Productivity guru Tim Ferriss has famously argued that the working week, when handled effectively can be reduced to just four hours, in his book The 4-Hour Workweek. Through outsourcing tasks to virtual assistants, using tech-driven shortcuts and making a number of changes to the traditional 9-5, Ferris says we can eliminate 50 percent of our work, drop the hours and travel the world.
On the other end of the spectrum, Elon Musk advises entrepreneurs to “work like hell”. Musk recommends an 80-100 hour week, claiming leaders who double their workload will achieve great things in a shorter period of time.
When it comes to long hours and employee burnout, the startup world and the veterans of Silicon Valley are some of the worst offenders. Whether you work four hours or 80, business leaders want to know they are getting the best results from their time spent. So, how can entrepreneurs use their time wisely at a time of information overload and constant stimulation? We asked three leaders to share their top productivity hacks.
Create a positive work culture.
Improving productivity levels in a startup not only relies on your own discipline. To truly get the most from your startup, a leader needs to inspire the whole team.
Agnieszka Wilk, CEO of New-York based interior design company Decorilla recommends making time to recognize the achievement of her team as a sure fire way to drive company morale and productivity. “It’s easy to get caught up in the frenetic pace of startup reality, but take the time to celebrate the small stuff. This can be in the form of an email, announcement at team meeting, a social get-together. Making time to give shout-outs for both individual and team accomplishments, big and small, go a long way for company morale and productivity.”
Utilize project management tools.
The startup environment breeds creativity and an open culture of sharing, but it is chaotic and this noise can mean often the strongest ideas can be neglected. Various project management techniques and online tools can be used to support project execution, providing the frameworks to make sure things get done.
“At Znapin, we follow the Agile Scrum Methodology,” explains co-founder and CEO Yash Kotak. This type of approach, typically associated with software development, involves a series of sprints that involve carefully planned meetings and evaluating requirements. “There are also a number of online tools that can help to streamline team communications and task management. We use Trello, which really helps to keep me in the loop, especially when I am on the road.”
Slow down and evaluate.
Startups are characteristically hectic. This means it is easy to get wrapped up in the fast pace of business, trying to do a hundred things at once. But it is important so slow down, take stock and re-evaluate the business progression, but also your own working style.
“It might sound counter-intuitive but I find the biggest drive of productivity is actually slowing down. It is important that entrepreneurs are focused, with a clear view of the greater mission. Finding a healthy lifestyle and a way to decrease is invaluable, for me this means building the habit of frequent meditation,” says QuietKit CEO John Turner.
There are a number of ways to evaluate your efficiencies; the 80/20 or Pomodoro time management techniques, the heinous task of clocking your own hours to examine just where the day goes and more. However, each of these approaches agree; identify what your priorities are, where time can be shaved, reduce distraction and focus on the task at hand.
The startup world is known for embracing new tools, and for being generally more adventurous with new tactics. On top of this, entrepreneurs work on average 52 hours a week, and these leaders need to make sure they are getting the most out their time. Whether you opt to cut email from your life (reported to full 20 hours of this ever-increasing workweek), jump on the Slack bandwagon, or opt for flexi-schedules, recognize what works best for you and your team to help drive higher levels of productivity and happier employees.
Emma is a Staff Writer at Publicize, which is a startup aiming to change the way companies approach PR. Publicize has worked with a dozen+ Y Combinator startups and leading brands such as Hallmark Cards.