for a few weeks a day (usually mid week) when phone is on airplane mode, meetings agenda is prebooked by “personal meetings”, close my email and just work.

Internet is used only for research, and no Facebook, Linkedin, etc policy is enforced. We are too connected to the internet sometimes to do any actual work which is why getting these days planned in actually gets things done.

Vlad Bodi , Co-Founder, GetHppy

I always have the big picture in mind, but focus on 3 to 5 things a day that must get done. Every day before leaving the office I set my priorities for the next day. I come in and solely focus on my critical ‘to do’ list, often leaving time in the day for unexpected calls or tasks. It really keeps me focused and productive.

Kimberly Rohachuk , Co-Founder, EventSage

What has saved me time and time again is having someone else keep up with my schedule, messages, and emails. I have a very affordable virtual assistant who keeps all my incoming and outgoing tasks organized and alerts me when something is due.

We use todoist.com to manage each project and task. This has been a lifesaver and has given me a ton of free time back into my life.

Matthew Ayers , Co-Founder, HireTiger

Respond to almost all emails in the morning before breakfast, or at night after dinner.

Aneesh Devi , Founder, CoachMode

Every morning, before checking email or Facebook or Hacker News or anything else, take just an hour or two and get 1 solid thing done. Choose it the night before.

It’s easy to accidentally spend the whole day bouncing between emails and calls and trivial daily tasks. If the /first/ thing you do is make a small but tangible step forward for your company it’ll set the tone for your whole day.

Parker Phinney , Founder, InterviewCake

My favorite hack has been disabling notifications on my iPhone as well as the notification center on my Mac. Getting pinged every other minute is distracting and takes away my focus.

When I really need to focus, I’ll silence my phone (face down or in my pocket) and quit my e-mail application on my Mac (Sparrow). I don’t do this all day, every day, just when I have a very important task that needs to get done.

Jeff Appareti , Co-Founder, Path Igniter

A friend once shared with me the “Getting Things Done” method by David Allen which says that if something can be done in two minutes or less you should do it right away. I apply this all the time now in business.

For instance, if I have an email come in that I can quickly reply to, I do it right then and there (and if not I flag it to come back to at the end of the day). The majority of the time two minutes is all I need to reply to an email and then at the end of the day there are very few, if any, loose ends to tie up.

I apply this hack to emails, client revisions, and everything in between. Not only does it keep you in a productive state, but it keeps your clients pleased with your super fast response time.

Lindsay Pruitt, Founder, Hello Monday I update my to-do list at the end of the day for the following morning. I’m most productive in the morning and it allows me to tackle what I’ve already planned.

Geoff van Wijk , Founder, InnSpec

Ditch the tasklist and bring everything into your inbox using Followup.cc. The logic behind this is that you need to check email everyday anyway. Why not bring your tasks to you there in the form of reminders so you can keep your efficiency in one place?

Logan Lenz , Founder, Endagon

Productivity hacks are a myth. Not that none of the proposed productivity hacks we see every day do not work, just that any of them will work if you simply put them into practice.

For example, John Zeratsky, Partner at Google Ventures, recently shared a Post-It hack that helps him get a few things done each day. Essentially it is a to-do list on a piece of paper. It works if you do it.

GTD applications, productivity apps, to-do lists, notebooks, mobile applications, synced Reminders via iCloud – all of these work if you simply do them. My advice? Pick anything and do it and you’ll get more done.

Colin Devroe , Co-Founder, PlainMade

Scheduling a time to “roll calls” from the car is the best productivity hack for entrepreneurs who live in Los Angeles. This keeps your mind off traffic while maximizing the hours in the day.

In fact, I started scheduling the majority of my NYC calls in the mornings on the way to the office and then to Hong Kong on the way home. Because I would now rather make a call from the car, I am forced to leave the office thus creating a sustainable balance in my personal life.

Kyle Heller , Co-Founder, Cinematique

Scheduling a time to “roll calls” from the car is the best productivity hack for entrepreneurs who live in Los Angeles. This keeps your mind off traffic while maximizing the hours in the day.

In fact, I started scheduling the majority of my NYC calls in the mornings on the way to the office and then to Hong Kong on the way home. Because I would now rather make a call from the car, I am forced to leave the office thus creating a sustainable balance in my personal life.

Kyle Heller , Co-Founder, Cinematique

Personal relationships and warm intros are absolutely essential. Investigate your network, and your team member’s network, and look for the lowest, warmest hanging fruit. The likelihood that a partnership or sale actualizes is 10x greater than cold outreach.

There’s no need to always reinvent the wheel; think strategically about your relationships, where mutual value is created, and have a f2f meeting. Nothing replaces a hand shake and eye contact. Simple, traditional advice that has been paramount for me and my company.

Alex Abelin , Co-Founder, LiquidTalent

Keep a notebook – like one that uses paper and a pen. Make a to-do list in that notebook at the start of each day – before you check email. Check things off as you get them done. This just seems to work so much more effectively than task management apps.

Brian Powers , Founder, PactSafe

As a founder, you always need to solve a never-ending stream of problems. Staying productive seems impossible if you’re interrupted by a new fire every hour.

That’s why I divide everything into 1 hour chunks of work. During these 1 hour chunks of work, I don’t do anything but focus on the task at hand. My phone is on silent and I turn off desktop notifications. Nothing matters than finishing the 1 or 2 goals within the hour.

After each 1 hour burst of work, I take a break and plug back into email and phone. This hack helps me stay productive and fight burnout.

Alex Cheung, Co-Founder, CodeJinn

While the private jet industry is exciting and fast-paced, our team at FlyEasy understands the importance of good health. I make it a point to work out for at least an hour every other day since this helps maintain my energy level and increases my productivity.

Having a workout schedule in some ways forces you to eat healthy and be more efficient with your time. We also have a policy of taking at least one day off a week. That means no work at all. Not even talking about work. One day a week helps clear your mind and archive everything you learned during that week. Working out and taking one day out from work is my favourite productivity hack.

Shaan Bhanji , Co-Founder, FlyEasy

Not so much a hack, but I schedule EVERYTHING in my calendar.

Am I working on that project tonight? It’s in the calendar. Am I going out drinking with my friends tonight? It’s in the calendar. Reading time? Exercising? Remembering to call my friend and check in about that thing? It’s in the calendar.

If I know everything is in my calendar, I never have to worry about forgetting something.

Aaron Presley , Co-Founder, BrewNotice

Our product, as it saves everyone countless hours of crunching numbers to figure out how a website is performing. We have a predictive analytic dashboard, benchmarking, trending, and spam/junk detecting tool.

Josh Hutchison , VP of Bus Dev, Diib

Focusing on habits instead of goals. If your goal is to double the number of clients, raise $1m or complete beta version by X day, then the real question is what’s the daily habit that will help you with that? Maybe it’s making 5 business development calls per day. That’s all…

My personal favorite habit is to “Eat that Frog”: first thing in the morning, before you check emails, do the hardest/ most important task on your to do list… the one that if you did it, your day would be a success regardless of what else happened!

Patrice Archer , Founder, AppyVentures

My most successful productivity hack was to disable push notifications for emails, and to only check emails at set intervals during the day. Context switching is incredibly bad for focus and concentration, so moving to a “3 times per day” email model really helps.

James Smith , Co-Founder, BugSnag

Clear storm window enclosure. The worst part of brainstorming is running out of white board space and having to erase parts before they are recorded. Window enclosure sounds strange, but it is inexpensive and can be bought 3′ by and length. We have white walls and these hacked white boards all over our incubator space.

Katryn Shick , Co-Founder, incuba8LABS

Music-less headphones. It’s social awkward to disturb someone when they have head phones in their ears. Even when I don’t want to listen to the latest hip-hop track that just dropped, I put my head phones on so my colleagues will only ping me on chat instead of disturbing me face to face.

Asynchronous communication is a key way to prevent those on maker schedules from constantly breaking up their day into a myriad of distractions.

Dane Hurtubise , Co-Founder, Parklet

Not exactly a hack but I would say my key to being productive is my Google Calendar which syncs to my iPhone. I take time every Friday to plan the upcoming week so when I come in on Monday there is no procrastination. By having my calendar organized I stay on track and keep from being distracted.

Matt Dickhaus , Owner, Chef Ami

Build a specific space for your work, this space should only be used for work and nothing else. Then, when you utilize this space you create a habit of work in this space and outside of you are able to enjoy life.

Otherwise the lines between work and life blur together and you will not be as nearly effective. This is mine .

Lee Tengum , Founder, PancakeApp

Breathe, walk, exercise. Apply each in proportion to the magnitude of the stress that you’re facing. Eg, before an important sales call, turn away from your computer and take 3 deep breaths. For something more challenging like an employee issue or a vexing technical bug, force yourself to take a 5-10 minute walk through a park or greenspace.

Finally, for major existential crises or critical product strategy questions, try to go for a long run, swim, cycle, or yoga- something simple and repetitive enough that it doesn’t require thinking, but physically challenging enough to shut down your background thought-stream.

These habits increase blood flow and help declutter your brain much like defragmenting your hard drive, enabling more creative lateral thinking, faster decision making and more clarity in your perception.

Butt-in-chair time is a key metric only for factory workers and lawyers; as an entrepreneur your true value creation will be much better served by investing some time away from computer to improve the quality of your thinking.

Matt Bentley , Founder, Can I Rank

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