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5 Valuable Productivity Tips I Picked Up While Working for Startups

December 20, 2016

It’s been more than 3 years now. And even now, at my latest startup, every day feels just as exhilarating as it felt the first time around.

I started out as a content writer for my first startup, but over the years, as I got more and more involved with the business part of things, my role grew tremendously. Then on, from an associate to a manager to a content strategist and now product marketing professional, I have had the chance to grow and explore a rich career with 2 startups over these last 3 years.

Fact: People in a startup are always busy. Always

No kidding. I am writing this post sitting in an airport lounge at 9 pm, waiting for my flight. But then again, like everyone else I work with, I am always too pressed for time. And despite knowing this I always have that immense weight of knowing there is still so much more that’s left to be done. And with a startup, there is just so much of so many things that need to be done. Chasing efficiency becomes the only real goal after a point.

People in startups who manage to get a lot done in a day have good habits (and tools) to credit.

A senior at my first startup had a quote card placed on his desk that read, “To learn more and grow more, do more.” I always found that to be such a positive sentiment to have around at a startup.

Doing more is a reasonable expectation when you work with a fresh-out-of-the-accelerator firm, and to have the opportunity to do more is, well, the reason why you would even get into a place like this. But the only way to become the master of many, you need to master doing things efficiently and that too with a limited number of resources. It’s a startup, after all.

Listed below are 5 valuable tips I have picked up over the years working with multiple startups. If you are only just starting out at a startup or have been around one for quite some time, pay heed!

Tip 1: Find the right set of tools to do your current job better

Initially, as a content writer, my digital proficiency was literally limited to mastery of MS Word and web. 2 days into the job, and I couldn’t feel more under skilled and overwhelmed.

Everybody else around me had adopted these cool apps and extensions to help them work smartly and more productively. And the thing is, they did work that way!

I decided to master WordPress because that was the domain I was working on the most at that point. And I tried my best to make the most of it every time I’d log into it — figure out widgets that can help improve SEO, tools to include rich media, learning to track traffic and traffic activity, etc. And the fact was (and remains) that proficiency in your core tool helps you work faster, better and deliver better quality outcomes.

Master your core tool, one that directly affects your most important job right at start.

Tip 2: Eventually, accommodate tasks and tools for the next big what

The only way you can make a ‘career’ in a startup is if you can willingly take on more significant roles and responsibilities. Nobody will hand out new responsibilities to you. But the good thing is, no one will stop you from taking up more work, too. And the more you do, the more you can expect to grow.

To move into core content marketing, I actively took on digital campaign planning roles. And to make sure I got it right, I worked extra hours doing research and figuring out the right tools for the campaign execution team. It’s not easy doing more than what you should, and all in a day’s time. But a few tweaks to your daily habits will help a great deal.

I simply started sleeping early and then getting an early start to the day. That gave me an additional hour and a half every single day, enough for me to work on all what I was supposed to and all that I wanted to. I also started taking lunch to work, and that helped save me a few more minutes.

To get a lot more done, find a little more time. Tweaking routine is the easiest way to accommodate more tasks.

Tip 3: As you grow, start working on a shared platform

The importance of adopting a tool became all too important when I became the manager of a team of 3 content associates. We’d each get requirements from different people from the now-growing organization and it was becoming essential that we adopt a simple yet cogent system that could help manage the huge inflow of requirements and on-time outflow of deliverables.

The need for a team-level communication and collaboration structure/tool becomes more critical when your startup is in a scale-up phase, if only to help better handle the inflow of tasks and track progress.

Working on a shared platform makes collaboration incredibly easy and time-efficient.

Tip 4: Do things right, not fast

When you work in a startup, everything is expected to be done right away. Every email is tagged ‘urgent’. Every project, seemingly enough, needs to get started immediately. This is a fine way to work while yours is still a new startup. When your organization is in a scale-up phase, you have shift focus to doing things right and not just get them out of the way fast.

The problem with ‘immediate work’ economy is that that it drags your organization into a state where you will end up cleaning your messes more than doing the actual work. If the only thing you do is block a couple of leaky holes in the wall, you spend less time doing more awesome things.

Never compromise on the quality of the work. Even if it means you need to work an extra few days.

Tip 5: Never discuss projects on emails

As much as I hate to admit it, but emails are an incredibly slow and inefficient way to collaborate with teams. I have personally spent over 2 hours at a stretch going through emails every single morning during my initial few months at a startup. All the information and project-related communication would keep piling up and there was no good way to figure out which communication/project was of importance at that moment. Every email would get star marked at one point.

A better alternative has been digital collaboration tools. For a simple reason that everything becomes much more easy to consolidate, track and discuss.

Limit using emails for formal communication. Discuss and collaborate task duties on a platform that’s more consolidative and interactive.

Meeta Sharma is a content strategist and has worked with multiple start-ups over the years.

Meeta Sharma

Meeta Sharma is a content marketing specialist and regularly writes about her domain and start-up life.

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