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How SportsTech leaders stay productive

Lessons from over 25 podcast interviews in 2019

Another year is almost over, which means it’s also time to create new resolutions (and hopefully stick to them). From getting into better shape to quitting bad habits, the new year is always a perfect time to create new routines and set new goals to achieve. Why not let one of those goals be to boost your productivity?

On our podcast, we’ve interviewed over 25 entrepreneurs, executives, managers and investors in the SportsTech industry this year and we asked them for their go-to tips and tricks for maintaining productivity. As Greg Mitchinson, from Twenty3, said, “…when you’re in a startup environment, there’s no room to be unproductive…” So we asked the experts at getting-it-done to share their secrets for staying on task. From creating lists and exercising to hiring the right people and getting good sleep, there were several themes in productivity throughout, with several unique perspectives as well.

Here’s the list we’ve compiled from all of our guests in 2019:

Exercise

Variations of exercise or physical health focuses were the most common recommendation for being productive on a daily basis, and there is a lot of research that can justify this suggestion. As a 2018 article from Business Insider notes, exercise is scientifically proven to boost wakefulness. So it came as no surprise that 9 of the successful people we interviewed mentioned exercise and healthy habits as their go-to productivity hack.

Team Snap CEO, Dave DuPont, cycles to the office every day and noted the importance of staying active and how exercise, “keeps you young, keeps your brain clear and some of the best ideas I have are while I’m exercising…” Dane Dobre, from SOLO Workout, makes sure to train first thing in the morning, but if you can’t fit a workout in before your day begins, Aaron Holland, CEO at Season Share, suggests scheduling a gym break in the middle of the day and said, “you’re not lazy if you budget in some time for yourself during the day.” Michael Proman, from Sports Tech Tokyo and Scrum Ventures, prioritizes getting a workout in as well, and luckily with a remote work setting, he doesn’t have to worry about budgeting time for a shower, “ I’m very well known to be sitting in sweaty gym clothes for a good 3–6 hours of the working day after I get my run in in the morning.” Brett Richey, CEO at BlitzPredict, swears by running outside with no music and no distractions and said, “…it’s really powerful for helping me think through my day and helping me just map out. Usually business-related, sometimes there’s personal stuff, it’s kind of like therapy.” Whenever you can make time for exercise, it’s important to utilize that time away from the desk. Thomas Alomes from Sports Tech World Series takes exercise very seriously and says its a form of meditation for him and where his mind can wander while his body is engaged, “…it’s really where you get the best creative breakthroughs and kind of where you have the opportunity to do some problem solving and think your way through issues.”

Writing Lists

“…If you have a dream and it’s not written down, it’s a wish,” that’s the belief of INFLCR’s Jim Cavale anyway. The founder and CEO sets goals for himself on a regular basis and uses a two-column list strategy, separating what’s essential and what’s not essential. What could be more simple than writing a to-do list? The process of writing down what needs to get done isn’t overly complicated, and it can be a great way to visualize what you need to do. Whether it’s with a pen and paper or with an app on your phone, the second most popular productivity suggestion from our expert guests was to make lists and organize the day’s tasks.

Greg Mitchinson, Head of Partnerships at Twenty3 said, “…one thing I do every single day without fail is I write lists and I prioritize and then I work through that list and everything on that list is done every day.” Writing it down can go along way, but sometimes it can be tough to figure out where to start. If you need some inspiration, follow Chase Payne’s lead, the CMO at Champions Round asks two questions when writing his task lists, (1) what am I doing today? and (2) what impact can I draw today? If you want to really plan ahead, write your to-do list the night before like Kristin Geer, CEO at Bleachr, “I try to create my list of “must-dos” the night before so that I’m ready to go…” Or make use of the applications on your phone, like the app Clear, a task and reminder to-do list that Twiik’s CEO, Anders Gran, swears by.

People

While it may not be the first thing that comes to mind when considering strategies for productivity, the people around you can have a huge impact on whether or not you are making the most out of your time. “I think the adage, you can’t do it yourself, and surround yourself with a good team holds true,” said Cheri Bradish, Founding Manager/Director at Future of Sport Lab, and several others agreed with her. Miro CEO, Taylor Host said it’s simple, “bring great people into your team with you…the people around me and the people on the team that we’ve assembled allow me to be productive.” Staying productive as a team is a huge focus in the world of business, as a recent Forbes article explained. After all, if your team doesn’t work together well and efficiently, it can have real financial implications. Mathieu Lacome (Paris Saint-Germain) and Mathieu Rosenbaum (Ecole Polytechnique) from the Sports Analytics Challenge also noted the importance of working with people you like and on topics you all enjoy and Team Snap CEO, Dave Dupont added, “work is a lot easier if you hire fabulous people.”

Morning Routine

Some people are morning people and while those people might be the minority, they can make great use of their time while they’re awake before the rest of us even hit snooze on the alarm (for the first time). “I’m a morning person and so I get up before everyone else does,” said Kristin Geer, CEO at BleachrONE. She makes sure to get up between 4:30 and 5:00 AM in order to have at least an hour before everyone else is up and she’s not alone. Imaginactive CEO, Adele Andersen has been perfecting her morning routine saying, “..the morning, for me, is the key. You’ve got to get the morning right. I’ve been sort of playing with my morning schedule,” reinforcing that you can continue to adapt to a new routine that best fits your needs, “…for me, you have to find something that you want to get up for in the morning and then go and do that thing so that you feel physically and emotionally balanced before you hit the workday.” Finding the right morning routine is a trial and error process, as a 2017 Entrepreneur article stressed while also offering some suggestions for where to start if you want to maximize your morning. Once you find what works, consistency should be your next focus, “ I wake up very early in the morning, I get going before the sun is up and I try to stay very consistent and disciplined with that regimen,” said Aaron Holland, CEO at Season Share.

Calendar

That thing on all your devices and maybe even hung up on your wall or laying on your desk can be so much more than a decoration or a reminder for birthdays and holidays. Using a calendar and scheduling your time carefully can really aid in staying productive. “I live and breathe by the calendar,” said Tracy Deforge, CEO at The Players’ Impact, “…and really making sure that it’s not just up to date but that it builds in time for things that I need to make sure are there and so not giving control of my calendar to anyone else and making sure that I’m seeing what’s happening and that we can fit it all in.” In order to get the most out of the calendar hack, you have to be sure to note as much as possible, so that the whole day, week or month can be seen at a glance and in one place. Daniel Schichman from WSC Sports makes sure to write everything down on the calendar, “even like a short phone call or anything I put it on my calendar to make sure it works.”

Sleep

We all need it, but optimizing your sleep can go a long way in aiding your productivity. Sleep has a large toll on work performance and businesses are taking notice as a recent Financial Times article discussed. Good sleep is key in order to be able to work productively and stay focused, “I am more productive if I take the time to sleep,” said Team Snap’s Dave DuPont before recommending, “Get a good night’s sleep.” While getting good sleep is generally what is suggested, for some, sacrificing sleep is the key to their success. “I’ve been pretty lucky my entire life,” said Grant Cohen from FCFL — Fan Controlled Football League, “I’ve never been someone who needs a ton of sleep and I can be a fully functional person on five hours or less of sleep a night which gives me a lot of extra time, so I get a lot of work done in the evening.” If you aren’t a morning person, it may be worth trying to use the end of the day to get a jump on the next one as well. Daniel Schichman (WSC Sports) referred to his ability to stay up and get things done too saying, “I hardly sleep which helps as well to finish tasks until 3 AM.” Whether it’s getting more or getting less, sleep is something you do every day and changing your routine around bedtime could be an effective way to perform more productively.

Personal Time

It’s more than okay to take time for yourself and step away from the office, computer or drawing board. In fact, several of our guests mentioned the importance of time away from work in order to be more productive. When Champions Round CEO, Carter Russ, takes time to spend with his family and loved ones, he sees a real benefit to his productivity at work, “I end up being twice as productive when I am at work. That sense of appreciation is invigorating and recharging you so that when you’re actually focused on your mission, you feel fulfilled in doing it.” Season Share’s Aaron Holland also recommended balancing the fast-paced world of being an entrepreneur with personal time, “…to perform optimally, you have to make sure to take time for yourself. That’s something that I build into my schedule every day…If you’re a true entrepreneur and you plan on doing this for your career, it’s very stressful and it takes a toll on you so build that time in…” Similarly, Oliver CEO, Jose Gonzalez Ruzo mentioned how he recently began to understand the importance of personal time, “….right now I’m understanding how good it is to actually have some time for yourself and to breathe and have yourself on the right spot to actually work more focused.” Not only is it important to spend time away from work in order to be more productive, but Jose also says it will affect those around you and the projects you’re working on “…it’s more about taking care of yourself that’s going to have a positive impact on you and your company and all the things you do.”

Everything Else

While there were many themes throughout the recommendations this year, there were several unique hacks mentioned that we also want to be sure are shared so we’ve listed them here:

Reading

“I think you have to constantly learn, and you have to have this kind of inquisitive mind,” said Dazzl’s Ryan Jespersen, as he discussed how reading industry publications helps him to stay productive, “…otherwise, you get left behind very quickly….” If you need a place to start for finding industry news, platforms like Flipboard and Feedly can help in curating the topics that matter most to you or use a tool like Google Alerts to help monitor the web for content relating to your interests so you never miss out on industry updates. And if you haven’t already, join over 1,000 members in the Global SportsTech Network group on Linkedin to keep up with all the happenings within the global SportsTech ecosystem.

Communication

As the saying goes, communication is key, and that’s certainly the belief of Minute Media’s President and CEO, Rich Routman, “…More phone calls, more video chats, and less emails get people aligned and on the same page,” he said. Rich stressed the importance of transparency within workplace communication and encouraging a culture around that in order for it to make your team more productive, “…I think the productivity hack is about being really honest and direct, but being able to build a relationship up to that point where you can afford to be able to do that.”

Don’t Aim for Perfection

Any particular project or product can have a lot of elements to consider, delaying its release or publish date in order to get it just right. While it’s important to share your best work with your audience or consumers, perfection doesn’t exist so don’t let aiming for it get in the way of sharing your product “…don’t think you need to try and get everything right the first time, you just need to get it out there,” DataPOWA’s Michael Flynn said, “…if something’s wrong, you’ll soon know about it and you can change it…You don’t need to be perfect the first time but you’ve got to keep at it and keep building on it.”

Monotasking > Multitasking

Multitasking sounds like an obvious productivity hack, right? Wrong. Many people argue that multitasking is in fact not the most efficient way to get more done. Recently, Yahoo! published an article about exactly that, citing research that suggests focusing on one task at a time rather than taking on too much is the best way to be more productive. “I’m a big believer in monotasking versus multitasking,” said Lance Dietz, from KB Partners, “…I definitely see the value of it and I try to just do one thing at a time.” Not only does Lance aim to work on one task at a time, he also recommends setting time aside for “deep-work,” or making sure that you have time to work where there are no other distractions, “…don’t have any calls scheduled and really focus for a few hours on something that you need to accomplish.”

Music

Music is a powerful tool for productivity. Hearing the right tunes can improve your mood and can make tasks more enjoyable as this Quartz article explains. “You’ve got to have good music playing on a regular basis,” said Upper Hand CEO, Kevin MacCauley. Music can influence your mental performance, and for some, having a soundtrack for the workday is crucial. Music can also be utilized outside of the office in order to give your brain a rest or help encourage focus during a workout, “…it puts me into a state of flow and it’s the easiest way I can find to get into flow and flow is what I need to be able to work,” said Imaginactive’s Adele Anderson.

Saying “No”

It’s amazing how quickly your calendar can fill up after accepting a few invitations or new opportunities, but in order to make the best use of your time it’s important to understand the power of saying “No.” A productivity expert recently shared examples on exactly how to do this without burning any bridges in an article for CNBC. “Start saying ‘no’ to more things,” said Jim Cavale, CEO at INFLCR. “To me, that’s the biggest productivity hack because every time you’re saying ‘yes’ to something, you’re saying ‘no’ to something else.

Other Tools

Consider using a tool like HubSpot, a leading growth platform. Laura Fernandez Gimenez from AllWomen said the service is a big help in achieving her goals, “…I think it is very useful to get insights no matter if its marketing or sales or your productivity, everything is there, connected and automated.” HubSpot allows you to connect several elements of your business in order to have it all in one space she said, “You can have it connected with your email, with your newsletter, with your forms in your website, with your meetings also so that everything is connected and every interaction you have with someone is recorded and registered within your platform.”

Talking to Strangers

The most unique productivity hack mentioned on the show may have been from Blinder Co-Founder, Caley Wilson who recommends that people talk to strangers more often. “A number of the wins we’ve had from Blinder have come from a range of conversations,” he said. The people we encounter outside of work can be a great resource, but only if you’re curious and able to begin a conversation with them. “I just think sometimes we can get a little bit insulated in what we’re up to and if we’re curious about who other people are and allow them to be curious about who we are, some pretty interesting things can happen.”

Something for Everyone

It’s always interesting to hear how people make the best use of their time, especially when those people have started their own company or provided a much-needed solution in the industry. Whether it's optimizing your calendar or making sure to get a workout in, it’s clear that there are many ways to help aid productivity. These successful leaders in SportsTech each have found what works for them, stressing the fact that there’s definitely not a “one-size-fits-all” solution. We suggest trying the hack or strategy that fits best with your lifestyle or even trying a mix of several to see what works best for you.

Hear all about how these innovative thinkers and creators have used their productivity hacks to provide much-needed solutions and additions to the global SportsTech ecosystem on The SportsTech Allstars Podcast.

Benjamin Penkert is the Founder of Berlin-based SportsTechX — Data & insights about SportsTech startups and the surrounding ecosystem. You can get in touch via Linkedin, Twitter or email.

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Benjamin Penkert

Benjamin Penkert

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Founder of @sportstechx. All about #sportstech and #startups.