Time and task prioritization for startups!

As the saying goes, “time is money” – especially for new, budding startups. In order to maximize your two most precious resources, it’s essential startup founders learn how to prioritize: that’s why both time and task management are so essential for startup growth and success.

In larger, well established companies, prioritization tends to be dictated by the situation: you’ll focus on putting out the eventual fire, but you’ll have knowledge of what this fire is and the type of fire extinguisher you’ll need to use.

On a brand new startup, though, everything’s fresh and unknown, what makes the prioritization process a tad more complex – you don’t know what the fires are and has no idea what kind of product you can use to put it out.

Many startups are mostly powered by the excitement of the new business and startup founders are known for devoting every waking moment to their companies – some even dream about it too. Even though passion is a very powerful propeller for working long, unending shifts to get things done, it’ll eventually come to a point where every startup team needs to take a break and learn a thing or two about prioritization.

The challenge in prioritization:

Not knowing how to use your time correctly can end up with a lot of people running around, completely burnt out, without knowing what they need to do. Even more importantly, you’ll be risking not only “wasting” your time with tasks that aren’t essentially urgent and letting the important ones slip by.

Every company has its very own concerns and, eventually, growth pains. However, prioritizing correctly is the first step for successfully addressing them. Time management seems to be one of the biggest challenges for all new entrepreneurs out there and figuring out how to do more in less time is key to ensure success.

You can, however, make the challenge of time and task prioritization get a little easier if you pay attention to a few tips and strategies other startups have already figured out with years of trying and experimenting:

Time and task prioritization tips:

The first step before you can prioritize is effectively recognizing you are human and you’re not able of doing everything you’d like to – therefore, you need to figure out what’s most important and must be worked out first.

What’s most important is not static and tends to vary from time to time but, in general, you’ll focus on those activities that generate more income or those with the most potential to do so.

This may mean you’ll focus mainly on developing product improvements and new features instead of on your day-to-day tasks. It may also mean you’ll respond leads from bigger prospects before responding smaller ones, or prioritizing proposals and needs according to your most established customers instead of newer ones.

Let’s take a look of a few tips to help you know what you need to do first:

1. Know yourself (and your business):

Different people and different companies have different rhythms – some of us are morning people while others don’t become fully awake until after noon and would rather work until late night than waking up early.

Determining your most productive moments and using them to work on the most crucial tasks for your business (such as brainstorming, writing proposals or meetings with investors). The same goes for those times your brain is still sluggish – use this time for tasks that don’t demand much of your intellectual capacities, such as updating your calendar, organizing files or checking your e-mail.

2. Identify where you’re wasting time:

Have you ever tried keeping a log of your activity for a certain period of time, such as one week or so? The results may end up surprising you and showing how much of your time you’re using inefficiently.

Do you spend hours checking e-mails and typing the same responses over and over again? You should try creating templates to use in different phases of your processes (Pipefy offers you a way to do so, with e-mail templates).

3. Focus first on what will drive growth:

A better way to think of the prioritization process is not thinking about specific tasks, but working with broader themes. What are the principal things you need to do that will drive growth? You have to focus your efforts on understanding the key factors that drive of your business and anything that doesn’t influence those factors doesn’t need to be treated as a high priority.

4. Do the hardest things first – avoid procrastinating:

Procrastination is not so much about being lazy, it’s actually avoiding doing things we don’t want to do (and those tend to be the hardest tasks, of course).

Everyday, in your working routine, choose to do first the thing you dread the most. Whatever you don’t feel like doing, do it first and take it off your plate. Prioritizing the hardest things to do eliminates the endless nagging dread that will drain away the energy you could be using for other tasks. Don’t postpone the inevitable, do it first and get rid of it, rip it off like a Band-Aid.

5. Technology is your friend:

Of course, technology can be an enemy to your productivity if you’re not using it right, but it can also be a valuable asset in simplifying and streamlining your processes (as said on the topic above with Pipefy’s e-mail templates).

Use cloud solutions such as Dropbox or Google Drive to store your data and synchronize information and calendars – these ensure you won’t get lost amongst all your devices trying to figure out where’s the file you needed.

Use online process and project online management tools to simplify and help you always stay on top of what everyone in your team is doing without having to search for information in lots of different apps.

On the other side, you need to be ready to cut out those apps and tools that just aren’t working out – don’t get emotionally attached, if something’s not working for you and getting in the way of your productivity, let it go.

6. Learn to delegate:

The emotional attachment rule we pointed out with the apps goes for tasks – learning to let go of your tasks and delegating it can be quite hard to do. Even if you’re willing to delegate, though, sometimes you won’t have anyone to delegate to, depending on how small your workforce is.

However, if you’re lucky enough to have some employees, third part contractors, or even friends and family willing to donate some of their time, sit down and take some time to assess what you could possibly get other people to do for you. Letting go of some of your work can free up your creativity and energy to truly focus on your business.

Prioritization pressure is one that’ll never truly go away. Whenever things are going well and everything seems to be under control, something will always seem on fire. If you’re absolutely sure you‘ve got things under control, that can be a problem – it means your team is only doing what’s urgent, not what’s really important for your business.

Prioritize your tasks with Pipefy!

Pipefy’s Task Management Template was specially developed to help you manage yours and your team’s tasks without breaking a sweat.

This template shows you in an organised and simplified manner what everyone is currently doing, what they have to do, and what is already done. It also highlights what are the priorities, what’s on time, what’s late and what’s potentially creating bottlenecks.

Written by Isabelle Salemme, Product content manager at Pipefy. She uses her extensive Pipefy knowledge to write informative pieces teaching users to make the best of Pipefy. Besides being responsible for all product-related content, she's an avid reader, a coffee lover and a professional photographer.