Staying Productive in the Startup Jungle

Stoyan Yankov is an award-winning movie and video producer, turned into a productivity and performance coach. Today Stoyan is helping companies (and startup founders) to stay focused on what matters most.

“You are sexy and you know it”

This is how Stoyan broke the ice in the room. He encouraged us to high five with at least three different people and tell them “You are sexy and you know it”. That way we kicked off Friday morning fully energized and with a very positive mindset.

Ask yourself: What do I waste most of my time in?

We all know the common excuse “I don’t have time”. Let’s be honest: we have time for everything that matters, if we plan good in advance and set up the right productivity habits and routines. The challenge is — we often waste time in distraction, on tasks with minor priority or responding to other people demands.

Now let’s get into the jungle…

“Running a startup is like entering the jungle.”

Your main task is to survive. The jungle is dangerous and unexpected, yet full of opportunities and abundance. But let’s be honest — surviving there is a tough game!

90–95% of all startups fail within just a few years of existence. The odds are low!

You are behind from the get go. To improve your chances to win — one has to build up a mentality of a warrior, strategically focused and day-to-day execution. A mindset of a winner, who stands the chance one day to grow, adapt and be a leader.

Stoyan shared with us his simple framework for maximizing team productivity. The idea is for every team to look at 7 core areas of productivity on a regular basis, and measure how the team is doing in each of them. The acronym PERFORM, defined these core areas described below.Stoyan suggested spending at least 30 minutes on a weekly basis to reflect on the previous week and measure (from 1 to 10) how well the team have performed in each of these 7 areas. See the red flags and come up with ideas and strategies to improve.

Keep it simple! But do it regularly.

Stoyan Yankov

1 — Purpose & Values

Is the team clear about why we are doing what they are doing, the difference the company wants to make, the values we stands for? Not just on paper, but in reality. Do we truly live these values and act according them to each other, with our clients and partners?

Do we know each other’s personal motivation to grow this company, to be part of the team?

Once we are clear and aligned — it’s easier to set up a strategic direction and break it down into a more tangible strategic action-plan.

2 — Effective Planning

Planning doesn’t sound sexy, and a lot of people avoid to do it regularly. But think about it!

Strategic planning is like climbing the mountain top. You’ve been hustling down in the jungle for a while. And you want to be able to SEE THE WHOLE PICTURE.

Are we moving in the right direction? Are there new possibilities on the way? What potential challenges are on the road and can we prevent them?

It’s about being smart about your time! And remember you are way behind so every minute counts. Always start with the end in mind. 
Stoyan presented us with his 5-step planning process he uses on a daily basis to prioritise his workdays. What are the most important outcomes I want to produce?

(instead of what should I do.)
Only then you can brainstorm “how” to do it, then prioritise, lock it in your calendar, align with team and you are good to go.

3. — Roles & Responsibilities

Are the roles in the team clearly defined?

Is anyone clear how much responsibility and decision-making power is allocated to them for each task and project? Group responsibility is no responsibility. Who is responsible to deliver and by which deadline? If you need to make sure somebody comes to a meeting, your responsibility doesn’t end by “I sent an email”. You own it! You make it all work, or report to the one responsible to the project and find a solution together.

4. — Focus & Execution

No great company is built, without a tremendous amount of action, execution, testing and validating, re-adjusting, and doing it over and over again. Slowly building a momentum, like a snowball.

We all try nowadays to multitask, thinking that we are able to do more faster. However, it has been proven that our attention and cognitive capabilities decrease enormously while multitasking. Why not trying to focus on one thing at a time — SINGLE TASKING?

Prioritising gives a solid foundation. And when the “monkey mind” comes and tries to trick us to check an email or instagram, gently push it aside, write a note and get back to the high-priority task! Hustle like a beast!!! The jungle doesn’t care.

5. — Optimal Energy

A good night sleep can do a lot. You will feel more energized and fresh to take more tasks if you had a good night of sleep.

Build a simple routine that gives you energy and doesn’t distract you from your work.

Use the morning energy to do the more tiring and bigger tasks and activities since as the days goes by your energies will start decreasing. Pay attention to your emotional and stress levels and take action accordingly.

Sports and healthy diet usually help, but everyone has their own strategies.

6. — Robust Communication

Making systems for effective communication and testing what works well for your specific team. A lot of startup teams do not have boundaries and distract each other with minor and not urgent matters, during the most productive time of the day.

Thus taking our focus to see a “cat video”, while writing an important contract might not be the best idea. Where is the right balance between discipline and fun casual environment?

And how do we ensure we tell each other the truth, about our projects, our performance?

Stoyan suggest MUST-DO regular feedback sessions. It’s not about pointing fingers.

It’s about growing and standing together as a team. And having the courage to say things as they are.

7. — Mental Toughness

Running a startup requires an enormous effort. it’s an emotional rollercoaster with lots of ups and down. The beat the odds (or die trying).. one needs to get a perspective and aquire a mindset of a warrior. It’s not about what happened today. It’s about the long-term game.

Doing the right things, over and over again, and letting go of the outcomes.

Outcome-driven — Outcome-free!!

Not everything will go by plan. You will fuck up many times. In fact if you don’t, you are probably doing something wrong.

But it’s about how you show up, it’s about how you take both the wins and the losses.

How quick you can get your inner balance in place and get back to hussle!


To sum up — here’s a quote that defines it well. When things get tough, when you are tired and exhausted and wanna give us, remind yourself about it.

“Success is like wrestling with a Gorilla. You don’t quit when you are tired. You quit when the Gorilla is tired”!