A Startup’s Guide to Staying Productive (Especially When There’s Free Beer)

By    April 10, 2013

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Being productive and efficient is more than just an admirable quality for startups; it’s an absolute must, especially when most don’t have as many resources or employees as the bigger guys. But with all of the free beer, open office layouts and distractions from emails, social media and co-workers, how can a startup stay constantly productive? I asked the highly prolific employees of SpareFoot to share some of their tips and strategies for staying focused even when the email notifications just don’t stop and the Solo cup runneth over.

Get Your Inbox Under Control
“I don’t let myself file emails until they are taken care of, and make sure my email inbox is empty at the end of each day. The bigger projects go on my scroll of a list on my desk.”
Rachel Morse, Recruiting

Keep Your Mind and Body Active
“I try to work out for one hour every day, then drink a Monster right afterwards. The Monster builds on my post-workout high and keeps me amped through my meetings and coding into the night!
Evan Huston, Dev

Keep Yourself Fulfilled
“I stuff my face with food and drink, but not so much that I need to get up and go to restroom. I also take on a big case load of email work during the morning to do during lulls to keep me active between customer phone contacts. I would like to get more Foosball and Ping Pong playing in, though…someday.”
Albert Hood, Customer Experience

Make Time For Yourself
“I tell the members of my team that I need major focus time, and promptly listen to Ke$ha and/or Keith Urban on my headphones. If they approach me during this time, I set a small fire on their desk.”
–Barry Finder, Client Relations

Mix It Up and Take Small Breaks
“Take the occasional break. I think no matter where you work, it’s important to take breaks throughout the day to get a snack, take a walk, etc. Here at SpareFoot, we have Foosball and ping pong, which makes breaks even better.

Don’t overload yourself. It’s easy to get backed up on tasks while working at a startup, but in order to keep from freaking out, it’s important to try to not overload yourself. Set goals and tasks daily, and do what you can to get just those things done that day.

Vary up what you work on. To go along with the previous point, you should give yourself tasks on a daily basis, but also make sure that they are all different things. It’s boring to work on the same one thing all throughout the day. Instead, assign yourself tasks that all vary, so that when you get tired of one, you can switch to the other.

ENERGY! I know we have covered this before–that Monster is the lifeblood of SpareFoot–but it’s true. Some days I am just so out of it, and the only way I would be able to get the things done that I need to is by slamming a Monster (side note: I prefer the blue ones, but I have yet to try one that I didn’t like at all).”
–Matt Schexnayder, Marketing

Learn From the Greats
“I’ve learned a lot about productivity from David Allen, author of Getting Things Done. He presents a holistic approach to managing tasks and projects across all areas of life. Some of his recommendations include weekly reviews, to-do lists and a system for capturing new actions.”
–Josh Tong, Product

Go Hard or Go Home
“Generally, I listen to terrible rap music that your children should never hear, while being hooked up to an I.V. of black coffee and whole milk. Skim milk is for cowards.”
–Zach Chetchavat, Analytics

Use a Calendar or Task Master
“I start my weeks off with several routine tasks to stick with a consistent wavelength. Checks and balances are a must for any busy professional, since your day can be consumed by a million emails and zero productivity. Secondly, your calendar should be your best friend. Most humans retain only 10 to 20 tasks that they will remember to complete in a day’s work. Try dealing with over 60 tasks, calls and follow-up activity. Without managing your calendar, your ship will sink–that’s the bitter truth. And lastly, don’t forget to have fun. A main source of productivity is happiness; they go hand in hand. Lack of happiness equals lack of success!”
–Michael Brozgul, Sales

Stay Centered
“Caffeine, Evernote and riding my bike many miles at lunch. Makes me stay awake, stay organized and stay centered.”
–Hunter Wilson, Marketing

Invest in Effective Productivity Tools
“We love to use tools here to maintain productivity and right now we’re having tons of success using Asana to manage daily activities, as well as more complex projects and initiatives. It’s important, though, that as technology people we don’t overlook the fact that tools can sometimes be more of a distraction than a benefit if we aren’t careful–watch for SPTES or ‘serial productivity tool evaluation syndrome.’

Some of the best productivity tips I utilize are: Inbox Zero, turning off email notifications and only checking at scheduled times, and our most recent company-wide effort: ‘No-meeting Wednesdays,’ as inspired by our friends at Facebook and Asana, but ultimately attributed to this very important Paul Graham article.”
–Josh Lipton, Product

Get to the Moon
“Do one thing at a time. Multitasking is like CrossFit.

Phrase projects by the desired outcome and not the action you will do to achieve it. Example:  ‘Get to the moon’  instead of ‘Build a rocket ship to get to the moon.’ With the desired outcome in its nakedness as your North Star, you free yourself from relying on known and conventional ways to accomplish your task. In addition, it prevents you from pegging round holes with squares when roadblocks occur. ‘Build a rocket ship to get to the moon’ may quickly turn into ‘Build a rocket ship at all costs’ as the difficulty of building a rocket ship slowly reveals itself and takes over your soul. A teleporter may be easier, but you’re going to build the rocket ship and show that jet-fueled machine who’s the bigger man.

Once the goal is properly phrased, create to-do items. These items should be small enough bites that are perfect for any occasion or hour block of time. I like to call these gummy bears ‘phases,’ because it sounds like I’m devising a way to rob a casino.”
–Brett Chauviere, Analytics

Read Life-Changing Blogs for Motivation
“My number one productivity strategy is to read Jenny Zhang blog posts.”
–Scooter Womack, Sales

Image courtesy of myturnstone.com

Jenny is part of the marketing team at SpareFoot. She currently lives in Austin, TX and likes sushi, Faulkner and Asian horror movies.

  • Andrew John

    What super tips for being productive! I think what works is taking occasional breaks. It helps in refreshing the mind and rejuvenating the body to start slogging again. AT Sparefoot they have foosball and ping pong which is a great way for one to take a break.

  • Jenny Zhang

    Definitely – Foosball/ping pong time is valuable and precious to us at SpareFoot!

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