The Daily Survival Guide of an Entrepreneur : Under30CEO The Daily Survival Guide of an Entrepreneur : Under30CEO
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The Daily Survival Guide of an Entrepreneur

| July 11, 2013 | 13 Comments

Entrepreneur Survival GuideAs the leader of an early stage company, none of my days look the same and I’m constantly being physically, mentally and emotionally pulled in a million different directions. In order to survive the chaos, I’ve established some personal rules and systems for managing my emails, meetings, schedule, and mental sanity.

My Rules for Email:

Email is crucial for communication but can quickly become dangerous for those trying to get work done during the day. I try to abide by the following rules to make sure email doesn’t derail my productivity:

1)      If the email is from a team member and about their current task/project, answer immediately.

I never want to be a bottleneck to the daily productivity of my team. We’re a startup – every hour counts here!

2)     Delegate emails to an appropriate person.

If I receive an email that aligns with the role of someone else in my company, I reply to the sender and copy the appropriate company member to the email. This saves me time, helps me avoid micromanagement, and gives the people on my team true ownership over their roles and projects.

3)     Answer Emails in Batches.

Unless an email requires immediate attention or can be answered in one quick sentence, I try to wait until the end of the day when I can respond to a whole batch of emails at once. This helps me avoid going off task multiple times a day to answer emails that that really aren’t time-sensitive.

My Rules for Meetings:

Just like emails, meetings are crucial to a business’ operation, but just like emails, meetings can sometimes take over your life. Here are my rules for meetings:

1)      Don’t have it unless it’s necessary.

If it’s not necessary, I cancel it. And if it’s barely necessary, I don’t hesitate to cut it short or make it a phone call.

2)     Be respectful of other people’s time and responsible for your own time.

Discuss time limitations (yours and theirs) at the beginning of the meeting. Make sure you are both aware of the meeting agenda to ensure a successful outcome. Try scheduling multiple meetings with different people back-to-back or in the same location to save yourself some time.

3)     Don’t be scared to say “no” or “not now”.

If someone outside of your company asks to meet with you and it doesn’t align with your company goals, it’s appropriate to say no or to ask them to contact you again in several weeks/months.

My System for Maintaining a Schedule:

As I mentioned in the beginning of this article, no day looks the same in the life of a startup entrepreneur. However, I’ve created a system for myself where I give each day of the week a specific category to focus on (see below).

Monday – Analytics

Tuesday – Finance

Wednesday – HR/Team

Thursday – Marketing

Friday – Strategic networking/Partnerships

Saturday/Sunday – Product vision (high level)

While I always work on multiple categories throughout the day, I make sure that I spend an hour or two fully focused on that daily category. This way I intentionally focus on every aspect of the company at least once a week. It’s my way of making sure that nothing slips through the cracks.

My System for Maintaining Mental Sanity:

I’m a huge list-maker. (No surprise since my company is a list-making website/app). Here are some of the lists that I keep.

Daily to-do list

Every night before I go to sleep, I look at my calendar for the next day and make a list of the meetings I have, the people I need to remember to call/email, and the tasks I need to accomplish.

Idea list

I often add to this list when I can’t sleep at night or after a creative meeting. It’s my “catch all” list that ensures I don’t forget anything important.

Goals and Priorities

I have goals for the short-term and long-term. Goals for Avelist (user numbers, product roadmap, funding) and personal goals (health, career, etc.) I also make lists of the things and people that I want to prioritize. If something not on my priority list needs attention, I make sure it won’t take away from my priorities before I commit to it.

Over time my personal rules and systems have become habit. Do you have any tips for managing the busy day of an entrepreneur? I’d love to hear what works for you. Here’s to surviving the crazy!

Jody Porowski is passionate about business, entrepreneurship, technology and people. She is the founder and CEO of Avelist, a social search engine whose mission is to organize information into searchable lists. Jody can be found tweeting @jodyporowski and blogging at

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  • James

    I too use the weekends to think about my company on a deeper level, especially long term strategic decisions. I think as entrepreneurs, we can sometimes micro-manage and get caught up in the usual day to day affairs. It’s important to take a step back and see beyond the trees. I do this best when relaxed – on weekends.

    Oh and I’m fan huge fan of the idea list too..I’ve got an evernote page with literally hundreds of ideas, I couldn’t do without it!

  • Matt O’Brien

    Fantastic Article. It very much reminds me of the 4 hour workweek with your approach to meetings and email. Always cluster those items that can wait and focus on the objective for that specific date. I really like the plan for each meeting. Too often are meetings taking place just to be had.

  • Daniel DiPiazza

    In addition to “to-do” lists, I love making “not-to-do” lists…I feel like that list should be HUGE…leaving only the best, most “mission-critical” things left for me to tackle. Awesome article!

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  • Mike Darche

    Great points! I think “Don’t be scared to say ‘no’ or ‘not now’” is applicable to tons of situations. In a given day you might have dozens of different projects or people trying to grab your energy. If you can say ‘no’ and keep your eyes on your priorities, you’ll make your day so much more productive…I’ll admit– it’s never easy!

  • Jason Diller

    My boss uses weekends as a catch up…

    This was a great post. Cheers

  • Jody Porowski

    Matt, Daniel, James, Mike – Thanks for the comments. I love your thoughts. Sounds like we all agree that prioritizing and staying focused is critical! James and Daniel, if you’re list makers, you should check out!

  • MattWilsontv

    Hey Jody, I really like your tips here. I use the only meet if it’s necessary, and respond immediately if it’s impeding the progress of a team member too.

    As someone who needs more sanity in my life, I’d like to figure out a M-F plan. I try to batch tasks throughout the day: early AM writing, logistics mid AM, sales / any calls in the afternoon, get out of the office and go for coffee or workout late afternoon, mission critical stuff at night…

    I’ll let you know if I figure out anything better!

  • Belinda Summers

    “Don’t be scared to say no” Exactly. I could not imagine how many times I have regretted coming to meetings just because I couldn’t disappoint a friend or a coworker. Remember that you also value your time so in order to survive you have to know when to say no. It puts a nice ring to it, right?

  • Jody Porowski

    ooo I like the idea of batching tasks throughout the day, matt. that’s a good one. thanks for the tip.

  • cesar romero

    Jody, thanks for such amazing article. Great tips on protecting your time and increasing productivity. This is something I need to learn to implement more often. Definitely planning and batching tasks are essential to keep your sanity and increase productivity. Weekends is the time I use to reflect on past week, what worked, what needs improvement, recharge my body and mind, and get ready for week ahead.

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