Working in the tough world of a start-up is not easy (“understatement”, I hear some of you shout!). Very often there is a small team, everyone is working extremely hard and nobody is quite sure if it’s all going to be a success.
But that’s exactly why we love it.
The hard work and unpredictability is what drives us and excites us in equal measure. And while we know that hard work will pay off, there is something to be said for smart work.
Many of the people working for a startup have bought into the concept and are passionate about the product or service they are delivering. But endless work will not only start to produce poor results but it will demotivate the team and result in a poor company culture.
So here are a few tips we’ve picked up along the way on how to work more effectively.
Lists, Lists, Lists
It does seem a little old fashioned. The prospect, especially now we live in a digital dominated world, of keeping yourself on track with a paper list of tasks for the day may seem dated, but it is surprisingly invaluable.
It’s satisfying ticking or scoring things off a list, but it serves a number of roles.
Firstly, you’ll find you focus your mind on what is written down, or on your spreadsheet if you prefer to remain digital (I like Wunderlist but there are lots out there). With so many competing priorities it can provide some clarity as to what needs to happen for you to go home with a feeling of fulfilment.
Which leads onto the second point – success. One of the biggest pressures people feel is the never ending list of things to do and the feeling that you are never quite finished. Being realistic about what can be achieved (most commentators feel its between 3/4 meaningful tasks a day) and writing these down will ensure you feel an enormous sense of wellbeing at the end of the day when they are all ticked off.
Finally, in addition to the benefits of keeping you on track, setting out your list for the day enables you rebuff the advances of others within the business who would like to pass on some work (or more likely pass off some work they don’t want to do to you). It makes it much easier to say no.
Focus, Focus, Focus
Do you have a tough time staying focused? There is a lots of debate around whether human attention spans are dropping. Some say it is less that goldfish, others completely dismiss this. Either way, it isn’t easy to remain focused on one task at time.
We would suggest creating a few habits that will help you stay focused on the one task and not have you veering off into Facebook or replying to emails.
Break your hours down into 20 minute blocks. Work towards whatever goal you have set yourself for 18 or so minutes and take a 2 minute break. A very short break, step away from the desk, grab some water, and sit back down and start again.
Give yourself a simple ‘started work’ trigger. It could be popping your headphones on, or it could be as simple as closing down all other programmes except the one you are working on. You could try starting a timer on your phone – seems a little strange, but you will get into the habit as you naturally become more focused. The timer creates a natural end and gives your mind a focus for a set amount of time.
This may again seem a little strange, but with so many of us working online the ability to be at work wherever and whenever means we never stop. This isn’t a healthy state of affairs. No matter who you are, your body, and more importantly your mind, needs a rest.
There are only 24 hours in the day – nothing is changing that. So once you have worked for 24 hours straight what’s next? The race to the bottom won’t be won. Working effectively and efficiently will make you a better employee and make your startup a better business.
So make sure you set yourself a time to finish and stick to it. No one is saying don’t work hard, in fact during the time you are at work you should be working incredibly hard, but you have to do so in an effective way. The UK’s productivity has for a long time trailed behind that of the other G7 nations. Not a great position to be in but something we can absolutely change. However it relies on the dedication and commitment of management and workforce alike to help us improve.
The reality is that becoming a more effective and efficient employee comes down to discipline. All the tricks and tips in the world won’t make a difference if you don’t stick to them. So find your own approach, make sure it works for you and stick to it. Soon your hard work will become a habit and without knowing it you will be producing more and your startup will be on the way to scaling up.