A year ago I made the switch from a corporate slave to an entrepreneur. Suddenly I went from a constrained work environment to being my own boss. Although this sounds great, it’s actually fairly difficult and takes an immense amount of discipline. Balancing customer meetings, day to day work, investor meetings, and addressing tech complications seemed impossible. Working in a corporate environment didn’t help me figure this out.
I found working in corporate environments productivity tools are either not used, or they are out of date, clunky and slow. They also were mostly desktop software. With startup, productivity is directly proportional to your next paycheck. We are not blessed with the comforts of a salary if our productivity dips.
Over the year, and after much learning, I’ve found a few (free) ways to help me maximize my time to fit in the 100 different things I need to do for my startup EatAds. Here is a list of the 5 most important the tools and practices I use to maximize my productivity.
1. Use a calendar for everything. I use Google Calendar for everything in my life. Social engagements, work deadlines, birthday reminders, meetings and even my bill cycles. I find by having everything in my life laid out visually, it frees up my brain power to worry about other things and work within the gaps. It also allows me to allocate time for myself which can be easily overlooked in a startup.
2. Use a task manager. I use Asana as a task manager for my startup. But I also use it for my personal tasks including errands, and thank you e-mails. It’s very easy to lose track of the little things you have to do which can make a big difference. As soon as I have something to do, I throw it into Asana, assign myself to it, and give myself a deadline. This has worked well for me in the battle against procrastination. This also helps you keep track of your team and makes sure they are working efficiently.
3. Take notes constantly. I use Google Keep to jot down notes on the fly. It’s nowhere are robust as Evernote, but I like that it saves into my Google Drive (which has Asana integration) and can be accessed offline. Whenever I have a thought I just write it down. Sometimes it’s work related, other times it’s just random things. Some of those random notes have turned into useful ideas for my startup. Occasionally I use Google Now and speak my thoughts, but that often draws a few stares.
4. Catch up offline. I use Pocket to catch up on my readings while offline. My startup requires me to travel a fair bit and there is no better time to work efficiently than on a plane. With Pocket, I catch up on lots of my readings on my Nexus devices. If you’re easily distracted by the in-flight entertainment system, travel budget. It’s cheaper anyway. (Note: Evernote does have a similar feature but I still prefer Pocket).
5. Communicate effectively. Our team uses HipChat to communicate. Most of our team is never in the same city at any given point. Our organization is spread out across three countries and four cities, which can make communication tough. However, the team at Atlassian have solved that with HipChat. I found this to be a game changer. Free up to 5 users, you can see chat history, create rooms, share attachments as well as use their slick mobile app to keep in touch. It’s a simple lightweight program which allows my team to get things done.
Exercise. Sorry there is no app for this. There is no denying that living healthy makes you focus better and work effectively, yet most of us still don’t. It’s better to work eight efficient hours, than do 12 half-assed hours. Exercise helps you get that focus to put in the solid eight hours versus the procrastination ridden 12.
These are a few of the apps and practices I’ve found to work well for me and my team over the past year. There are tons of great tools out there, but the biggest challenge is to get your organization to actually use them. Changing behavior is tough, but once learned, it’s hard to forget.
I’m always trying to improve my daily operations, so if you have any suggestions, please feel free to comment or reach out to me personally.