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11 Productivity Hacks According to Startup Founders


TechInAfrica — Startup employees master productivity the best. They work at a rapid pace under the pressure to accelerate in their field. They are expected to deliver quality works even outside their originally assigned jobs.

From keeping checklists to long walks and maintain a hobby, here are 11 productivity hacks from top startup founders.

  • Melanie Perkins, Co-Founder and CEO of Canva

Perkins says that she focuses on the end goal. “With every task that I do, I always have a strong focus on the long term vision of the task or project. Looking at every task in the context of the bigger picture provides motivation to see the task through. For example, when I was starting out with our first company, Fusion Books, and wanted to post thousands of letters – packing envelopes for days on end was certainly not the most exciting job in the world unto itself. Fortunately, with that particular task my co-founder, Cliff and I were able to rope our generous families in to help. However, it really is the context of the task – that it was to help build a successful company and get the word out that helped the task to be fun and have meaning.”

She also keeps lists that help her stay on top of her works. She says, “Late night brainstorms, feedback from users, little thoughts and ideas can make a big difference – I keep lists that I cross off on a day to day basis, week-to-week and even lists that I wrote years ago that I am still working through. I find jotting things down is often the first step to seeing them realized.”

Lastly, Perkins takes long walks for brainstorming as it’s a great way to brainstorm ideas, strategies, and plans for the future.

  • Vivek Sharma, Co-Founder and CEO of Movable Ink

“When I was a kid my dad taught me to create task lists to get things done. I create a sorted list and give myself tighter deadlines on items where I might be a bottleneck. This might seem very basic but, shockingly, there are people who don’t have a task management process. I ask that my managers use the same tool so our conversations are focused and no one is confused about who owns a task. WeekDone and Asana are great, collaborative task management tools.”

Other than that, saying ‘no’ is Sharma’s way to manage her time easier. She says, “I say no to a *lot* of meetings. It’s easier, and a good idea, in the early days of a startup to add randomness in the path to product-market fit. Once you have something that works, the business propels you forward and you have to ruthlessly manage your time towards execution. This means that 90% of my time is spent on things with an end-goal in mind. This means no mentorships or ego-stroking speaking engagements. That said, I try to carve out 10% of my time on things that spark creativity or get me off the treadmill of getting things done”

Sharma also delegates tasks to others so there is some free time and give someone else an opportunity to lead.

  • Julie Lorch, Director of UX at DoSomething.Org

According to Lorch, creating a laidback environment encourages people to keep a fresh mind and generate better ideas. He says, “Man, let’s talk about snacks. I love snacks. Especially at 10:30 and 3, with a huge glass of water. My co-workers are smarter and nicer to each other when we’re snacking, and I’m convinced we come up with better ideas, too. Like, I wouldn’t be writing this post without the apple and handful of almonds I just ate. Anyway, aside from remembering to snack, I workout every day and always have a giant pair of noise-canceling headphones with me. Now that I think about it, I don’t think I’d get anything done without snacks, cardio, and headphones.”

  • Mike Townsend, Co-Founder of HomeHero

Townsend says that a thoughtful morning routine sets out his whole day. “I believe that having a set routine of waking up, eating a set number of meals, and exercise frees up incredible amounts of attention and creativity that can be used to grow and be productive.”

Furthermore, he adds, “Startups can consume your life 24/7, but the goal is not to spend all your time working on your business, it’s to be as productive as possible. Your productivity is highly dictated by your emotional state and when your only indication of success or failure is your business, it’s hard to keep a consistent work ethic. To combat this volatility I’ve found it so valuable to have multiple outlets of competition, for me that is running marathons and triathlons.”

  •  Brittany Hodak, Co-Founder of ZinePak

Scheduling tasks for works and daily life is Hodaks’s key to productivity. “Schedule, schedule, schedule! It’s way too easy to skip something that isn’t in your calendar. I always say that if something isn’t in my calendar, it isn’t in my life. This extends to everything I do: work meetings, outings with friends, gym sessions, and times for specific tasks. It takes a lot less willpower to do something that’s scheduled than to “find time” to deal with an outstanding item on your to-do list.”

Hodak also added that she uses Way of Life app to track daily tasks to remind her of any skipped to-dos and it helps her to manage her performance with the app’s weekly or monthly report.

  • Aaron Firestein, Co-Founder and Chief Artist at Bucketfeet

Aligned with other founders, Firestein also keeps lists to help maintain his productivity. “I have to do have a to-do list, or nothing will get done. I like to write out big tasks and then list all of the sub-tasks that need to get accomplished. I almost always listen to music while working. Instrumental stuff is best so I don’t get distracted (house, jazz, downtempo, etc…). I absolutely cannot start my day without coffee or tea. It’s in my head, but it definitely helps,” he concludes.



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