Borrow These 5 Smart Startup Habits To Maximize Your Productivity

Startups create systems of efficiency to make organizations maximally awesome. That works for individuals, too.

Borrow These 5 Smart Startup Habits To Maximize Your Productivity

“Entrepreneurship, by definition, is the art of creating systems that generate more value for less effort,” Contently cofounder Shane Snow writes on LinkedIn. “Startups realize that the opportunity cost of doing mundane tasks adds up quickly, preventing them from doing the high-impact work they have set out to do.”


So what we want to do as individuals, then, is to borrow from those organizational productivity hacks–giving us more time, better energy, and more chances at success. Let us count the ways.

1) Outsource the lame stuff.

Just because you’re not a megacorporation doesn’t mean you can’t outsource your less savory work to someone who will do it for you. Noticing these regular folks’ pain points, startups are starting to alleviate them.

So let us opt for outsourcing whenever we can:

  • Services like Amazon Subscribe And Save take care of your toiletry and grocery fetching.
  • If you’re lucky enough to have drop-off service for your laundry, use it; you can create way more value in those two hours than the $15 you pay for someone else to do it.
  • Sanebox filters your unimportant email out of your day.
  • IFTTT (short for “if this, then that”) lets you set up crazy causality chains. Snow has it text him whenever rain’s in the forecast so he doesn’t forget his umbrella when he walks out.
  • FancyHands will take care of clerical tasks.
  • For reporters and other typists, Rev takes care of transcriptions.

2) Carve out uninterrupted time.

As we’ve written before, productive people need to put their heads down as much as possible. Why? Because the problems we’re working on are super complex, and distractions take away from the cognitive bandwidth we need to tackle them.

And being a higher-up is no excuse for unexamined busyness: LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner schedules negative space into every one of his days.

3) Instead of planning things, do them.

Meetings about meetings, conversations about conversations, and follow-ups about follow-ups are the stuff of productivity-choking email chains. So Snow extols immediate action.


“Instead of promising to email an introduction for you, a startup founder will pull out her phone and write the email while you sit there,” he says. “Then the issue doesn’t have to take up future brain–or calendar–space.”

4) Tailor your meetings.

Like Warren Buffet or Bill Gates, we should keep our schedules as clear as possible. But if we have to take a meeting, make it precise, Snow says.

If the meeting only needs to be eight minutes, make it eight minutes. Trim the excess time away until your schedule is Bonsai-tree beautiful.


5) Always take the networking meeting.

You don’t have to be Nate Silver to know that life is probabilistic. Positive probability often takes the guise of serendipity–entrepreneurs know to court it.

“I take every [networking] meeting,” says Michael Ventura, CEO of digital innovation agency Sub Rosa. “Because in our industry, you never know what could happen.”

What other lessons from startup management can help our careers? Share in the comments!


Hat tip: LinkedIn

[Image: Flickr user Jenny Downing]


About the author

Drake Baer was a contributing writer at Fast Company, where he covered work culture. He's the co-author of Everything Connects, a book about how intrapersonal, interpersonal, and organizational psychology shape innovation.


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