Productivity Hacks of a Startup Dad

28 May 2013

“Live for today because yesterday is gone and tomorrow is unknown.” — Anonymous

I have a two year old daughter and a startup. Over the last couple of years I have come to value a balanced life. Most startup stories would talk about gruelling hours and all-nighters. This isn’t the case with me as I believe entrepreneurship is not just about working hard but working smart. If you can manage your time efficiently then you can get out of the office at 5, catch a game of tennis and have enough time left to spend at home.

Last year, we were busy building Brightpod and these are some of my productivity hacks that I used (and still use) on a daily basis to get my share of a balanced work day.

Plan the night before

Once she is asleep I take 10 minutes and plan my next day — what do I want to accomplish, calls I need to make and things I need to look at.

Early Mornings

Planning the night before helps me get a head start the next morning. I try to get the most important work done early in the morning when everyone is asleep. I quickly check my mail (feel compelled to since I am in the web business) and then get on to some writing. This helps my flow of thoughts throughout the day.

Don’t build a routine

After reading The Power of Habit book I thought I would build a routine. However, this didn’t work out. Routines are boring. Instead, I focus on getting myself organised so I feel in control.

News Diet

I limit myself to very little general or world news. In fact, if it is very important I’ll probably hear about it on Twitter. Think about it — we don’t consume much news when we are on a vacation. What happens when we are back? Nothing changes. It’s the same type of news circulating. One of the articles I read a while back mentioned that if news made your smart then journalists would be the smartest people on this earth :)

Procrastinate Reading

I used to read daily. Now, it is mostly over the weekends when I am a bit more relaxed and my reading list does not feel like a task list. However, I realised that not everything is as interesting as it sounds. Tip: a lot of the articles seem useful when you save them (to a read it later service like Pocket or Instapaper) but don’t seem that important when you actually get to reading them.

Switch Off Email Notifications

Push email is overrated. I have push email off and experience true bliss. I want to be in control when I check mail and not the other way around.

VIP Notifications

Apple Mail has a nifty VIP feature which I love. I now can control who I want to hear from. I can even exercise the Do Not Disturb mode post 11pm when I need to concentrate on some tasks. The VIP feature is the ideal middle-ground to having some push notifications rather than non at all.

Pick up the Phone

I pick up the phone if I can get something done faster than email. It cuts down the back and forth.

Limit Social Networks

Facebook and Twitter are good to dip into real quickly between tasks. Unless you are a social media marketer I don’t see why you would want to spend a cumulative time of more than 10–15 minutes a work day on Twitter and Facebook.

Delegate like a Champ

I used to jump in a try to do everything. I guess it comes from being a web designer and developer. Today, I delegate stuff to my team and work on building the business and understanding our customers.

Use Analytics Tools

I personally love software that can give me a report and an analysis of what’s happening with our business. Isn’t that what software should do? We have started using KISSMetrics and Intercom at Brightpod and they save me a ton of time. Without them we would have to manually create cohort charts, calculate churn, revenue and manage the conversion funnel.

Minimum Viable Daily Tasks

Recently, I have been practicing a new time management technique and I am calling it the “Minimum Viable Daily Tasks”. Here is how it works: Choose the minimum amount of work that needs to be done everyday so that you have a big smile on your face when you are heading home in the evening. If you accomplish anything more then it is a bonus.

My motto (which gets emailed to me everyday via ifttt is: Life is short. Work smart. Have fun. I am reminded of this everyday. I am still learning to manage my time better and would love to hear your thoughts if you’ll are a startup dad/mom.

My Daughter and Me ><

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All content © Sahil Parikh