September 15, 2020

Time Management for startup founders, Part: 1

Giulia Piona
Co-founder & Head of Marketing

We hear that time management is extremely important. I believe it too. And the more things you have to do, the more it is. What is time management? It is the way one decides to use his/her time to maximise their productivity to achieve goals. In easier words: the art of doing “everything” and not feeling stressed about it. 

To make you understand why time management is crucial and why you should spend time to be aware about it, here are the Pros of having strong time management skills: 

  • Stress relief: have you ever found yourself in the situation in which you have too many things to do but you do not even know where to start? Being able to organise your time will help you be more relaxed and not be depressed by the too big and scary picture.

  • If you manage time well, you will have more of it.

  • More time means more things done each day.

  • More things done each day means you are closer to achieving your goals (if you did the right things of course).

In this article, I would like to list some very basic practices you can incorporate into your behaviour in order to achieve better time management. Note that it takes time to change habits, so do not give up too soon, results will eventually come. 

  • Set goals that are achievable and measurable. Literally quantify your goals: how many users? How many pre-orders? How much revenue? etc. It is necessary to have overall long-term goals, but I would suggest setting weekly goals. Write them down every Sunday evening. Starting from those, decide the tasks you have to do to achieve those goals. Then, every day, before starting to work, do a small recap

  • Prioritize the tasks you listed. One tool you can use is the urgency-importance matrix. Prioritize tasks which are both important and urgent. But taking a step back: how do you determine which tasks are important? Easy: those which contribute to the growth of your startup (don’t fall in the trap of vanity metrics). Any task that will not have impact on your startup and is not aligned with your key metrics should be eliminated. Also, distinguish between urgency and importance: first see which tasks are important and then assess their urgency.

  • Learn to say no to all the activities that would waste your time. This stands also for all the new ideas bubbling in your mind (writing them down somewhere will help to gain back focus). If you keep listening to all of them you will never launch. Just aim at an MVP first.

  • Set deadlines for tasks. Setting time limits might help you be more focused and efficient and most importantly it helps you identify problems before they arise. Also,  after completing a task you should see how much you actually took compared to what you estimated. You will get better at evaluating.

  • Break goals down. If one goal seems too big and you have no idea on how to tackle it, break it into smaller achievable goals.

  • Deciding what activities to do first in the day (among the important ones clearly) can really depend on your psychology. You might decide to complete the hardest tasks in your peak performance time. Or, you might complete stressful tasks first because otherwise you will not be able to focus on anything else until you get those done. The same can be said for tasks you like less: do them first so you can stop thinking about them.

  • Do not multitask: you will not achieve anything and just increase your stress.

  • Do not strive for perfection or you will never get done because perfection does not exist. Also, do not get hung up on tiny details.

  • Take a short break between tasks: your brain needs time to shift from one to another. Take a walk or have tea or coffee. Just free your mind for 15 minutes.

  • Have some protected time: schedule your calendar being sure you have some decent uninterrupted span of time between calls or appointments. Following the same logic, allocate precise time to emails. Maybe you can check your inbox at the beginning of your work and at the end.

  • Delegate what you can. If you are lucky to have someone working with you, divide tasks.

  • Be flexible: organising your time is good, but you need to be able to handle unexpected emergencies. Try to plan for 70% of your time and leave the remaining 30% flexible.

  • Take care of yourself: do not forget to eat, sleep and take breaks. Exercise can be an amazing de-stresser.

  • Keep track of daily achievements because that is a great motivation booster.

  • Literally write down your tasks. Keep a to-do list and an updated calendar. It does not matter in which format. You might go for fancy tools, or just an agenda: whatever works for you.

  • Have a mentor who can help you prioritise decisions which will have maximum impact on your startup  and most importantly keep you accountable. At Sparklehood, we really believe that is key for success.

I am sure there must be other practices and tips, but I wanted to suggest to you the ones that to me seem more valuable and that I personally follow. 

Start by incorporating some of them until they become part of your habits. It might seem complex at the beginning and you might feel like you are just wasting time, but in the longer run, these actions will save you significant time and bring you closer to your goals.