Entrepreneurs lead busy lives — often, busier than they should. In an opinion piece for the New York Times last year, Dan Lyons argued that the focus on “hustle” in startup culture is both unnecessary and dangerous. As new information continues to mount, smart entrepreneurs schedule differently. But it is also worth a look at how time-wasters schedule.
Research outlines the health risks (and limited productivity gains) of long hours. This suggests the call to end overwork in startups will continue to grow.
Demanding though the startup life can be, founders don’t have to do everything themselves. Smart leaders know when to step back and let a talented team member or trusted third party take the reins. The most successful entrepreneurs understand that their time is better spent learning and growing, not mucking about in technical details.
To bring some balance to the chaos of startup life, founders should make time every day to do three things — and stop wasting time on three others.
3 things smart entrepreneurs schedule every day.
1. Interacting with a customer.
Plenty of startups have failed because their leaders lost touch with reality. Juicero famously folded after throwing millions of dollars at a $400 WiFi-enabled juicing machine that no one ever wanted.
Avoid the temptation of the ivory tower and spend a few minutes every day speaking directly to a customer. Hop on a support request to resolve a tough issue. Pick a new client and call them up to ask how they like their new purchase. Talk to fans of the brand on Twitter. A few minutes a day spent on direct customer interaction makes it easier to stay grounded.
2. Enjoy quiet reflection.
Startup life is fast and furious. Rather than get stressed by endless demands, take a few minutes a day to get away from it all.
Psychology Today reports that quiet, intentional breaks increase productivity. Lock the door, turn off the monitor and silence the cell phone. Meditate, read a book or spend some time jotting down ideas about whatever comes to mind.
3. Provide one-on-one mentorship.
Teams are only as good as their leaders. Schedule at least one face-to-face interaction each day to keep tabs on every department and create opportunities for employees to provide feedback.
Don’t leave remote employees out of the equation or limit their opportunities to phone calls. Videoconference with remote workers to humanize conversations. When remote employees visit in person, schedule some one-on-one time to show them that they are valuable members of the team.
3 things founders should never do.
1. Perform administrative tasks.
Founders who waste time on administrative work make two mistakes at once. First, they make a financial error by investing the time of the CEO on work that should be done by an administrative assistant. Second, they make a productivity error by doing a worse job than a capable assistant would do.
Hire someone to take care of tasks that don’t require CEO-level skills to handle. Invest in automation software, including scheduling tools, to make calendar management a breeze.
2. Attend excessive meetings.
At most startups, the leader of the company could probably participate in any meeting at any time. Attendees of those meetings would likely benefit from the founder’s presence. However, it doesn’t mean the company would be better off.
Stop attending meetings where the presence of the boss is not absolutely necessary. If possible, stop attending any meetings during hours of high productivity, which vary from person to person. Use a top calendar app for making you more productive.
3. Scroll through social media.
Even founders of social media companies can’t afford to get stuck scrolling through a news feed. Stop wasting time on social media. If this is your one time to interact with one or two customers fine. But, get smarter about internet usage at work.
Before opening a social media website for work purposes, write down the goal of the visit on a sticky note and put it on the monitor. Only stay on the site long enough to complete the original goal, then close the site and get back to more productive tasks.
Running a startup is no easy job, but founders don’t need to make it harder by spending time on the wrong activities. Use these tips to create a more balanced, more productive schedule.