Gary Vaynerchuk often cites that speed is the most important thing in business. Without speed, you can’t experiment fast and fail fast.  These are all guided by how we spend our time.

Transitioning from a fresh graduate to working in a fast growing ecommerce startup iPrice didn’t come with its own set of challenges. When time is of the essence, I have had to find out frameworks and methods to manage my time effectively and efficiently as a content marketer.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

1. Prioritize growth by doing the important, not the urgent

Growth can be defined as something that impacts the KPI you are measured by the most or the one that adds to the bottom line of the company.

As Y-Combinator founder Paul Graham once said, “If you get growth, everything else tends to fall into place. Which means you can use growth like a compass to make almost every decision you face.”

Noah Kagan, founder of Sumo once recounted in an interview that in the early days of Facebook that Mark Zuckerberg would guide what the company does by this question: “Does this help us grow?”

The question posed by Noah to Mark at hand was, “Why don’t we sell tickets on the events page?”

Because it didn’t make Facebook grow, Mark wasn’t interested.

The tricky part comes in when you there are things that sort of move the needle. For example, e-mails – they do move the needle, because if they go unanswered some business development opportunity or project can’t go forward.

Therefore, you need to prioritise growth tasks by importance, rather than urgency.

For this, we look at the Eisenhower Matrix, made popular by Stephen Covey.

Here’s a quick analysis:

  • Tasks that are Q1 and Q2 are to be prioritized.
  • Q1 comes first and Q2 comes second.
  • An example of Q1 would be the project that needs to be done by the end of the day.
  • An example of Q2 would be the project that needs to be done by end of next week.
  • Q3 and Q4 tasks are to be delegated and limited/deleted respectively.
  • Your prime focus is to identify your Q1 and Q2 tasks and go through chronologically by order of importance for your startup’s growth.

2. It doesn’t end at 5 o’clock (nor does it start at 8)

In a fast-paced environment such as a startup, every advantage counts as competing companies rush to market and re-iterate their product.

What this entails is the need to work beyond the designated 8 hours a day.

Also read: 5 winning practices to lead the business/life you want

But discussions such as this bring up the “work life balance” debate.

The best answer I have come across came from the founder of Virgin Group, Richard Branson who famously said, “Work? life? it’s all one thing – living.”

The key is to find a startup worth burning the midnight oil for.

I personally use my Sundays to work my projects to get a headstart instead of waiting to start work on Monday.

3. Always measure your time

What gets measured, gets managed. – Peter Drucker

Quite a lot of us are too lazy or find it too distracting to remind ourselves constantly to actively log in our activities throughout the day.

If you have the discipline, create a spreadsheet and log in what you do by the hour – no need to log in the minutes (unless you can remember, which I don’t).

This exercise reminds you to keep track of what you are doing, what you should be doing and what you should be doing less.

If you prefer to passively log your time, use RescueTime. It is a tool that tracks your time by the tabs and the windows you are on. Just set it and forget it.

You can opt for the tool to end you a daily or weekly report on how you spend your time.

Now, you can install this and consider your job done. But not quite..

You have to look through the data and analyse it. What are your biggest time wasters? What do you spend a little too much time on that doesn’t really matter when it’s time for your weekly and monthly review? The common time wasters are e-mails, meetings and mindlessly surfing the web. More on this later.

4. Three MITs at a time

MIT stands for Most Important Task.

Learn to limit your to do list to just the three BIG things.

Leo Babauta, author of the Power of Less and blogger at ZenHabits.net, talks about the art of limiting.

The reason it is important to limit your to-do list to just 3 things is that it allows you to focus on just the three things.

Having a huge list of things to do will give you a false-sense of accomplishment if you managed to cross out seven out of ten of them, only to realize that the seven were things that didn’t move the needle at all by the end of the week.

Here’s the two step process:

  1. What are the 3 things I absolutely need to get done today (so that I have less to do tomorrow or the day after);
  2. Only write down what you think you may forget – perhaps giving a person a call or attending that meetup you set up.

The small things like e-mail, responding to messages and lunch… will take care of themselves as you will do them automatically.

5. Identify your biggest time wasters

Now, we get back to the famous time wasters.

E-mails, meetings and mindless web surfing constitute the majority share of most time wasters in startups.

On e-mails:

  • Limit your time and frequency in checking e-mails. I prefer to check at 8am in the morning, 11:30 AMbefore lunch and 4:30 PM before I leave the office. Tim Ferriss, podcaster and author of Tools of Titans limits his email checking at two time periods: 11 AM and 4 PM.
  • Keep your replies clear and concise. Try to limit to just five sentences if you can.

On meetings:

  • Do standing meetings.
  • Limit meetings to 30 minutes, maximum.

On mindless web surfing:

  • Use Block site if you have to. It restricts access to your sites of choice at time periods of your choice. It’s a gentle reminder of “not the time to relax yet.”
  • Have a list of content that benefit you and only stick to that – it can be a particular podcast, specific blog or site, YouTube channel or books from certain authors. The point is not get distracted by all the other information competing for your attention.
  • Here are some other tools:
    Facebook News Feed Eradicator (replaces the entire Facebook feed with an inspirational quote)
    DF YouTube (you can hand select which segments to hide – I hide the Recommended for you and the Trending section)
    Unroll.Me (conveniently allows you to unsubscribe to any e-mail newsletter all on a single page)

6. Take care of your body

Our bodies and brains need breaks and fuel to ensure it stays at peak performance.

Jack Dorsey, co-founder of Twitter, is running two US$1 billion plus companies and he finds time to take Saturdays off to recharge. How you recharge is as important as you work.

Sam Altman, president of Y Combinator, said in his How to Start a Startup lecture series that his advice to early stage founders is to “work on their product, talk to users, exercise, eat and sleep, and very little else.”

Managing my time haven not only brought me huge rewards but it has also brought more gains to those around me. I am more at ease at work and more ease at home. I hope my learnings have provided you insights on how to manage your time well in startup land!

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