65 Startup Founders Share Their Productivity Hacks
We reached out to 65 startup founders, directors, CEO’s and managers to ask them to share one productivity hack we can all use to get more stuff done, and we were not disappointed with the responses we received!
From advice on managing daily routines to tips for more efficient hiring processes to tips on managing email, they each shared some excellent advice that’s guaranteed to help you get more out of each working day.
Grab a pot of tea, sit back and start taking notes from the advice here forth…
I start every morning with Yoga and 15-20 minutes of reading. Before looking at my phone, answering any emails or Slack messages — this comes first and helps me get my mind right for the day ahead.
When I start a session at the computer I prioritize my todos and time-set them with a little slack. I then set an alarm as I start each task, and aim at completing the task before the alarm sounds. Many times it works. If I fail, I extend the alarm a few minutes. This allows me to be extremely effective at the computer.
My productivity hack is simple, I plan to get work done (the hard stuff) during times with the least distractions & high creativity. For me that’s in the mornings from 6am to 9am and after dinner. I keep my to-do list short with just 2-4 big things I need to get done. During the rest of the day I’m busying with meetings, helping my team and generally pretty distracted so I plan to do ZERO work during that time. Anything I get done during that time is an added bonus.
Hire people who have done the job before. The only predictor of future success is past success in a role. Instead of interviewing for social cues, ability to solve brain teasers, or verbal fluency in an interview setting, you should always and only interview for the candidate’s ability to the job you are hiring them for.
Clump like-tasks. That means if you’ve got lots of writing to do, try to get it all done on the same day – that way your brain can get into “writing mode”. I find I work much faster when I theme parts of my day with similar tasks.
5am wakeup. Noise cancelling headphones. Avoid M&A, VC, and recruiter discussions unless you’re looking to sell, raise capital, or hire a recruiter. Outsource payroll and benefits to TriNet. Only attend conferences as a speaker.
I use post-it notes for everything. It’s my memory on paper. I like to get everything out so I can see what needs to be tackled first. Being productive is about tackling the right thing at the right time. Sometimes you can be productive on the wrong things. Creating a big list helps you see the big picture and reminds you what’s important.
1. Nothing crushes productivity like anxiety from a full inbox. Rather than letting your inbox be your to-do list, create calendar tasks that reference emails which can’t be immediately answered and archive those messages from the inbox. Don’t worry, archiving doesn’t mean deleting. You can access your archived mail by searching or going to the “”All Mail”” section in Gmail.
2. At the end of each day, list the top 3 things you want to accomplish tomorrow. Do those. Rinse. Repeat.
Do not trust your memory. Write everything down. If it has a deadline, put it on a calendar. Try and minimize the things you need to keep spinning in your head so you can focus on the tasks at hand.
The biggest hack is not really a hack — it’s a way of working! The trick is to break large tasks into small, concrete bits of work that you can accomplish in a few hours (or a day at most.) That way you’ll make progress every day, which keeps your positive energy flowing and guarantees that you don’t get overwhelmed by all the other potential things you could be doing.
It also helps to have a good work environment. My personal preference is a quiet space, good music, and a standing desk.
The rule of three is a hack I live by. Whether it’s three things to achieve that day, week or month – I determine the set as soon as I wake up. The key to my rule of three is always, always, always including something I’ve been putting off doing. Then it just has to get done.
At the end of the day, productivity is really just time management. I’ve found the biggest driver will always be whether you love what you do. If you do, then you’ve got no one else to blame – you just get it done.
Since we’ve started using Slack at Solid, I’ve started plugging many useful bots to it. Like many people do, we’ve got channels set up for social media mentions of our companies, instant information on new signups to Solid, etc.
But recently, I’ve had success with personal productivity bots such as Meekan (particularly useful to schedule my 1-on-1s with team members). And of course, we’re all big fans of the Solid bot, to list our upcoming meetings and add notes to them!
Putting my phone on Airplane mode from certain times. Only creative work before noon. Do your one most important thing the first thing every day because that will make you feel productive from the start. No multi-tasking. One screen at a time. No notifications.
The second you feel yourself wanting to multi-task, take a break because your brain needs a break.
Automation. Any repetitive tasks within the business are automated. I believe in building software internally that improves productivity.
Do less but better.
At the beginning I tried to do as many task as possible in parallel that gave terrible results. I feel much more productive now to do less tasks. I really recommend you to stop right now if you do, multitasking.
That’s a good way to feel productive but at the end you are not.
Write the tasks you did.
Each time i finish a task, I write it. You have the feeling of getting things done.
And that’s a good option to remember what you did.
Just answers your e-mails ones a day! Delete your whatz app account and start using slack!.
Standing desks are the best solution to increased productivity. Combine that with using the pomodoro technique, working in 25 minute sprints, for maximum efficiency.
Crowdsourced tips from our team:
– Change your environment at least once a day. This means going for a walk in the middle of the day – usually after lunch just for 10 mins.
– Over half the team use a standing desk due to the reduced risks of heart disease and obesity. We even begun to sell our own: www.hubblehq.com/standhq.
– Turn off notifications when working. Put Slack on “”Do not Disturb””, snooze any email reminders and hide your phone behind your monitor or laptop.
– Use a pomodoro app – we have an in-house collaoborative pomodoro timer: tomatogether for strategic breaks.
– Use lists & lists software like Asana to monitor to-dos but also feel good about what you’ve achieved.
– Give a time allotment to each task so you know mentally how long it will take.
– Plan what you’re going to eat in the afternoon to avoid the sugar blast fail. (buy some bread and peanut butter, and have that instead)
My favorite productivity hack is the “positivity pause.” Every day, I force myself to take a 20 minute walk, OUTSIDE, and ignore my phone. Sometimes I will listen to a book on tape, sometimes music, sometimes nothing. I try and force myself to think about things that aren’t work or the challenges associated with work. And I usually grab a coffee on the way back in. I have found that 20 minutes of pause time allows me to reset midday, and I don’t get trapped in any negative thoughts…
AngelList filters to find new developers faster.
Plan ahead. For today. For a week. For a month. It takes a relatively small amount of time and helps significantly stay organised and focused.
Agree on workflows with your team no matter how small your team is. Revisit those regularly with ideas how to improve your teamwork. Embrace task management tools like Asana, Basecamp, etc.
1. Plan things straight on a timeline. You get a visual overview of what you’re doing each day and you avoid being overwhelmed by work piling up.
2. Plan around milestones and deadlines. You save energy because detailed plans always change and hanging on that causes stress.
3. Take all the flexibility you need. Sometimes I spend a few hours of a working day walking with my dog. Or in a gym. And work two hours longer than I normally would during the evening. It keeps me motivated and sharp.
Code at night when everyone thinks you’re asleep. No distractions.
These are my favorite productivity hacks that have worked for me :
If it is something quick, finish it first.
Delegate what your team can do better than you would.
A quick daily scrum with the team to stay on top of everything.
Advanced gmail filters (bypass inbox unless i’m in the to, cc field, or specifically mentioned: -(to:me OR cc:me OR “My Name”), Recurring reminders via Wunderlist, Everything else via Evernote
For those special occasions where I really need to crunch through something major and am not in flow, I have a play list that gets me there. The first song is “Why don’t you get a job” by the Offspring and the list includes a lot of angry songs that needs to be played LOUDLY on good head phones.
By now, this specific playlist has turned into a bit of Pavlov’s bell for me – when I put it on, I immediately drop into crunch mode.
Standup Meetings being synchronous vs. the new trend asynchronous.
Do something else when you aren’t in the mood to be productive.
Automate anything you do more than twice.
Write down your processes. They then become teachable.
Digital Nomad lifestyle – at morning swimming or travelling, after lunch minimal 6 hours of full concentrated productivity. (Currently in Sri Lanka)
Wake up and immediately play music (ideally Classic Rock or Deep House), gets you focused and pumped for the day ahead!
Write a daily to do list before bed so you know what to focus on tomorrow.
Don’t eat crap. Your body and mind will thank you.
1. I plan for only 5 hours of work per day, because there’s always something that comes up on the go.
2. I use RescueTime to track how I spend my time, and I review it once a week, usually on Sunday.
3. I never touch an email twice.
4. Every evening I schedule 1/2 easy tasks to do the next morning, to kickstart my day and feel more productive.
I use Evernote religiously! Every night I make my to-do list for the next day. This list also includes tasks for this week, next week and next month.
Also, during the day if there is an urgent task that I forgot to add, I will complete the task and add it to-do list as completed.
I have followed this routine over the past 2 years and have followed it so closely that I can tell you what I have completed almost everyday over the past 2 years! It’s a great routine to have but requires discipline!
Hire 12 outsource people from Upwork, find the best one, and send them jobs three times a week… while you sleep.
Use as few “”productivity apps”” as possible. Integrating them into your workflow begins from a world of good intentions, but soon these apps start actually eating into your productivity. Consolidate it all into a single app, even if just a simple todo app.
Break up tasks. You can always divide any given task to several smaller ones, and any given task list into several smaller lists. Seeing one short list of simple quick tasks makes it look more achievable than a long list of BIG todos.
– Love what you do. I can’t think of a better way to stay productive.
– Know who you are and what you’re about. I’ve found that the most productive periods of my life happen when I believe in what I’m doing. The unhappiness caused by feeling one way and acting another will zap your enthusiasm.
– You are the average of the five closest relationships in your life. Surround yourself with people who make your life better personally and professionally. It’s hard to be productive in a bad environment.
Trello board for assigning tasks and deadlines. Google Sheets to track recurring things (follow-ups, content generation, etc).
Slack for simultaneously discussing multiple things. Fireflies AI to automate reminders to friends. Pre-meeting agendas are super critical to be efficient during the meeting.
I work exclusivly on a laptop and take it everywhere I go, this allows me to get some work in when I have any downtime.
Microgoals – sometimes by simply promising yourself to write at least a single word, or make one phone call is enough to give you momentum.
Extreme decluttering – when there’s just one thing staring at you, there’s only one thing to do.
Forced breaks – even if it feels counterproductive, they help productivity in the long run.
The power of 3 – set up three daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly goals, all of which should flow through to the larger goals. Three is my Goldilocks number.
Picking up the phone and talking to customers gets me into mood all the time. It keeps us on the right track, and helps us articulate what we should be working on. Talking to your customers is the best way to make sure you are building the right things. These calls shouldn’t be sales calls, always go in with the intent of learning.
I always try to go to bed by 9:30 PM. It sounds early but this gets me up at 4AM for a couple of hours of super productive work and the early boot camp class at my gym.
I estimate the rest of my day is at least 20% more productive when I work out in the morning vs not and I tend to eat better too. Be consistent though, when I fall out of the routine, it takes three days in a row gets me back on track!
Limit yourself to 2 hours of email per day (1 in the morning, 1 in the afternoon). Outside of those 2 hours, turn off your email notifications so you can uninterrupted focus.
One of the most effective tools for productivity that I use is time-boxing.
I split my whole day up into fixed blocks of time (for example 1-2 hours) that I call ‘work blocks’. Any task that I create must always be able to be accomplished within the time frame of these ‘work blocks’. This paces my work and makes sure that I’m creating tasks that aren’t open ended.
We recently implemented the Scrum methodology! We wanted to give it a try after it worked wonders for the organization of the workload for our developing team.
We are still in the early stages but it’s already been insightful to help us improve efficiency and prioritization. This doesn’t mean that sticky notes have completely disappeared from my desk though.
I go to sleep by 9 or 10pm so I can wake up and work, undistracted, from 5 or 6am until 10am (when the e-mails start pouring in).
I also do my best to separate work from my personal life so that it doesn’t feel like I’m always working and so that I can focus on my work when I need to. To achieve this, I never work where I sleep and make sure to step outside of work if I need to take a break.
I CONCENTRATE ON GETTING MORE BANG FOR THE BUCK
Instead of trying to get more done, I focus on what will have the biggest impact.
I ALLOCATE ALONE TIME
No emails, no meetings, no interruptions for 3 hours a day. It clears my mind, recharges my energy levels, and helps me to focus on the bigger picture.
I USE TECHNOLOGY TO MY ADVANTAGE
I am constantly on the hunt for apps that can save time. We created Desygner from that need, to make creating visually engaging content less time consuming.
Creativity and motivation are not endless supplies; get it when/wherever you can. I use meditation, working out, acupuncture, odd working hours, dietary supplements and nootropics (aniracetam, piracetam, etc) to perform at the peak of my ability.
1. Skip the TV in the evening. I don’t actually have a TV but I prefer to go to bed early and wake up early. Those hours when I’m freshest I can get a lot done.
2. Turn travel time into productive time. A light laptop means I can easily get work done on the train.
3. Schedule time for productive work without distractions instead of trying to do productive work around and in between scheduled ‘life/office admin’ tasks.
4. Don’t open the laptop without a plan. Otherwise you just end up surfing.
Never read an email twice! Immediately respond, delegate, action on, or plan actioning in the calendar.
1. Spare time from everyday life for meditation: All work and no meditation keeps Jack on useless overdrive
2. Never use coffee for incessant bailout: Something’s gotta pay the sleep bills in future; usually your health
3. Tip the world to take the lead: A few bucks for getting a premium LinkedIn account and more visibility on twitter does more good
4. Don’t be like Smeagol: In most cases, your tasks can be assigned to subordinates. Quip “”My Precious””, and you’ll soon be doomed by stress.
I limit my working days to about 9 or 10 hours. This may be controversial in the startup world, but I find that this way I am able to come into work, really focus, get things done, and then disconnect and chill out.
The next day I am ready and raring to go, and rarely feel my productivity waning.
There are only 1 productivity hack that work – Love what you’re doing, believe in what you’re doing. Follow this hack and you’ll always be productive and motivated.
One thing that has really worked for me is taking breaks in between and leaving parts of project dangling. Instead of completing step one, two, three and leaving the four for later, I complete steps one, two, and half of step three, stopping mid line-of-code.
It’s much easier to get back into the groove, after a break, because I can jump into what I was doing before than if I have to start from scratch, with a whole new step. I follow this is a end of day tip too.
Try to get 7-8 hours of sleep a night, drink 3 liters of water a day, go running 3-4 times a week – the best way to start into the day and get my mind organized! In my team, we use toggl for time tracking and – of course – Nuclino to keep our teamwork and knowledge flowing.
I start my day off drinking a glass of lukewarm water and half a lemon squeezed in. I’ve been doing it for over a year now and found it to be a great way to start the day, fully energized and productive.
It is known that this flushes out unwanted materials and toxins from the body, but I also feel it energizes the mind too. It’s also a very simple hack anyone can do, one that only requires you to get more lemons than usual…
In spite of I’m an entirely digital guy (I create the intellective platform to build websites, Tilda Publishing) for my personal productivity there is no better than a piece of paper. I use sticky notes. It’s cool to formalize my ideas or plans and to share it with my team.
It’s super easily, lightly and naturally — to put your thoughts down on the paper, place it on the wall and throw it away when a case is done. It helps me to be concentrated on what I’m doing and what I need to do.
Here’s the obvious and you don’t want to hear it: close Facebook, Twitter, news feeds and all other social apps. That cute cat image with lasers on Reddit can wait
– Turn on some music without lyrics; whether it’s classical, techno or instrumental hiphop – the repetitive tunes prevent your brain from leaving the zone. It’s science.
– Do some jumping jacks every so often (make sure nobody looks first).
– Always have a glass of water on your desk.
– Also drink the water from the glass on your desk.
Working away from the office helps avoid small interruptions.
Impose time restrictions on checking email.
Organizational software helps visualize the progress of your many projects from a bird’s-eye view.
Be aware of your output and know when to walk away from a project when your brain is fried. The quality of work when you’re not focused doesn’t balance with the time you waste forcing it.
1. Turn off email alerts. First of all for weekends, then forever.
2. Find out your productivity level with Resquetime.
3. Use Trello and Pomodoro Technique for GTD.
4. Take a break and run for 30 minutes.
5. If something isn’t in your calendar, ignore it.
6. Use IFTTT or Zapier for automation. For example once a meeting started in my calendar IFTTT make a card in my Trello board with a label «send a followup».
7. Sleep at least 8 hours.
At the beginning of each week creating a weekly task list on personal JIRA board then prioritise them according to their urgencies.
Also leaving request emails received from customers unread until the task is completed allows us not to forget them.
As a last tip, for a task if doing on my own will cost too much time then using a 3rd party service, I prefer to use that service. This is why we have created API Plug, not to lose time on creating REST-API’s and focusing more on business logic.
I heavily subscribe to David Allen’s GTD methodology and use Wunderlist to manage all my tasks and to-dos (both business and personal).
We use Slack and google drive for all team communication and collaboration at Whalar.
I use a combination of the Inbox app on Android and the boomerang chrome extension on desktop to manage my inbox like a to-do list – snoozing emails until they need to be dealt with.
Maintain a sense of balance and perspective when it comes to other important things in your life, like family and personal ambition.
Without achieving that balance, any productivity is destined to be short-lived. To do this, I completely unplug, even mentally, from all electronic devices for one day a week in order to spend that day with my family.
To collect the opinions of our team we use Wooclap in our meetings
I use the Eisenhower Matrix to prioritize my tasks.
Music, always. I pick a different artist/playlist dependent on the type of work I’m doing – Richard Swift is my new go to for copywriting.