Startup Founder Productivity Hacks and Habits

We asked 3 founders leading successful scale-ups how they stay productive throughout the year.

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January is a fitting time to create a new habit or find a new hack that helps with your productivity. You’ve enjoyed the quiet of the holidays with friends and family, and (hopefully) spent a little time away from the office. You return to work refreshed and re-energised… but where do you start? For some productivity inspiration, we talked to 3 startup founders about the key hacks and habits that keep them organised, focused, and productive. Here’s what they had to say…

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Emma Lo Russo, CEO, Digivizer

What is one habit/ritual that helps you stay productive throughout the day?

Managing my time. Each Sunday night I plan our team’s overall priorities, including my own, against our broader annual and quarterly OKRs (Objective & Key Results) to ensure we are focused on the right things and where we need to be in the week. Then, every morning I plan out my day to ensure my time is used to maximise the impact I can have in balancing what I need to attend to for the long term, whilst guiding the team in the short term.

What is one tool you use to help manage your productivity?

The Digivizer team uses Asana to manage clients, tasks and approvals, which works effectively. For content approvals we use PageProof which has made the approval process on video, web and content super easy. It also helps us manage layout commentary, approval layers and version controls. For Engineering we use Jira.

What tips or advice would you give to a new founder on how to stay productive?

We have successfully followed the OKR (Objective & Key Results) methodology. Never more than 3 for the year, broken down to 3 per quarter. (Here is a great resource all about OKRs). It allows the team to focus on the key goals and measures to ensure we achieve what we set out to do. Having live measurements and sharing weekly progress with the whole team also ensures the organisation knows what is working and what isn’t. This helps guide where you, as the Founder, should focus and to ensure the best results.

The other key tip is to hire the very best people you can, building a team of complementary strengths. This way, your company gets to scale faster as the sum of each great person delivers a greater multiple of returns, and you as a Founder can be free to focus on the business.

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Cibby Pulikkaseril, Founder & CTO, Baraja

What is one habit/ritual that helps you stay productive throughout the day?

Every morning, I try to grab some quiet mindfulness time before the day starts — either a meditative walk or some time in the gym.

What is one tool you use to help manage your productivity?

I have a tool similar to Trello (Microsoft Planner), which I use to track the projects on my plate.

What tips or advice would you give to a new founder on how to stay productive?

As the team is growing, it’s incredibly important to start building leadership in the team, even if it’s just delegating small administrative tasks. The founders become the bottleneck at every phase!

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Noelle Smit, Co-Founder & COO, Teamgage

What is one habit/ritual that helps you stay productive throughout the day?

I plan my day out the night before or first thing in the morning. This includes blocking out time in my calendar to get things done and prioritising the top 1–3 items. This way, even if something unplanned comes up, I know it has still been a good day as long as I get those top items done.

What is one tool you use to help manage your productivity?

We use Luxafor flags (see luxafor.com). I can make my flag red when I’m “in the zone” and my team knows not to interrupt me, otherwise, we keep them blue so people know they can ask questions etc. This has been a game-changer for our team. It has helped develop a habit of being purposeful about our time throughout the day.

What tips or advice would you give to a new founder on how to stay productive?

Focus is the single most important thing! Sometimes just knowing what is the right thing to focus on can be a challenge. I strongly recommend allocating time to planning what your goals are and develop a strategy to achieve them. Then make sure your focus each day is aligned to executing the strategy. The easiest way to make sure you are focused on the right things is to plan a day ahead, and block out time where you can’t be interrupted and people can’t book meetings/calls with you — and be disciplined in sticking to this. Communicate to your team when you are having ‘uninterrupted time’ so they can respect this. 10 minutes of planning can equal hours of productivity for the day.

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