Getting a business up and running is the opposite of the typical 9-to-5 job. There’s no time to fully clock out, founders work endlessly and having to be a Jack-of-all-trades means maintaining focus can be difficult.
Having just wrapped up their three-month stint working out of Techstars’ New York City-based office, the entrepreneurs that make up the tech accelerator’s graduating class know a thing of two about staying productive amidst chaos.
Here, they share their top tips for refusing to succumb to distractions in order to get as much done as possible during the workday (and night).
1. Taking power naps
One of the biggest perks of working for yourself is not having to worry about face time. You’re actions are responsible for the success or failure of your company — not when you show up or leave work or how long your lunch break is (admittedly, right now these are really early, really late, and nonexistent, respectively). Every so often I dabble in 15 min power naps in the late afternoons, and wake up so much more productive than I could have been otherwise.
— Sathish Naadimuthu, co-founder of Stefan’s Head
2. Tuning in
Music works best for me. I like to drown out the background noises of the office. I’ve recently gotten into the “Deep Focus” playlist on Spotify… works wonders. Always invest in a pair of good headphones.
— Joseph Fasone, founder of Pilot
3. Scheduling all meetings for one day of the week
Running a startup, there are a million opportunities to meet with people, customers, advisors, investors. If I accepted every request, there would be no time to make real, tangible progress. What we’ve done is try to schedule as many meetings as possible on Thursdays, instead of spreading them out evenly over the week.
— Brandon Paton, co-founder and CEO of Localize
4. Relaxing the mind
Listening to very repetitive music while working helps me to stay “in the zone” as well as working late, as it becomes easier to focus when my brain is a little bit tired.
— Jonathan Cornelissen, co-founder and CEO of DataCamp
5. Prioritizing tasks
Powering through a bunch of little things before diving into something big, makes the big task go much smoother. And keyboard shortcuts – keyboard shortcuts are game changing.
— Krystle Mobayeni co-founder and CEO of BentoBox
6. Scheduling everything
If you want to get it done, put it in the calendar. If a task isn’t in my calendar, then it isn’t going to get done.
— Ariel Briner, co-founder and CEO of Cartesian Co.
7. Organizing tasks
We’re still in the early stages of our product and our company, so focus is key. We use waffle.io to brainstorm and track each new feature, and it’s integrated with the version control system for our code so that we can have a single list of tasks and issues. By consolidating our various task lists we are able to keep all of our team members focused on the same goal.”
— Antonio Pellegrino, Founder and CEO of LSQ
8. Time blocking
I put everything in my calendar: meals, email, sleep. On busy days it’s easy to forget about all three of these things. Blocking out time guarantees that, at the very least, I’ll be aware of my ideal schedule when things get crazy. For bonus points, block out an hour each day for exercise.
— Shane Scranton, co-founder of IrisVR
9. Setting weekly goals
Each week we set goals for what everyone wants to accomplish that week, so we can use it as a productivity checklist. At the end of each week, we go through each bullet point, talk about if we accomplished it and if not, why not, and we set the goals for the following week. It helps keep everyone in check and moving forward.
Another thing that works well for us is scheduling times to talk about things in the calendar. It’s so easy to get caught up in answering emails and working on individual projects, so if you set a specific time to work with a team member on something, you can both plan your days around it and use that scheduled time productively. We try our best to stick to start times and end times. And all of our calendars are shared with the entire team, so it’s easy to manage.
— Mackenzie Barth, co-founder and CEO of Spoon University
10. Taking care of yourself
We experienced rapid growth during the program. It’s important to hit the gym and stay healthy while you’re balancing product, fundraising and demo day efforts.
— Thierry Schellenbach, co-founder of Stream