How to manage your time like a pro
Speed is key for running a successful startup. Your resources are limited and you need to move fast, often juggling multiple work streams simultaneously. Therefore, learning how to manage your time effectively is crucial.
Pareto Is Your Friend
The Pareto Principle, also known as the 80/20 rule, states that 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. For startup founders, this means prioritizing the work that has the most significant impact on your business. By focusing on the 20% that produce 80% of the results, you’ll be able to lock-in on what matters most while delegating or eliminating less critical tasks.
To apply the Pareto Principle, analyze your tasks and identify the most important ones. Focus your effort on these tasks, and be mindful of where to allocate your time. Concentrate on high-impact tasks during your most productive hours for the best results. Then, constantly reevaluate your priorities and adjust your focus accordingly. This will ensure that your efforts remain aligned with your startup’s goals and objectives. As resources for startups are very limited, this can mean life or death in the long run.
Be Mindful of Parkinson’s Law
Parkinson’s Law states that work expands to fill the time available for its completion. For example, a job that should take a week will take a month if you have a month to do it. This can lead to inefficiencies and wasted time. To avoid falling into this trap, time-constrain your tasks and set boundaries for work, leisure, and sports. Establishing deadlines for tasks will encourage you to work more efficiently and prevent unnecessary time-consuming activities.
Moreover, setting boundaries between work and personal life is essential for maintaining a healthy work-life balance. You want to make sure to allocate regular time for leisure activities and exercise, as well as for relaxation and mental recovery. Specifically, as we discussed last week, disconnecting from work and engaging in sports can help you avoid burnout, improve mental health, and boost overall productivity.
‘Defragment’ Your Day
Batch similar activities together and customize your calendar according to these tasks. This will help you streamline your work, minimize context-switching, and boost productivity. Try to avoid jumping from one topic to another. We recommend allocating a specific time box for Product, Growth, Fundraising, and Operations throughout your day. You can also customize the ‘bookable’ time of your Calendly to correspond with these time boxes. For example, have 4 Calendly links, each corresponding to a specific recurring time box of the day (one for Product, one for Growth, etc.)
The ultimate goal is to develop a daily routine that works best for your natural energy levels and preferences. For example, you might find that you’re more focused and creative during the early morning hours or more productive later in the day. Design your schedule to capitalize on these peak times for maximum productivity.
If you do this correctly, you’ll have recurring meetings at the same time each day, and the agenda will eventually fill itself. This will effectively put your company on autopilot, like a production system that runs smoothly and efficiently.
Automate Where You Can
Everytime you’re running a task that feels repetitive or requires a low level of brain firepower, try to automate. For example:
Although each situation is unique, there are some general time management ‘best practices’ that every founder should follow:
- Never start your day with emails: Resist the urge to check your email first thing in the morning. Instead, begin your day by tackling essential tasks, then allocate specific time blocks for email throughout the day.
- Establish a routine: Consistency is crucial for productivity. Go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day to build a routine that supports effective time management.
- Todo app: Don’t schedule your todo in your calendar without having them in a dedicated Todo app. It’s fine to schedule todo’s, but if you missed it during the day, the tasks might ‘fall into the abyss’; have a backup where you can clearly ‘strike off’ the task.
- Kill the task: You want to avoid opening a task without finishing it. As you switch between tasks that accumulate and are not finished, your productivity will tend to decrease. Always start a task, kill it, and move to the next one.
- Wipe out social media apps: Go delete every ‘feed’ app from your phone. Social media is fun, but your time is precious. We all know how easy it is to waste a day on TikTok or Instagram Reels.
- Have a brain-dump system: As advised on ‘Getting Things Done’, you want a system (for example, the Note app on Frame) to store your thoughts and tasks so they don’t accumulate and cluster your focus on the job at hand.
Our Curated Tools For Time Management
If you’re looking for a head-start on tools for effective time management, here are a few of our favorites:
- Calendly + Chrome extension: Simplify scheduling by sharing your availability and allowing others to book meetings with you.
- Cron.com: Manage your time effectively with multi-time zone displays and one-click availability creation.
- Apple Chrono app: Set timers for tasks and use more advanced Pomodoro techniques to stay focused and productive.
Few things are more important to the success of a startup than effective time management. By applying the Pareto Principle, being mindful of Parkinson’s Law, defragmenting your day, automating tasks, and using our curated tools, you can maximize your productivity and significantly raise the odds of your startup succeeding.
Nicolas is the founder of Frame, an all-in-one collaboration OS for startups. Frame offers pre-built collaboration apps like Notes, Task, Wiki, Whiteboard, and more. If you want to find a free ‘time management template’ on our Wiki app, sign up today!