By Keith Shields CEO, Designli
Being the CEO of a startup is a lot of hard work. You need to manage the inevitable chaos, wearing multiple hats as a leader, a thinker,and a doer. It can easily be overwhelming when you need to balance everyday tasks alongside the “big picture” tasks that drive the vision and the future of your company.
Once a startup gets some traction, CEOs have to transition from “doer-in-chief” to leading the company and managing the big picture projects, products, cash flow, team culture, and generally becoming both the metaphorical anchor and captain of the ship. But when your company gets to this point, how do you remain an effective CEO?
Any CEO of a startup will tell you that there is no “typical” workday, but after doing some research I’ve found that many CEOs share quite a few habits that make them successful. Let’s take a look at these common habits and how you can use them too.
Organize A Schedule
One habit (some might call it a skill) of effective startup CEOs is to get organized. Really organized. They’ll make a daily schedule and follow it religiously.
Jason Zook, of Jason Does Stuff, is a vocal advocate of time-boxing. He claims that “blocking off time on my calendar keeps me laser focused and highly motivated.”
Kate Finley, CEO of Belle Communications, prefers to color-code her schedule, assigning different colors to big-picture topics and scheduling blocks of time for social media, emails, project development, meetings, and even exercise and personal time.
An hourly schedule can prevent you from getting distracted from random tasks while giving you peace of mind that you’re spending dedicated time on your company’s needs. Find the best time to schedule out your day and make this skill a habit.
Compartmentalize Company Needs
One of the things that we’ve noticed effective startup CEOs do is that they successfully compartmentalize the different needs of their company. They focus on the specific areas of their business, setting aside time for product development, team building, and financials.
Fetchnotes CEO, Alex Schiff, has a daily meeting with his team. Schiff says this time is critical for his organization, in that it provides a “cross-functional view of what’s happening in the company.”
Finley takes time daily to work on media relations, team and project development, and general communications, while Ryan Carson of Treehouse compartmentalizes business needs by day. He meets with one manager to review product needs on Mondays, while saving sales and marketing for Thursdays.
By blocking out time for managing your team and different departments you can be sure that you’ll cover all of your big picture needs while saving time for those other random tasks that inevitably arise.
Do Deep Work Early In The Day
More than one CEO, we found, prefers to concentrate on big-picture business strategy in the morning while leaving meetings for the afternoon.
Says Finley, “I find that [mornings are] best to get the majority of my work done before noon and save time for meetings later in the day.” Michael Karnjanaprakorn, head of Skillshare, goes so far as to schedule meetings only a few days a week, to maximize time for deep work and planning. Once a month, he assesses his calendar and reviews what meetings are upcoming and cancels the inefficient ones. Karnjanaprakorn claims that this process “allows me to be proactive and control my time, instead of being reactive to my calendar.”
Make sure to carve out some space in your schedule in the mornings to do the most important strategic work, while your focus and willpower are at their peak. Review your calendar regularly and cut out or reassess what’s ineffective.
Make Time For Family And Celebration
Startup CEOs know how important it is to take time for personal needs, family time, and celebration.
Ryan Carson includes family time as part of his daily schedule. Schiff makes time for fun with his team, taking them out for laser tag after the successful completion of a major milestone.
Karnjanaprakorn uses a concept from Tim Ferris called “screen-free Saturdays,” where he refuses to work on his laptop or computer and only uses his smartphone for maps and communication with friends and family.
Separating yourself from your work can give you a much-needed mental break and allow you to approach the next work day – or the next week – with a fresh mind. Again, the easy task is to make more work for yourself; the hard task is taking some time to enjoy your success and spend time on yourself.
Give Your Schedule Space For Reflection
Startup CEOs know that it’s important to take care of themselves because it’s easy to feel like there’s always more work to be done.
“I like to have some time to myself free of office distractions to map out an agenda for what I want to accomplish each day. If I don’t, I find that I’m victim to the whims of whatever random task pops up,” says Chris Myers,CEO of fintech BodeTree.
There’s always something on your to-do list, and it can be difficult to turn off that part of your brain, even for a short amount of time.
Taking time out of your day to meditate, reflect, journal, or just decompress, is an important factor for success. You’re nurturing both physical and mental well-being, which will do nothing but benefit you and your startup in the long run.
In brief, successful startup CEOs make the transition to a flexible, organized position and focus on the big picture, leading their teams to success. Depending on your personal habits and schedule, create a system that works best for your needs, while saving time to enjoy your hard work.