As 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.
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 jodyporowski.com.
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