When I write – the lens through which I view the world is from the Startup prospective. That’s how I’m informed. As a leader of a business you try not to be reactionary to events that come along. And in a perfect world, you wish you could proactively see things coming a mile away – new trends, new marketing opportunities, squashing issues. But too often that’s not what happens. You spend most of your day jumping from email to email, from meeting to meeting and interruption to interruption. Reactionary work is not productive. You might “get things done” but you’re only reacting to what is happening. How is that productive?
There are ways to combat all of the distractions that come your way.
- Meetings can be a huge drain on time. Most meetings are unproductive and suck up huge resources. Meeting Ticker explains how expensive meetings really are. At Scarves.com we have abandoned traditional meetings for “Purposeful Meetings” or PMeetings. During a PMeet only people who are pertinent to what is being discussed attend. We focus on actionable items – then we follow-up. The ideas is to present issues that need resolving and then fix them.
- Emails are the worst constant distraction second to youtube videos of baby pandas. You spend your entire day with Outlook or webmail open answering emails, approving things, contributing, solving issues etc. For the past 8 weeks (NY’s resolution) I’ve been trying a new tactic. I wake up and read all of my emails before I even get out of bed. First, thing I do when I walk into the office is answer all of the emails that need my response. Then I’ll close my email client and focus on my work – building, analyzing, meeting, coaching, mentoring, strategizing, etc. Around noon, I’ll launch the email client and answer all of my emails. Then I follow this step until the end of the day at which point I’ll check/ answer emails before I go home. Try it – it’s hard when you first start.
- Interruptions from various sources. These interruptions include employees needing help, questions that need your expertise or involvement, over-hearing conversations etc. Interruptions are like death and taxes – inevitable and unavoidable. Especially, if like us, you have an “open-door” policy. But how you deal with them is important. Barring major catastrophes, like your developers, you should have wired-in hours. As a leader, you are doing a disservice to your entire team if you don’t have time to build, strategize and scale. I could be sitting in a common area in one of the conference rooms or at my desk – when my headphones are on most of our team members respect this and wait.
- The internet. This is a big one as our entire business model and I’m sure every startup’s business model is built for the internet, using the internet. However, you would be surprised how much analytical work on Excel you could get done without distractions from blogs, articles, facebook, pinterest, youtube, deal sites, etc. Try disconnecting from the network and see what happens.
- Water-cooler conversations are tricky. As someone who runs a business you want to engage your team members and talk to them about their interests and share your interests with them – at least I do. For instance this morning I spent 20 minutes talking to Chris about top 20 toughest interview processes. But I truly enjoy these interactions. I’ve written about this before on theGentlemanual. We are a small team and we’re fortunate enough to learn things about our team members. On the other hand, you also don’t want to spend 45 minutes, 4 times a day talking about music, those new shoes you bought, working out, etc. Learn where to draw the line.
- Taking on too much. I’m probably the most guilty of this one. Yes, I take on a lot, often because I have no choice. We are a small team and production is absolutely important. However, there comes a point of diminishing return when your efforts are not yielding top quality results. When this happens, stop working! Go do something else – or if you’re like me, it’s time to go home. Also, it’s important to learn how to delegate tasks that others can do so that you can focus on more important/bigger things.
- Bad prioritization can cost you. I preface all my days with making a list of things that need to get done ordered by tasks that are high priority to low priority. If you don’t know how to prioritize… hmmm, there are tons of free resources on the googles for on this topic.
- Exercise and diet are extremely important. I start all of my days with a 25 minute, high-intensity run on an empty stomach and I end the day with some weight lifting. I try to eat healthy – although I love my burgers and burritos. Moderation is the key here. This helps to keep me sharp.
Apply these simple principles to your day-to-day and see how much more you’re likely to get accomplished and how your team reacts to it. You might be pleasantly surprised.