A retired colonel’s advice on how startup founders can be super productive

Ever wondered why some of the most successful people in the world have beaming smiles at the end of the day?

Ever wondered how even the busiest of Army Generals across the globe find time for an early morning run daily?

Or ever wondered why the busiest man in your office is always stressed and hardly ever leaves office for more than 6-8 hours ?

Each of them has their own way of managing their 24 Hr cycle, each leading his day according to his requirements.

I just want to share a few time-tested and practically implementable solutions to your most common crib” I need more time. 24 hrs is too less “. Here are some pointers that may help you as they have helped my brothers in arms for millennia and now you on how startup founders can be super productive.

1. Planning:

It’s practically impossible to plan an entire year. Period. You Can hardly even plan the whole month or week in fact. But yes, what you can do is plan your next day!! 10 mins of peaceful thoughts to plan a perfect next day.

You can have a broad schedule for the week, month and the year, but have an hourly plan for the day. Begin this with ending every work-day by creating a list of tasks for tomorrow to avoid having any “oops “or “Damn I forgot this” moments the next day.

Do not forget to carry forward any unaccomplished tasks for the day into tomorrows. The only thing is – add an asterisk to this task. This tiny asterisk also becomes a tiny visual indicator of becoming a priority for the day. If you have too many tasks with asterisks you’re fumbling somewhere. Step back and evaluate at this point.

You are now holding the “ticks” and “tocks” and the key to unlock the door to a successful and efficient day.

2. Prioritize:

Don’t spread yourself thin. It’s better to accomplish a few tasks to your best abilities than to partially finish all. Once you’ve had a structure of the day ready the previous evening and had an early start to the day, you’re all in zone to decide what the top priorities of the day are.

I can share this delegation matrix I use, and you may find it useful too:


I’d say categorise your tasks for the day into three clusters – Essential, Non-essential and pending tasks. This is something you can mentally plan even on your commute for the day if you want.

A quick scan of your to-do list for the day will show how tasks can be accomplished with a minimum time dedication and few tasks that would actually need dedication in terms of time, thoughts and ideas.

Further deliberation will bring out the interconnect between various tasks. It’s almost like a chain reaction. All you need is the initiating component which needs to be completed earliest. This doesn’t mean that the rest of the tasks need wait till the initial one is complete.

Simultaneous ground work in conjunction with the prioritized task would actually save on to the time and effort. e.g. You have a proposal to make for a client right now and later you plan to send some brochures to prospects. You can ask your colleagues in marketing to send you the latest brochure and email copy template to go with it in the meantime. So when you’re done with Task A, You don’t have to wait much to start on Task B.

3. Punctuality:

Master the art and never be late. If you have a meeting at 10 AM, be there by 9.50 AM. Give yourself ten minutes to settle into the new environment and surrounding. Let your mind zone into the immediate task at hand. It will also help you gain a few minutes of exchanging pleasantries with the new faces, colleagues or your boss and without you even realising it will you will be in a positive frame of mind.

Also, always step into a meeting after having collected your thoughts. Scribble the notes on your phone or your diary or wherever you prefer but that extra action of visualising your points will most times bring forth any point that you may have missed and even more importantly give you a count of how many points you have to propose or discuss in the upcoming meeting.

4. Sleep

Next comes the much-needed rest to the grey matter. Even Newton slept for 8 hours. You need it too. Today it’s common to come across individuals who boast about sleeping for 4 to 5 hours a day and being workhorses for the rest of the day. Your brain needs rest, and it’s been scientifically proven bodily necessity.

Image credit – Unsplash

5. Socialise

Do not be a bad planner with jumbled priorities. These are individuals who struggle to spend adequate quality time with family and friends. People who hardly have friends beyond colleagues and ex-colleagues.

6. Start your day early

I have known and met many people who jump out of the bed and hop on the cab/tram to reach their office. Damn even the ablutions are carried out in the company toilets !! That’s really not a life is it?

Starting your day early gives you the boost that even a mug of coffee won’t be able to do. Wake up early go for a walk, breath in all that life has to offer and focus your mind at the tasks ahead. You have 24hrs in a day which u can make most of.

7. Keep yourself organised:

Organise your desk, your files, your desktop screen and even your wardrobe. You’ll be amazed to see how much time you would save if you knew exactly what to wear and where to find the file you need.

8. Leave office in time:

There are people who find solace in staying and working late and accomplishing their tasks. There are people who find it depressing to be sitting in front of their personal computers. Then there is this genius third group who channelizes their energy by focusing on the balance between work and leisure and still be able to complete the tasks at hand.

You’d be surprised to see how refreshing and liberating it is to have an evening to look forward to that belongs to you and is at your disposal to plan out – Hang out with friends, read a book, play a sport, hit the gym do effing anything you want. Its yours and it doesn’t belong to the boss.

I completely understand that this does not apply to every single day. There will always be days when there are jobs to be done, tasks to complete or deadlines to keep. However, the number of such days is always on a minority unless you’re in a full-blown war. Then you’re on 24 X 7 for the entire duration.

Rest is the most important part of the day. Long work hours and continuous dedication to finish of the task increases momentary productivity but gradually exhausts the mind.  Decide for yourself, you want to become a sprinter or a marathon person.

9. Delegate:

Leadership is the art of delegating well. The rest are just managers.

Man-management along with time management are the essence of a successful leader. You need to be able to pick the right person for the right job. Only good leaders will be able to maximise their productivity when they’ve figured out the strengths of individual team members and know how accordingly harness them in time of need.

Micromanaging and holding all the work up-to yourself and not delegating it to subordinates not only effects the team’s productivity and efficiency, it also leads to mismanagement of time and in extreme cases, drop of team morale with lack of faith in the leadership team.

You owe it to your organization to not get warped in a false feeling of self-importance and consider yourself the biggest know-it-all or the lynchpin who holds it all together. Its human to do so but immensely applaudable if overcome.

Periodically supervise in the initial stages or with newcomers who aren’t yet aware of processes. This will also give you the requisite buffer to update your own schedule and plan and refine the job matrix and redo the timelines.

Lastly, do-not hand hold or god-forbid assign the same tasks to five different people when delegating. This only ends up reflecting on the negative about you.

10. End your day well:

A constructive and fulfilling day at work should end even better. If your office timings are till 18.00 Hrs, make a deliberate effort to rise up and turn off the system at 18.00 Hrs. Any more, any later is directly disturbing the rest of the hours left in the day.

I suggest have days dedicated for family and friends because they’re the foundation of our societal existence. Have a day in the week when you socialise and spend some good time with colleagues. It will help you connect with them at a much better level outside work settings.

Image credit – Unsplash

Dedicate a day for family/partners/spouse so you can have quality moments on weekdays as well.

On weekdays, wrap up your evenings earlier than you would on a weekend. Not doing so would affect your sleep cycle and the cascading effect goes for the next 24 hrs. Evenings should be to relax and unwind with friends and family.

Post dinner take a few moments to be to yourself. 15 minutes of disconnection with the world. Listen to some music, sit on the porch or go for a walk. Live and not just exist. This isn’t the time to think about the task planning for the next day. This is the moment when u need to forget the day that has passed and forget what’s yet to come. It’s the time to let your mind relax and recoup and prepare for the next day.

Task planning for the next day that I spoke about in the beginning is when you’re back from this walk or after having a good laugh with your family. because that’s when you’re most mentally calm and refreshed.

11. Break the monotony:

You would be surprised if I told you that breaking monotony of life actually doubles your productivity and leaves you energised.

It could be a vacation you’ve been wanting for a while or just visiting a concert. Occasionally, do something that you regularly don’t, but like.

Image credit – Unsplash

If possible, pamper yourself once a week, when there are actually no restrictions. human body amazes every time a new stimulus is given. This pampering once a week is the stimulus that the body needs to change the monotony creeping up in your life. The results the next day would be amazing. ticks and tocks that have passed aren’t coming back and neither are the moments that you missed.

Finally, realise that the Earth is going to rotate once on its own axis. no matter how hard you try, you can’t increase the time it takes to do its business. Organising and aligning your day as per this rotation is what’s in your hands. Introspect and analyse where you are wasting your time. Cut down screen time where necessary (Yes, this advice applies to adults as much as to kids). and say it to yourself – “Productivity is not sitting insane hours at work but doing the best you can and could”

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *