I have a three-year-daughter and a productivity startup. Both demand my time during the day and it’s only fair that I set aside time to nurture both my babies. Spending time with my family is as important to me as building my startup.
All Killer, No Filler
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Don’t believe me? Ask yourself this question: “Would you think of your business or your family when you are dying?” All work and no play is just not my thing.
Here are some of my productivity hacks that I use to get my share of a balanced work day.
1. Plan the night before
Once my daughter is asleep, I take 10 minutes and plan my next day. What do I want to accomplish? What calls I need to make? What are some things I need to review?
One practice that has really helped me is to plan a rough outline of the entire week every Sunday night.
2. Early mornings
I try to wake up an hour or so before she wakes up. I open up Teuxdeux and take five minutes to prepare for the day. I quickly check my mail (feel compelled to since I am in the Web business) and then get to the most important (not urgent) task on my list.
Recently, I have opted to take her swimming a couple of times a week so that I can get a quick workout too. I get 30 minutes of swimming while she is in the pool – this is great because she is excited that I am in the pool with her.
Exercise is a great way to break the monotony of daily work and just feel refreshed. My productivity soars post a workout.
4. News diet
I limit myself to very little general or world news. For tech news I just head over to Techmeme every morning and scan the top stories.
Think about it – we don’t consume much news when we are on a vacation. What happens when we are back? Nothing changes. If it is really important, you’ll hear it from someone.
5. 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 realized that not everything is as interesting as it sounds. A lot of the articles seem useful when you save them (to a read it later service like Readability) but don’t seem that important when you actually get to reading them.
6. 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.
A study by Apex Performance revealed that we’re looking at our email about once every 20 minutes, and more than half of the employees surveyed check their inbox more than 11 times a day. In short, we’re spending a lot of our work time looking for a ping in that inbox.
I try to gather my email activity into batches – read and send what I need to within a certain time constraint, and then I get back to work. If something is urgent, I know I will get a call.
7. Short emails
I limit my emails to only a few sentences. According to Guy Kawasaki, “Less than five sentences is often abrupt and rude, more than five sentences wastes time”.
If you are still afraid of offending the recipient, add in this text at the end as a disclaimer:
Q: Why is this email five sentences or less?
8. VIP notifications
Apple Mail has a nifty VIP feature that I love. I now can control who I want to hear from. I can even exercise the Do Not Disturb mode post 10 PM when I need to concentrate on important tasks. The VIP feature is the ideal middle-ground to having some push notifications rather than none at all.
9. 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 of waiting for someone to respond.
10. Limit social networks
Unless you are a social media marketer, I don’t see why you would want to spend a cumulative time of more than 10 to 15 minutes a work day on Twitter and Facebook. As for Brightpod, I use Buffer in the morning to schedule tweets for the entire day.
11. Use software
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?
12. Minimum viable daily tasks
I have been practicing a new time management technique called the “Minimum Viable Daily Tasks.” I choose the minimum amount of work which needs to be done everyday so that I am completely satisfied at the end of the day. If I accomplish anything more then it is a bonus.
Be realistic with your goals! It’s called minimum because you shouldn’t try to bite more than you can chew.
13. Regular breaks
There are a couple of days in the week when I work from home. I try to work in short bursts and then go play with my daughter for a bit.
It’s important to step away from the work you are doing at regular intervals. I try to have 15 minutes away from my task, for every 50 minutes of focused work thanks to the Awareness app.
14. Good sleep
Most startup stories would talk about grueling hours and all-nighters. This isn’t the case with me as I believe a good night’s sleep is paramount – for work as well as for your health (especially if you have a little one waking you up every so often!)
Working smart is better than working hard.
15. Get off the grid
The three of us try to getaway once every three to four months. Downtime is important in our always connected world. It is a good way for the family to bond and for me to reflect on my work while not working.
Back from a vacation, I always come rejuvenated and ready to take on the world.
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 are also a startup parent.