Life in a startup moves pretty fast, but sometimes progress seems to take forever. How can you make more progress in less time? Here are five proven tips for enhancing productivity.
- Understand the Stage You're In - There are distinct stages that tech startups go through. Each stage carries with it a dominant task. It is correct to devote most of your time to the dominant task appropriate for your stage. Other activities may be a waste of time, or even counterproductive. For example, during the Formation Stage, the dominant task is forming the founding team and deciding what kind of company you want to build. During the Product Development Stage, you're primarily building and testing your Minimum Viable Product (MVP). The next stage is Customer Development where you're rapidly iterating the product based on detailed interviews and interaction with engaged users. Once you've reached a degree of Product/Market Fit, you're ready to Scale. It's important to focus on the right tasks at each stage.
- Narrow Your Focus - Many early-stage companies dream of building a platform to solve a big problem. Before you can solve a big problem for the world, you have to solve a real problem for a real customer. That means getting specific. Without focus, you'll spin your wheels. Getting specific with one real customer at a time helps you focus on solving a real problem. One tip here - a customer is someone who pays you. Many startups waste time with people who use their product without paying.
- Time Management - Some entrepreneurs get trapped feeling overwhelmed. Like a gerbil on a wheel, they feel like there's not enough time in the day to get everything done. Here are some ways to avoid this counterproductive but all too common fate. Focus on real, paying customers. What else? First Things First - know the difference between the simply urgent and the important. Focus on the important. Once you've identified your important tasks, delegate everything you can. You'll be more productive if you're not trying to juggle twenty different things. Learn to delegate so you have fewer things on your plate. Give your team tasks that are focused and important. Keep only what you can't delegate.
- Engage the Community - Invest in relationships inside and outside your company. These relationships will support you in ways that are impossible to predict. Before you run out of direct resources to delegate to, ask for help from interns, mentors, and others in your community. It's one way to build a relationship, as most people like to be asked for help. It's also surprising what you'll learn by expanding the number of people with whom you regularly work.
- Take Care of Yourself - It's amazing how often we undermine our productivity by undermining our well-being. Exercise, get enough rest, eat real food, avoid alcohol, caffeine and other drugs. Sound trite? It's not. When you're under time-pressure and stress, you need to double-down on these basics. The fact that most people do the opposite could be to your competitive advantage...if you're more disciplined than most. Here are some uncommon tips which can supercharge your productivity when used in addition to the basics. Breathe more deeply than "normal" whenever you can. Get up and stretch, take a walk, or do a few minutes of yoga several times during your day. Whenever you take a break, think of something that you appreciate and remember to cultivate a feeling of gratitude. These simple practices will not just enhance your happiness, they'll actually make you more effective.