Startup Journal: How Should You Spend Your Time?
As an entrepreneur or any member of a startup, your work-life balance deteriorates. Your startup quickly becomes a part of your identity. It's all you think about!
You take that identity everywhere, and everything you do is geared towards building your company. All these great ideas continually flood your mind. There are so many things you want to do!
You're spending all this time on your new company, but how do you pick through the pile of ideas to choose the ones that will help you grow exponentially?
How do you decipher between what's a good idea, and what will have the most benefit? Or, in other words, how exactly should you spend your time?
How do people recommend you spend your time?
The most common answer to the question of growth is some form of "work long, hard, and smart." That's true, you need to do that. But that's not very specific advice.
On what tasks should you work long, hard, and smart? How should you spend your time?
If everything you do is now connected to your startup, what do you need to focus on inside and outside of the office?
Like most great questions, the answer is: It depends. It doesn't depend on what you're doing or what your idea is. It depends on your experience in that realm.
Every startup comes with a monstrous learning curve, and a priority of yours needs to be tackling that curve. How?
How should you really spend your time?
Most people will tell you to try and fail over and over again. "Fail fast; learn quickly" they say.
That's pretty good advice, but one of the most beneficial and undervalued things you should do to grow your startup (particularly if you're a new entrepreneur) is read.
Warren Buffett seems to have had decent success in the business world, so let's use him as a case study.
Perhaps his most astounding claim is how he chooses to spend his time. Warren estimates that he has spent 80% of his working hours reading and thinking.
Buffett isn't reading novels. He's reading reports, case studies, and personal accounts.
He's reading how and why has Business X performed in this and that way. What can be learned from it? How can that be applied to his businesses?
Reading, learning, and digesting that information might be the most valuable way to spend your time. Then, as you're learning, put that new information into practice.
Learn first, then try. Fail, then learn some more, then try again.
Call it human capital if you want, but you're going to have to learn one way or another. And it helps to learn as much as you can before you start spending thousands of dollars (or more) testing for what does and doesn't work.
A cornucopia of blogs are available to the interested entrepreneur. Personally, I prefer physical copies of books.
Anyone can write a blog post, but only a special few can publish books (much less a Bestseller). They're the cream of the crop, and you need to ingest the best if you're going to build the best.
What should you do next?
Sadly, it doesn't matter how great you or your startup is if no one knows you exist.
You need customers, sure, but you also need to be visible. People need to find you, to stumble across you, to see how you fix their problems.
There are countless specific ways to promote your content and brand, but the important part is that you do something. That you spend your time getting your name and valuable information in front of your target audience.
People aren't going to come looking for you if they don't you exist. The immediate and trackable ROI might not be great, but getting out there is necessary to building your traffic, SEO, and traffic.
Depending on your duties, you might focus on this during your primary work hours. Maybe not. If nothing else, writing and creating content is a great way to spend an evening.
You can have the best content in the world on your own website, but if no one else is pointing traffic in that direction, it's just going to sit there all alone.
After you've put a plan in place for getting your message out there, figuring out where to spend your time can be rather tricky. There are a million-and-one things to do for your startup, and they're all important.
From my (incredibly biased) experience, two of the primary uses of your time should be spent intentionally learning and making yourself visible.
Reading is perhaps the best way to do the former, and pitching stories to journalists on high profile sites might be the best way to do the latter.
The trifecta of growth, however, is incomplete unless you spend your time getting customers.
So how do you get customers?
Building traction as a startup is all about acquiring and keeping customers. You should be able to use the first two tasks to exponentially help you with this. But how do you get customers?
It's such a complicated question with an even more complicated answer, because it's different for everyone! But that's what you have to answer in order to grow.
The bottom line for most new companies is that you have to spend a lot of time making a few people happy.
Use bribery or whatever you can to get a handful of initial customers, and then do everything you can to make the best product for them. Once you've created something great, they'll start telling others about you. Repeat ad infinitum.
You'll have to learn a ton, which will take time. You'll need to have in-depth conversations with a lot of people, which will take time. And you'll have to tailor your product to meet the specific needs of your customers.
That's how you should spend your time.