Anybody who thinks startups are all about fun and free Red Bull is deluded! Sure we manage to play a game of table football at the office, but it’s back to work after recharging our batteries.
Startups are about growth! And that usually includes a massive list of to-dos, very little time and limited resources to finish them all. In a startup you need to be delivering everyday. Otherwise you can say bye bye to growth.
What’s more is that your role and ability to execute quickly also has an effect on the others around you. Others are relying on you to get things done, and if you don’t, you’ll be holding your team back.
So what can you do to make sure you’re performing to the best of your abilities everyday. Here are ten tips on productivity to help you get through the day.
1. Plan your day in the morning
Sure you can try to wing it in the morning and just go ahead with any task that comes to your head first. But you’ll be running like a headless chicken after that task is completed.
To make sure you get your day off to a perfect start. Take a few minutes when you arrive at your desk to plan out your day. Check your to-do list to see what needs to get done today and plan your day accordingly.
This will save you time later on and also structures your day into manageable parts.
2. Add blocks of time into your calendar
After you’ve written your tasks down, schedule them into your calendar. Predict how long they’ll take so you can get an overview over whether it’s manageable for today. And be realistic! You are not going to be working for 8 hours straight, so make sure you put in gaps for meetings and breaks - especially lunch!
Another reason to add blocks of time, is that you don’t bogged down with impromptu meetings – the blocks signal that you’re busy! So that means you’ll not be available for meetings during that time. In fact the task is a meeting in itself.
If you’ve got a set of tasks that you need to do daily such as email, social media or content curation – simply add it to your calendar.
3. Don’t multitask!!!
This may sound obvious but multitasking is a major productivity killer!
Back in 2009, Clifford Nass a communication professor at Stanford, studied the cognitive and social effects of multitasking on 262 college students. His research found that multitaskers are more easily distracted, less able to ignore irrelevant information and find it harder to switch between tasks. Meaning people who multitasked less performed better than chronic multitaskers.
Essentially you’ll want to focus on one task – and only one task – so you can get more done during the day. So don’t be sucked into your emails or your newsfeed as soon as a new items arrive! Better yet. Just keep the apps you need to finish your task open. So if I’m writing a blog post I’ll have iA Writer, Chrome and Dictionary open – ok maybe Spotify too.
4. Pomodoro technique
Sometimes you just get into the flow of things and your tasks get completed smoothly. But unfortunately not all tasks are fun and exciting to complete. And the temptation to check your email and Twitter will be strong.
Nevertheless one weapon against the temptations of social media is the Pomodoro Technique. Developed in the late 80s by Francesco Cirillo. The main principle is breaking tasks down into 25 minute blocks, which are separated with 5 minute breaks.
The idea behind this is that it keeps your mind fresh and focused with frequent breaks. You’ll stop procrastinating too since you’re more aware of the time and how you’re spending it. To get started, you only need 25 minutes and you can then start speeding through your long to-do list.
Here’s a handful of applications you can download:
But be warned! Don’t get too relaxed during your breaks and keep a tight lid on them.
5. Find a comfortable place
Whenever you need to buckle down and get your work done – make sure you’re comfortable. While it’s difficult to measure and evaluate comfort, research suggests there is enough evidence to claim that comfort can affect productivity. So get yourself in a place where you can truly focus and ‘relax’.
Sometimes what’s needed is to lay down on a sofa and get on with it. But of course that’s not always the case, and some folks might prefer a standing desk for a change.
You’ll want to find a place where you feel you can work done and has little distractions.
If you’re in an open office; get some noise-cancelling headphones. When you see yourself becoming restless; it’s time to change your surroundings – or probably time for a break.
6. Have a to-do list
It’s easy to forget things, and with the pace in a startup; you’ll need to keep track of every to-do that comes your way. Whenever you need to do something, make a note of it or put it into a task management app. After you’re done, you have the sweet pleasure of crossing it off your list and moving onto the next thing.
Fortunately we’re not suffering from a shortage of to-do list apps. However you’ll want something that syncs across your computer and mobile devices. Here are some tools to check out:
Each application is different and I probably missed a few in the list, but you’ll easily find one that suits your needs – or you could just use a pen and paper.
7. Listen to ambient sounds
Want to increase your performance on creative tasks? Listening to ambient sounds might be your best bet here.
According to a study published in the Journal of Consumer Research, researchers examined the effects different noise levels had on productivity. During their study, they found that a moderate level (70dB) of ambient sound helped significantly enhance creative output. No wonder you’ll always find people with laptops at Starbucks.
Whereas higher levels of noise reduced the extent of information procession and had a damaging effect on creativity. Which makes finding the balance key to being productive, that a balance you normally find in a cafe or a train.
What do you do when you’re stuck in the office? Fortunately there’s a selection of applications below you can choose from:
Another alternative in case you want to listen to music would be classic and techno. Lifehacker published an interesting article covering the best sounds for getting work done. In short the post suggests checking out; Brian Eno’s Music for Airport, Soma.fm and Digitally Imported. It’s all the matter of taste when it comes to music, but the key here is to keep it non-vocal.
8. Use Post-it notes to organise information
While I’m an avid user of Evernote and a fan of its cross platform syncing – there’s just something about Post-it notes that always leaves me having a pack of them nearby (and scattered around my desk).
Post-its are great for keeping you focused on writing down the essentials (just like Twitter). Plus they’re also easier to organise when you’re planning a project (there’s reason why they’re used for the business model canvas).
For writing, they’re a life saver when it comes to developing my outline for an ebook or a blog post, since they are just so easy to rearrange
9. Reply your emails all at once
According to Tim Ferris (author of The 4-Hour Week Week) the best thing you can do is check your emails twice a day. Of course this depends on your work, and if you’re handling customer requests I probably wouldn’t recommend this.
However the idea is to assign time blocks where you take care of your inbox, and then focus on other tasks. With your email client closed and out of sight, you’ll be able to focus completely on your tasks.
10. Disable notifications. Right now!
Notifications are the best thing out there. Seriously. If there was an award for the ultimate distraction tool. Notifications would take first prize!
Think about all the notifications, on your mobile, tablet, desktop – it’s overkill! And do you really need all them telling you whether someone came online or if somebody retweeted your latest update. Didn’t think so!
Do yourself a favor and disable notifications immediately!
For more information on how to be productive at work, you might want to check out the following resources:
Books to read
- 18 Minutes by Peter Bregman
- Getting things done by David Allen
- The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker
Blogs to subscribe to:
What about you? How do you get through your to-do list? We’d love to hear your story in the comments section below.