Laurynas Pletkus
Laurynas Pletkus

Scale3C Recommends: 5 Effective Time Management Techniques for Startups

July 15, 2019
6 min read
Scale3C Recommends: 5 Effective Time Management Techniques for Startups

When you’re running a startup, every second can make the difference between meeting your deadlines or falling short. 

How you manage your time means the world of a difference between sleepless nights or running a successful corporation. When you realise the importance of time management, you might start taking it more seriously and think about how you can save time each day.

Time is one of the most important resources we’ve got. Once it’s lost, it cannot be recovered. 

Everyone has 24 hours each day. How you make use of that is what determines if your startup is going to be successful.

From hacking your sleep schedule to the different project management methodologies though, there are many time techniques out there – some more effective than others. Though staying up every day till 4 AM to work on your startup might sound like you’re getting more work done – it’s also a sure way to achieve burnout or gain some serious health problems.

When talking about time management, it’s essential to stress the importance of health.

A healthy mind resides in a healthy body.

If you’re going to be planning for the long-term future, you need to be sure you’ll get there in the first place and not lose your drive.

Elon Musk, for example, is known for putting in 120-hour work weeks and getting less than 7 hours of sleep per day. Science says sleep deprivation is a recipe for disaster.

If you’re going to be putting in long hours of work, make sure you know some of the health issues you’re risking.

But why risk damaging your body and brain in the first place?

Instead, you might want to consider working smart, not hard.

Some of the benefits of proper time management include:

  • Increased efficiency and productivity.
  • Reduced stress and a higher quality of life.
  • More free time to spend with your loved ones.
  • Achieving your set goals and meeting your deadlines.
  • Having more time to work on the more important parts of your business and scale-up.

Once you know how to manage your time effectively, you can accomplish more. 

With that said, at Scale3C, we recommend the following time management techniques to get more done in your startup:

1. The Eisenhower Matrix

Dwight Eisenhower lived an extremely productive life.

He was a five-star general in the United States Army, a president of the Columbia University, the first Supreme Commander of NATO, and more – all this before becoming the U.S. president.

Yet, he still somehow found time to pursue hobbies like golfing and oil painting.

Eisenhower had the incredible ability to sustain his productivity throughout not only weeks, but also decades of work. To say he had a lot of tasks to balance daily would be an understatement.

This eventually led him to invest the now world-famous Eisenhower Method, which is used to help prioritise tasks by urgency and importance. 

“I have two kinds of problems, the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.” – Dwight Eisenhower

When you’re focusing on efficiency, it’s important to set your priorities first. This is where the above framework comes in. It’s a simple decision-making tool that can help you get started right away.

Here’s how:

Eisenhower box as a time management technique illustration
Source: Jamesclear

Essentially, there are four following quadrants:

  1. Important and urgent tasks with a strict deadline that you need to do straightaway.
  2. Important, and not urgent tasks that have a deadline and you can do later.
  3. Unimportant and not urgent tasks that you can delegate to someone or outsource.
  4. Unimportant and not urgent tasks that you need to eliminate from your schedule completely.

The main goal of the matrix is to help you filter any unnecessary noise from your decision-making process and concentrate on the tasks that matter. 

As with all time-management frameworks, if you’re going to adopt this one in your life, it’s important you stick to it and work on it consistently. Try not to add more than eight tasks per quadrant so as you don’t get overwhelmed.

Once you have a list and know what’s urgent and what’s not – getting started becomes much easier.

Tip: if you’re not sure whether you should outsource or do it in-house, read our guide on the topic here.

2. Pomodoro technique

You might have already heard of this time management technique before.

The Pomodoro technique is famous and one of the most effective productivity methods used by startups all around the world. Mainly due to how easy it is to start using it – all you need is a timer (or just an app).

The technique helps you power through any distractions and stop procrastinating by cutting your tasks into bite-sized pieces. If you always end up distracted halfway through a task, this technique is for you as it allows you to work in short bursts instead.

Once you compile a list of all the tasks you need to take care of for the day, you can then use the Pomodoro technique to manage your time effectively.

Pomodoro guide as a time management technique

Source: Project-Management

The whole process can be broken down into four simple steps:

  1. Choose a task you’d like to get done. Doesn’t matter how big the task is. What matters is that you can concentrate on getting it done.
  2. Set the timer for 25 minutes dedicated to that task and that task alone. Concentrate on giving it all you got and make sure you don’t get distracted until the timer rings.
  3. Once the time is up, you can then take a short 5-minute break to grab a coffee, go for a walk, or do anything else as long as it’s not work-related.
  4. Now, repeat the process four times and then take a longer 15-30 minutes break. Afterwards, start again until you’re out of tasks!

Simple, right?

The short work sessions help you really get engrossed in the tasks and the frequent breaks keep your mind fresh. After the break, you can come back with a refreshed state of mind and continue working.

If you’re working in development, for example, the Pomodoro technique is a great way to work in sprint coding-sessions and get a lot of work done in short sprint sessions. While this tactic works in any industry, we’ve had a lot of success in our web development tasks and projects.

If you can’t stand working for hours on end, try the Pomodoro technique and use your breaks wisely.

3. Pareto Principle (or the 80/20 rule)

The Pareto Principle simply states that 20% of the inputs or activities are responsible for 80% of the outputs or results.

Originally, the observation came from the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto who noticed that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population. This concept can now be applied to most situations in our daily lives and business.

  • 20% of the company’s customers often produce 80% of the total revenue.
  • 20% of the workers generate 80% of the result.
  • 20% of the code makes for 80% of the value.
  • And so on.
Pareto principle for time management 80/20 cup

It’s important to note that this is not always the case and the ratio might be different sometimes (e.g. it can be 70/30, 90/10, so on).

The practical application of the principle has to do with how we manage our time-to-tasks ratio and prioritise tasks. 

Most things in life are not distributed evenly. 

So, to better manage your time, try to approach your decision-making and task-management with the 80/20 rule in mind. 

Consider the 20% investment you can put into developing a task (e.g. 10 minutes research) and how that will affect the 80% of the bulk work (e.g. 50 minutes writing the code).

There is often an underlying cause with most tasks that can help you get it done faster. 

Work backwards and try to figure out what you need to effectively finish the task.

4. Eat the frog

“Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day” – Mark Twain

Now, we don’t advocate actually eating live frogs. Instead, let’s interpret these “frogs” into the most difficult tasks we dread. That makes much more sense and sounds plausible too.

eat the frog illustration

“Eating the frog” means doing the worst or extremely important task first thing in the morning, to get it out of the way before moving onto other tasks. Once the worst is behind you, you’re more likely to take on a more positive approach the rest of your day.

If you’ve been putting off your worst task because it’s too difficult or demanding, this technique suggests you should focus all of your attention on it so that you can move on. Otherwise, you might end putting it off and procrastinating too long.

Find your most important task, and tackle it first thing in the morning. Getting it out of the way will you give you a momentum to continue and a strong sense of accomplishment early in the day.

For some, this includes code reviews or a long-dreaded web development project. Whatever the task, it’s better to get it out of the way first.

After all, once you’ve eaten the frog, everything else doesn’t sound as hard. 

The frog, in most cases, may include tasks that you don’t want to do, but actually have to.

You can use this approach with the Eisenhower Matrix to see what’s the most urgent and important thing you have to do, and start there.

5. Stop multitasking, start automating

If you want to get more done, it’s better to go through your daily list of tasks by giving them your undivided attention and then move on only when you’re done. As opposed to trying to juggle too many tasks and getting only half of each done.

juggling balls as multi tasking time management

Instead of doing many things at half-effort, concentrate on getting specific tasks done one at a time. When we switch our focus from one task to another, the change often disrupts our train of thought and forces it to wander off in another direction.

This mainly happens due to small tasks or distractions that might not take long, but long enough for us to switch focus and lose our concentration.

For example, switching to and from different development projects may cause you to lose focus and get lost in your code. It’s better to go through developing each task at a time.

To make the best use of your time, think about how you can automate (if not delegate or outsource) those minor tasks.

Look into using IFTTT (If This, Then That) or Zapier to connect your apps and streamline your workflow process.

The tools you use in your day-to-day activities are just as important. You need to make sure they’re working for you and you’re not wasting time with any unnecessary features you don’t need.

Tip: we at Scale3C also recommend using the following tools to help you get started in managing your startup.

Multitasking can be just as harmful as procrastinating and can kill your productivity. In terms of time management, it does more harm than good. When your focus is split apart between a number of tasks, you’re not really doing either of them that well.

In short, it’s better to list out your priorities (by using the above time management techniques, for example) and then attack them one-by-one. The number one priority should be on quality. 

When you’re taking it slow, as long as everything is on schedule – you’ll be able to clear your workload eventually, slow and steady.

Focus on what’s urgent and important, ideally at the beginning of the day, and everything else will follow from there.