Startup Lessons,

#StartupLesson EP011: 5 Main Reasons Why Startup Founders Are Unproductive and How You Can Fix It w/ Paul Higgins

May 07, 2017

As a startup founder, time is your most valuable asset.

You can’t buy more of it, no matter how bad you need it. We all get the same 24 hours a day, so you need to protect it carefully.

Whether you’re working full-time at a corporate job and doing your startup as a side hustle, or you just left corporate and are currently running your first startup, you have to be efficient your time.

When you use your time wisely, you can be more productive.

There are five main reasons why startup founders are unproductive, and you’ll learn what they are in this post. You will also learn some methods that are practical, proven, and simple to implement, to become more productive.

  1. You have the wrong mindset

Having the wrong mindset can hinder the progress of your start-up.

When you have the wrong mindset, you become very unproductive. When this happens, you can quickly burn out physically, mentally, or you may even tarnish relationships with people who are important to you.

To be more productive, you have to shift your mindset and get a better understanding of how your mind works.

Understanding your personality

The first thing you to do is know and understand your personality.

If you’ve worked in corporate, you’ve probably done personality profiling. If not, it’s highly recommended that you do it to understand what your preferences are.

There’s a free questionnaire you can use on Tony Robbins site to understand your preferences and your strengths.

As you get deeper into your start up, you will want to focus more on your strengths and do what you’re best at to maximize your productivity.

Understanding your personality profile is a crucial element in doing this.


Getting in the right mental state is vital.

When you have the right mindset, you can create a natural flow that allows you to maximise your productivity.

All you need is 10-15 minutes daily, at the least, to make a difference in your focus and attention.

A few Apps that are great for meditation purposes are
• Head Space
• Calm
• Buddhify

Optimizing your energy level

When you optimise your energy level, you will get a better understanding of your energy flow. You will learn about your energy flow while in your natural state, working, and during your leisure time.

When you understand your energy level during each of those phases, you can get more structured with the time you dedicate your start up.

Working in small time blocks has been proven to assist with being more productive. This can mean working for 30 minutes while focusing on one task, taking a 5-minute break, then work on another task for 30 minutes.

  1. You’re Overwhelming Yourself

Being overwhelmed is a key contributor to being unproductive.

When you allow yourself to get overwhelmed, you can trap yourself in a place that can often cause you to doubt your capability to have a successful startup.

As a startup founder, one of your greatest strengths is coming up with ideas. Your brilliant range of ideas is probably what gave you the courage to leave your corporate job or start your side hustle.

Being able to generate ideas is a vital component to being a successful startup founder. However, too many ideas can lead to overwhelming and exhaustion.

Sometimes your greatest strength can become a weakness if you don’t know how to use it.

When this happens, you will find yourself doing too much of everything, and at the end of the day, you will see that you didn’t accomplish much of anything.

There are a few ways you can prevent yourself from getting overwhelmed and they are pretty easy to implement.

Set clear goals

Set a big goal and focus on completing it.

Setting big goals doesn’t mean setting complex goals.

You can set a goal as small as moving from 25 to 50 people in your membership club in the next 60 days.

What matters is that your goal is clear so you can craft a formula to achieve it and create more pronounced goals.

Get an accountability partner

Having an accountability partner can help you be more productive, which can enhance your success rate.

It’s noted that there is an 85% success rate for people set clear goals and have someone to keep them accountable for them

Learn to say “no”

Saying “no” isn’t limited to rejecting proposals from others.

Learning to say “no” to yourself can sometimes be the toughest thing to do; especially when you feel your idea is something amazing.

Saying “no” to your ideas doesn’t mean completely trashing them either.

You can write your idea down and save it for later when you have time for it. If you still think it’s a good idea after a few months, you can review it and see how it can benefit your ultimate goal.

  1. You have too many distractions

Between email, social media, phone calls, text messages, etc. you can average hundreds of notifications on a daily basis.

The biggest issue with being distracted isn’t the distraction itself. It’s how long it takes you to refocus on your task after you’ve been distracted; especially with complex tasks.

It takes an average of 15 minutes to refocus your mind after you’ve been distracted, but that can easily be fixed in a couple of ways.

Turn off notifications

During the time you dedicate to working on your startup, you should turn off notifications to everything that doesn’t directly relate to what you will be doing while trying to complete a particular task.

Get a Virtual Assistant

You can use different pieces of software to handle certain tasks for you or hire a part time virtual assistant (VA).

It’s very common for startup founders to get stuck on the fact that they may not have enough cash to hire a VA. It is also common for them to feel that the task is too simple and there is no need to hire someone or purchase an automation or scheduling tool.

Investing in a tool or hiring a person to work 10 hours a week, will give you ten extra hours to invest your energy into what you’re actually good at. doing

It may take a couple of hours to train your VA in the beginning, but once they’re on track, you can rely on them to make the majority of the decisions and take action.

  1. You’re using Outdated technology

Some startup founders may still be stuck on using older technology.

This can happen when you have grown to be comfortable with a particular software, and you aren’t aware of the newest, or a more efficient, tool you can benefit from using.

You may also become overwhelmed with the various options available and decide to stick with what you’re already using. That’s not a bad idea, but it may not always be the best idea.

Some key technology platforms you’ll want to consider using are:

  • Collaboration platforms: Platforms like PodioAsana, and Trello, have structured formats and keep you from combing through your email to find messages. It allows you and your team to stay organized and up to date on any changes to a project.
  • Cloud Storage: Tools like Dropbox and Google Drive ensure that you have all of your files so you can locate and share them anywhere. They have a desktop and mobile apps, so it’s very convenient to have, especially if you’re always on the go.
  • Communication tools: Communication is key with startups. Tools like Zoom and Loom have different features, but they both allow you effectively communicate with others on your team.
  • Marketing Automation: Using a marketing automation tool will make a massive difference in your start up. There are lots of tools available, but a few are MailChimpActive Campaign, and Infusionsoft.
  • Voice Recorders: You won’t always in a place where you can write or type. You may also find that your team works more efficiently when you explain something, rather than sending an email. Also, you can use recording tools to convert your voice into text, or create an audio file and send it to your team.
  1. You have Bad habits

We all have bad habits. Sometimes it’s not what you do that’s bad, it’s the result of it.

You can be catching up with people over coffee as you share your wisdom, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But, if that action is precluding you from doing what’s important, the end result will not be good.

So next time you plan to catch up with others, make sure it’s not during a launch or another important event. Or, if you see that you’re sharing the same wisdom over and over with different people, you can turn it into a piece of digital content (podcast, blog post, eBook, etc.) and publish it for a variety of individuals to benefit from.

As you can see, time is your greatest essence as a startup founder. The better you are when it comes to utilizing your time, the more productive you will become.

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