I always knew that start-ups were busy, and that start-up employees had a lot on their plate. However, coming in from a venture capital fund (where 12 hour days were average), and before that investment banking (where the guy that left at 11pm was taking-off early), I thought that the move to a start-up would actually be less time intensive. In fact, it wasn’t until I got here that I realized what busy truly was.
If it’s not following-up with a potential client or trying to generate new leads, we’re generating presentations, interviewing candidates, launching new initiatives (like our SEM efforts and newsletter efforts) and overall just thinking about general business strategy. If you layer in general time-sinks like an overabundance of e-mail, keeping up with news, etc., there simply isn’t enough time in the day/week/year to get it all done.
In trying to combat that schedule, I’ve started to think about and utilize a few techniques for time management. I have a friend whose firm has introduced SCRUM development methodology into their business efforts, and that’s potentially an option, although difficult as a sales professional in this start-up environment (primarily since you always need to be responsive). I used to use e-mail separation (just simply turning outlook off for a periods during the day) while very busy at IGC, and it worked wonderfully. You simply don’t need to be that responsive in many industries, and it really helps focus, but it’s much harder to accomplish when you are on the sell-side.
I’ve have, however, found some products that have really helped my productivity, starting with my android phone. The move from blackberry has been a good one; although I’d imagine the new torch could probably do much of the same things my Droid X has done for me. Here are some of the things that have really helped to revolutionize my productivity since I joined the start-up world – most of which involve a shift to new cloud-based tools:
Wireless Hotspot – apart from separating myself from AT&T, this was the single biggest reason I decided to go android over iphone. Of course, now the iphone is on Verizon and has this as well, but that’s another story for another day (although if the iphones don’t get LTE this summer, I’ll be sticking with android). In any event, this thing has saved me many times. Apart from the multiple meetings I’ve used it in, I’ve used it on the train, in airports and when the internet was down in our office. In doing so I’ve saved numerous hours that would be otherwise worthless. I’ve always had my blackberry set up to be teathered, but this is just far more convenient and applicable to more than one device.
Dropbox – I’ve been hooked on Dropbox since my days at IGC. Given that much of our technological backbone was based in Stockholm, our VPN never worked seamlessly and so we started using Dropbox to aid in sharing files between computers. In my new role I continue to use it to sync up various computers, and have started sharing folders with my colleagues as well. We have a “share drive” but it is only accessible within the office network. Having the capability to share beyond our walls makes traveling and working remotely far more productive. Additionally, with access on my phone and ipad, I can quickly look up documents on the go.
Evernote – I started using Evernote about 2 months ago and I’m hooked on this program as well. I used to find the memo tool in outlook (which then synced to my blackberry) quite helpful, but evernote takes that a step further. Rather than retyping notes after hand-writing them, I can take pictures and upload them straight to Evernote. I jot down themes and ideas as they pop up and overall it keeps me focused, with relevant information right at my fingertips.
Pulse – A fantastic newsreader that a friend just turned me onto. As a VC, reading the tech blogs were always part of my job. Now that it’s not part of my job, I have less time to read things like TechCrunch, VentureBeat, etc. although I’m still interested nonetheless. Pulse allows me to read them whenever I have a few minutes to catch-up, along with sources like the New York Times and others. Unfortunately the NYT syncing isn’t great, and it doesn’t seem to sync with it google reader – if that came it would really be one of the best products ever.
Thunderbird – it took a while to set it up, it occasionally has hiccups, and its not as robust as Outlook, but its far far far faster. Thunderbird syncs better with google apps, which we use for our e-mail system and quite frankly, just works and works smoothly. When it does have hiccups, a simple (and quick) restart seems to bring it right back to life. On the note of e-mail, while I’m not in love with the Google apps interface (hence Thunderbird) the syncing capability and ease of use through multiple access points (thunderbird on my computer, gmail through any browser on any computer and gmail on my phone) is very convinient.
Commuting by train! – while this isn’t exactly a technological solution, having formerly driven between SF and Menlo Park each day, it is revolutionary. The commute is still decently long out to Newark, but having the chance to just sit on the train makes a huge difference – I can catch up on everything from the news, to work, to just relaxing and zoning out for a half-hour.
I just started using a new tool as well – Summify. I find it interesting, although hasn’t been that helpful so far, as much of what I get through it I’ve already read. It’s likely best for days when you are on otherwise completely out of pocket and come back ot a full inbox and an ocean of twitter updates. I’m also keen to start using Greplin, which just came out, to easily search through all of my online life.
I’m always looking for more tools to use and would love suggestions.