12 Productivity hacks for startup CEOs

So you’re a Startup CEO. Our condolences. It’s not easy being tasked with having to build a company from the ground up. Not only that, but you’re doing it in perhaps the harshest startup environment in the world - Africa. Your life must be pretty fun. No? Yeah, we know. Your job description means you have to be pretty hands-on with your business and the workload is massive. To deal with this, the best entrepreneurs figure out tricks that help them manage their time and maximize their efficiency. We’ve compiled some of these hacks and put them into a handy list. Let’s go:

1. Remove the noise by turning off your phone/computer notifications

Though many things seem urgent, they hardly ever are. Most things can wait a couple hours. Notifications are an attention black hole. Turning off notifications allows you to focus. Human beings do not multitask. It’s simply science at this point. You might feel like you can but what’s really happening is your brain is switching between tasks, shutting down and restarting every time.

2. Chunk your tasks

This second hack can help with the first. As a CEO you need to do and give input on a lot of things. To reduce the inefficiency of constantly switching between tasks, set aside blocks of time to do similar tasks. Create repeating events in your calendar and block out time to attend to them. Bulk all your meetings together in the afternoons. Chunking tasks together help keep your brain focused so you can do better work in less time.
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3.  Write everything down

You should aim to keep your brain as empty as possible. It’s harder to focus on one thing when you have thoughts, ideas, or tasks swirling in your head. Whenever you have an idea, drop it your Notes app and forget about it. Evernote is your friend.

4. Use fewer tools

Figuring out a new tool or switching tools takes time. You don’t need 10 tools. Pick a few good tools that could be used for many things. If you bet on a ‘trending’ tool just because it’s hot, if you have to switch later, it’ll cost you. Depending on your type of startup, majority of your work will occur inside just a few apps.

5. Do focused work

One hour of focused work with no distractions is more valuable than three hours of interrupted work. When you’re working on one thing, close your browser tabs and turn your phone on Airplane Mode. Put everything away except the one thing you’re focused on.

6. Remove the chance of interruption

This point suggests ignoring people when they try to interrupt you. Which lots of people may be uncomfortable with. So, tell people ahead of time. Taking the time to tell people how you’re working is much better than snapping or ignoring people if they ask you for something while you’re in focus mode. If you have kids and it’s hard to remove interruptions, try adding a work session when they’re asleep early in the morning or late at night.

7. Start your day with quick wins

Sometimes you wake up and don’t want to work. That first task on your list looks hard or you feel tired. One way to overcome this is to start your day with the easier tasks. This will get your momentum going. By simply sending a work related text message or making a phone call, you can jump start your brain into work mode.
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8. Constrain the time you work

Constraining the time you work helps you stay focused. When researchers at Florida State University looked at elite performers, they found the best performers practiced in uninterrupted, 90-minute sessions and rarely worked more than four and a half hours in a day. Parkinson’s law states that if you feel like you have lots of time to do something, you’ll find ways to fill that time, often by doing easier, less important things. By shortening the time frame, you’re forced to focus.

9. Maintain good health by moving often

National Geographic researcher Dan Buettner studied areas of the world where people are living the longest. One thing he consistently found was the impact of constant, low-intensity exercise, either from walking, standing up and sitting down, or tending to a garden. Staying in any one position for too long causes our blood circulation to drop. Moving gives you a moment to refresh. Whether it’s walking to your office, taking the time to stretch while you’re microwaving your lunch, or playing a sport, any type of blood flow acts as a release. It’s an opportunity to refresh your brain.

10. Hang out with someone who makes you happy every day

People who make us happy make us feel good. If we feel good, we do better work. No matter how much you have going on, family, friends, spouses, they make us happy. When I get back to work, I feel fresher.

11. Use music to boost your energy levels

Spotify conducted research on the benefits of certain types of music. Researchers found that musical tempo in the range of 50-80 beats per minute can help induce the alpha state in your brain, where your mind becomes calm, alert, and concentration is heightened.
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If you’re about to do a repetitive task, like answering email, listen to your favorite songs will get your energy up. If I need to do a complex task that requires focus, I listen to songs without lyrics to help me get and stay in a state of flow. Music can have a significant impact on your mood and thus, impact your work efficiency.

12. Use Pocket to set aside interesting things to read and watch later

Pocket lets you indulge your desire to be distracted but continue working by letting you store articles and videos that catch your interest throughout your day. Pocket downloads them onto your wireless device so that you can spend time with the content even if you don't have access to the Internet, like during your ride home.