11 Productivity Strategies That Keep A Startup CoFounder (With A Toddler) Sane
It took me a while to come up with this list, but now it works so well…
I cofounded PowerToFly, now the fastest growing platform for women to find companies that create inclusive and gender-diverse environments, six weeks after having a baby. My baby is now a toddler who is “manageable” (she goes to school, she gets picked up by her wonderful nanny who I’d be lost without). So now building PowerToFly is what stresses me out on the time management front. With over 40 employees, a ton of enterprise sales meetings and all the other wonders and joys of building a lasting business, I find that one of the hardest challenges is to keep a focused and calm head. I use a couple tools and strategies to cope that I strongly recommend:
1. I Use “Headspace” To Meditate Each Morning
Headspace is an app I got for my iPhone. I love that the meditations are guided but that the whole process is somewhat gamified so I’m challenged to return. You need to unlock “packs” as you progress with your meditations. I force myself to find the 10 minutes needed per session even if I’m on the train, in a conference room or sometimes at home. If I don’t meditate then my brain is all over the place and I’m less productive.
2. I Have An App That Filters My Email
I love “Sanebox”. It took me a while to train the app so important emails weren’t put in the “sanelater” box, but otherwise I’ve been happy. I save hours not reading emails that don’t matter. And to make me feel even more productive, I get a weekly report on the “hours I’ve saved” by not reading emails that don’t matter to me.
3. I Write In Two Journals Every Morning
One journal is called “The 5 Minute Journal”. I write my plans for the day in there as well as positive thoughts — what I’m happy about, what I can improve etc. You can buy the journal on Amazon. It’s basically the “paint by numbers” version of a journal, but wow it helps. My other journal is where I record thoughts, anxieties and basically whatever I know I need to work out on paper before it festers in my head. Putting pen to paper really helps me excise what I don’t want sitting over me all day.
4. I Use “Rescue Time” To Shame Me Off Of Twitter And Facebook
As a former journalist, I find it hard to not be on Twitter, sharing pointless information to my echo chamber about Trump’s latest crazy statement. Social is an addiction for me that just takes away time from work and then my family (because if I don’t do my work during the day then I’m doing it at night). “Rescue Time” let’s me know how much energy I’ve wasted on social sites. It’s like having a disciplinarian over your shoulder. Sometimes I ignore it, but knowing it’s there helps… and shames me.
5. I Review My Calendar The Night Before
Any non-essential meetings, I cut. Any essential meetings, I cut down the time on. I’m not good enough at this yet, but I’m going to get really draconian on this front in 2017. Big resolution for me.
6. I Schedule & Pay For My Gym Classes In Advance
If I don’t work out then I don’t sleep properly. I’m just too hyped up before bed. Of course that affects my performance the next day. I used to be terrible with exercise — I’d sit on an exercise bike and play with my phone. Now I pay for my spinning classes in advance (yes, I shell out a fortune to Soul Cycle). They’re painfully expensive, but I consider them therapy and a form of sleeping pill… so I write off the cost in multiple ways. I also run and get myself to do it consistently using the “Nike Training” app. Logging my miles makes me feel good.
7. I Use “The Pomodoro Method” During Long Stretches
One of our PowerToFly team members told me she uses Pomodoro to keep her productive so I checked it out. You set a 30 minute timer and when the time is up you go for a five minute walk. The idea is to break up your day in chunks so you remain productive and take breaks to clear your head.
8. I Use The “Wait Ten Minutes” Rule
Our Head of Talent Management, Rachel Valdez, taught me this one. If you receive an upsetting email or someone angers you, take a deep breathe and “wait ten minutes” before responding. It’s a miracle what a little time can do to diffuse a situation. And escalating situations that can be diffused just takes more time out of your day. So don’t let things unnecessarily escalate. Breathe and wait instead.
9. I Practice A Zero Inbox Rule
Nothing is more distracting than a bolded email that I need to read. Every few hours I go into my gmail and select all the emails that I know I’m not going to read. Clearing my inbox gets me to clear my head. The next item tells you how I deal with emails I might have missed.
10. I Tell My Team To “Escalate The Medium + Not The Message”
One of the first things I make clear to new employees at PowerToFly is that if you can’t find me, or someone else on the team, don’t send me repeated emails in ALL CAPS. That’s a great way to raise my blood pressure. If I’m not responding over email, it’s because I’m in a meeting or maybe in transit. So Slack me, then Skype me, then text me. And If I don’t respond over text, then call me. Just escalate the medium… not the message!
11. I Work On Public Transportation
I’m lucky. I get someone else to take me to work everyday — the NYC subway. I live in Brooklyn and PowerToFly has offices in Mid-Town and Soho. The team is remote, but those of us in New York use the office, especially when we’re conducting interviews or meeting clients. I usually ride during off hours and get a seat. I whip open my laptop and write memos or work on a presentation offline. No one can email, call, text, or tweet at me and that’s huge. With the exception of someone screaming their head off in the subway car about the coming apocalypse (happened last week), I can focus really well. Everyone else is in their own world, listening to music or playing Candy Crush — so the train is one of the more isolated places to work in New York City. I work on planes too, but find I’m often distracted by the movie someone is watching next to me. I can’t tell you how many movies I’ve “watched” with the sound off on someone else’s screen. Another thing to nip in 2017.
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