I used to be one of those people who loved to brag about how busy he was. You know the type. Heck, you might even be one of “those” people… Until I completely burned out.
I used to be one of those people who loved to brag about how busy he was. You know the type. Heck, you might even be one of “those” people…
I would work 60, 70, sometimes 80 hours a week–it was never enough. I wore my ‘busy-ness’ like a badge of honor… I loved telling you how unbelievably hectic my life was at any given moment.
Until I completely burned out.
After years of grinding away, I realized one day that I needed to completely reevaluate what I was doing with my life, what my priorities were.
Was working 80+ hours a week really making me happy?!
It was during this period of reflection that I realized simply working longer hours wasn’t going to fill the void inside me.
I love working, don’t get me wrong. Helping people is what gets me up in the morning. But what if I could learn to work smarter, not longer? What if instead of slogging through 100 hours of work for work’s sake, I could consolidate that into as little as possible. Say, 16.7 hours per week?
It might sound crazy, but with a little trial and error, I learned to do just that. It didn’t happen overnight–we have a lot to unlearn about our habits and expectations. But here’s how I did it.
How to Manage Your Time Effectively
My life changed when I stumbled upon the Pomodoro Technique. Basically, it’s a deceptively simple time management system designed by Francesco Cirilio that helps you work with time, rather than against it.
Here are the five simple steps that make up the technique:
Choose a single task;
Set a timer for 25 minutes (preferably not the timer on your phone);
Work on your task until the timer rings, then put a checkmark on a tracker;
Take a five minute break;
Repeat steps 1-4 three more times, followed by a 15 minute break.
You may think that doesn’t sound like much, but don’t be fooled: The Pomodoro Technique calls for 25 minutes of steady, focused work on a single task. No emails. No phone calls. No checking Facebook. No getting up for a snack. No distractions!
This takes some getting used to. I had to learn ignore all of the digital age distractions that so often occupy our time.
I found that a using a kitchen timer, setting my phone on airplane mode, and secluding myself in a quiet place produced the best results. I spent five minutes each morning planning out what I wanted to accomplish that day, and each Friday I spent 30 minutes reviewing the week and planning for the week ahead.
These tips and tricks helped me hunker down and get to work. After a while, 25 minutes of uninterrupted work came easily, and I was accomplishing what I set out to do. It was a great feeling.
Personalizing the “Pomodoro”
Well, it was a great feeling…until it wasn’t. Soon I found myself cramming as many Pomodoros into a single business day as I could, and it started having negative effects on my work and my mood. I was still working too hard.
It turns out that laser focus for 25 minutes, repeated over and over again, just doesn’t work effectively every day. Life gets in the way. It’s unpredictable, and doesn’t really care how many tasks you have on your to-do list.
So I decided to personalize the method, to give it more flexibility. I asked myself: What *actually* works best for me?
In a perfect world, I’d have eight tasks identified at the beginning of each workday, prioritized from most to least important. I would be equally motivated to work on each one, and I’d finish all of them within three hours, without interruption.
But I’m not perfect–no one is. I get tired, occasionally I get lazy, things happen that are outside of my control. No amount of focus is going to help me with that, and these are realities for everyone.
So I eased up on my expectations for myself. I focused on accomplishing 8 Pomodoros a day, five days per week. Total, that’s 125 minutes of work per day, 1,000 minutes per week or around 16.7 hours, not including breaks. It was getting better.
But something was still off. After working on my method for a while, I came to the realization that I was still too constricted. I had promised myself I would only work during normal hours–9 to 5, Monday through Friday–and spend the rest of my time enjoying my life.
But that didn’t always happen. And when I didn’t finish a set amount of Pomodoros before 5 p.m., I found myself thinking about my work and the tasks I didn’t accomplish in my “off” time, which was exactly the opposite of what the Pomodoro Technique is supposed to do.
Rather than restricting my work hours, I actually needed to expand them. So weeknights, weekends, vacations, holidays–all of those times came into play for me. I shifted to a seven-day work week, and began working when it suited me, rather than forcing my time to suit my work.
More importantly, opening my working time allowed me to do non-work stuff during normal “work” hours, like attend my daughter’s recital. It actually gave me more freedom, not less.
And that’s how I went from spending 40 to 45 hours a week fitting in my 40 Pomodoros, to having 168 hours each week. Since I only need 16.7 hours net, that means I only work 10% of my time. And it’s made all the difference.
I love this post from the Buffer co-founders Joel and Leo, (open.buffer.com), I have personally experienced consistent doubling in team sizes in nearly every tech startup i have either founded or guided and its a dynamic that if managed well will ensure your success, failure is messy and painful. So read on, regards Bradley Birchall …
The Buffer team is more than 65 people right now, which means our startup has more than doubled in size this year. It’s been an incredibly exciting adventure!
The Buffer team is more than 65 people right now, which means our startup has more than doubled in size this year.
It’s been an incredibly exciting adventure!
There are a lot of big factors for this growth, as well as many changes for all of us that have gone along with it.
We recently sat down for a video chat with Buffer: Open’s Content Crafter, Courtney, to talk about why and how we’ve grown so much this year. She asked us some great and tough questions about things like the challenges of growth and scaling our culture, how big Buffer could possibly become and lots more. We wanted to share it all with you here!
In this post we’d love to highlight just a few of the things we talked about in the video and invite you to share any thoughts this brings up for you!
We decided to reinvest that, thinking that ideally we should keep growing and make use of that money to provide a better product and better customer service.
As a result, we have a different situation leading up to our upcoming retreat in Hawaii in January, where we’ll almost have doubled from one retreat to the next!
How has it changed the way we work?
As we began to ramp up and grow again, we realized we had stretched our existing structure as far as we could.
We’ve never had a lot of hierarchy, especially during our self-management period. We were a small enough group that we organized naturally, for the most part, without breaking into too many specialized teams.
So when we hit 10-15 people in the product and engineering group, that was 15 people on one team. That becomes really inefficient—people are jumping from one thing to another.
The product has grown so much at 4-5 years in, and it has a much wider span. It’s hard to be able to effectively jump into all its different areas.
And ideally, you don’t want to have to split your brain between them. For people to be able to work and focus, we’ve learned that areas needs to be separate so someone can give one all their attention.
We realized that we needed to split into multiple teams—ideally, we’d have 5 people per team. So at a team size of 15 in product and engineering, that’s 3 teams.
We knew we needed more than that to handle each element of Buffer, maybe 7 or 8 teams total.
So that meant we would need to be a product and engineering team of 35 or 40! That’s what triggered this wave of growth.
The system we have now, we think, works. And yet we’re growing so fast that as soon as we hit the point where things works, we might grow to the next point and it’ll all break again.
That’s just going to be how it works now. It’s a challenge, but it’s also exciting.
How big could Buffer become?
In terms of vision, our feeling is that there’s a lot of opportunity.
We want to continue helping small businesses to have the voice they deserve to have and get more reach through social media. There are a lot of different spaces we could move into, and much more we could do to help customers with social media publishing.
The culture we’ve established and movements we’ve ended up being part of, like transparency and growing as a distributed team— we believe this is a purpose of Buffer, too, to spread these movements.
The more we can grow, the more we can show that this kind of work can scale. That’s part of the motivation for going further.
Nothing grows forever, and that’s not a good aim to have. But right now for Buffer, we think we’re far from our limit. Our growth may not always be this fast, but we will be on a pretty fast trajectory from now on.
We’ve now moved to this new structure, so we’re building up to that. Once we hit it, we probably won’t need to double every few months again—until we need a whole new structure, which could happen every few years.
How does our culture evolve as we grow?
We’ve recently started to send out periodic surveys to get a feel for how teammates are feeling at buffer, and recently the rate of growth has got quite a few people worried about the culture changing.
That’s on people’s minds, and it’s really important to talk about and think about and make changes around.
Culture evolves. Every new person we add evolves the culture—that’s why diversity is so important, because we want the culture to evolve in a diverse way.
At the same time, there is this underlying idea that you’ll have culture whether you like it or not—it’s down to whether you decide to shape it.
That’s something we’ve always believed in, and why we put our values into words when we were just 10 people. We believe we should be very deliberate about what kind of company we want to build and how we want it to feel.
The two of us used to talk about culture together. On Fridays, we would go to a coffeeshop and work on culture, make changes. Things like pair calls, the salary formula, all these things we introduced through that weekly meeting.
When Stephanie Tilenius, a former senior executive at eBay and Google, decided to start a health-coaching app, many in her network were incredulous. “Everyone thought I was crazy,” she recalls. “Some people loved that I wanted to do something to help others, but a lot socially ostracised me.”
For many entrepreneurs, the health sector offers an enticing opportunity–with strings attached. It’s an estimated $3 trillion market and is still dominated by a cadre of traditional players. But many in the technology sector have shied away from the industry after witnessing many high-profile failures and realising that change doesn’t happen quickly. “Silicon Valley operators and investors see that health care needs better technology,” explains veteran health IT consultant Ben Rooks. “But they learn quickly that health care isn’t about radical disruption; it’s about slow evolution.”
“Silicon Valley sees that health care needs better technology, but they learn quickly that health care isn’t about radical disruption; it’s about slow evolution.”
Despite the challenges, a small but growing group of former technologists from companies like Google and Twitter are in it for the long haul. In many cases, their motivations are deeply personal: A family member lost to chronic disease, or a brush with the broken health care system. I spoke to four former tech executives about their reasons for moving into health care, the cultural differences between the two sectors, and the challenges they’ve faced along the way.
“Because patients deserve better than a seven-minute visit.”–Stephanie Tilenius, former VP of commerce and payments at Google and former GM and VP at eBay and PayPal
Stephanie Tilenius started her career at e-commerce companies like eBay and PayPal, and eventually ascended the ranks to become a senior vice president at Google. But prior to joining eBay in 2001, she spent a few years at an online drugstore called PlanetRx. That early experience in health care had a lasting impact on Tilenius. When her father got sick, she felt an even stronger pull to quit her steady tech job to make an impact in the sector. “My father had multiple chronic conditions and went from doctor to doctor,” she recalls.
These days, she is the CEO of a startup called Vida, which provides virtual care for patients with chronic ailments. Before starting the company, Tilenius reflected on her father’s need for “continuous care,” which would involve all of his care providers communicating with him and each other between office visits. Tilenius believes his heart attack could have been avoided, or at least delayed, if he had received better care than a “seven-minute visit, in which all his doctors would all just tell him to change his diet.”
Unlike many of her peers in health tech, she made a point of working closely with medical centers that were already developing clinically validated programs for treating patients with chronic disease like diabetes, depression, and hypertension. She started Vida to make these programs more accessible by shifting some of the components online, and connecting patients with virtual health coaches to inspire long-term behavioral changes.
At first, many friends and acquaintances in her network couldn’t understand why she’d leave a successful career in tech to start a health company that would likely grow and monetize at a slow pace. “People didn’t understand why I would leave a senior role and money on the table,” she says. “In Silicon Valley, it’s about hypergrowth, and if you’re not doing that, then there’s something wrong.” Likewise, many in health care were skeptical about technologists moving into their own complex sector. Tilenius believes that she’ll ultimately show her detractors on both sides that new platforms will emerge in health care, starting with mobile and cloud, and that companies like Vida will be at the forefront. Ultimately, she asks, “Don’t you want us crazy Googlers to help people by building companies and taking risks?”
The Future of Medical Super Centres – my ASX investor presentation
Whats It All About
With thanks to Wholesale Investor, today I am presenting Multi BD’s investment offer at the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX).
Your probably thinking why am I getting into Healthcare given my extensive work with high tech startups, well that’s a long story and one I will be posting more information on but the bottom line is this; since launching Australia’s No 1 Medical Software company back in 1991, little has changed, GP medical facilities are low quality, operations are average at best and its time for a change!
Our Goal “Be the market leading developer and owner of Premium Medical Super Centres in Australia”.
We are using a model based approach in the design, build and development of a national network of premium A Grade healthcare facilities focused on Human Centred Design (HCD), customer experience, quality of care and advanced technology.
You wont see much of this on our website www.multibd.com.au as we have been keeping a lid on this, watch this space more to follow!
Event Details – Sydney Australasian Emerging Company Investor Showcase May 2017 @ ASX
The Roadshow, will showcase Australia, New Zealand & Asia’s most innovative emerging growth private, pre-IPO, IPO and small-cap listed companies across a range of sectors.
With over 600 high net worth and accredited investors, brokers, fund managers and family offices expected in attendance, do not miss your opportunity to hear live presentations from world-leading companies, network C-Level executives & discover unique investment opportunities from the Asia-Pacific region.
Event Details: Sydney Date: Thursday, 4th May 2017 Registration & Networking: 9am Time: 10am-3pm Venue: ASX, Exchange Centre, 20 Bridge St, Sydney NSW 2000 Catering: Lunch will be provided at the event Cost: This is a free event for investors, stockbrokers and fund managers
What can busking teach us about bootstrapping a startup? If you ask Bridget Harris, the two experiences aren’t so different. Bridget, who in a previous life was could be found busking in London’s Covent Garden and in tube stations, is the co-founder and CEO of You Can Book Me.
A little over a year ago, Tower Paddle Boards started letting employees leave by lunchtime and offering 5% profit-sharing.
In every office, I’ve often felt, there are just a few people who do three times the work of everyone else, yet their reward is only marginally higher. As an entrepreneur, I’ve been managing my own productivity time—not on-the-clock-time—pretty effectively for over 15 years, and I’ve largely been able to work fewer hours than my friends in the corporate world. So when I started Tower, my company that sells stand-up paddle boards, I figured (or at least hoped) that I could hire just these types and give them a better deal in the process.
So while we operated on a standard eight-hour workday at first, just like most other companies, I wanted to put my theory to the test. And it also seemed like freeing up employees’ afternoons for the outdoor lifestyle the company promoted would be a natural fit. So on June 1, 2015, I initiated a three-month test. I moved my whole company to a five-hour workday where everyone works from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Over a year later, we’re sticking with it. Here’s why, and how we made the change work.
MAKING THE SWITCH
When we kicked off the pilot program, I told my employees I wanted to give them two things. First, I simply wanted to give them their lives back—so they’d have a pass to walk out each day right at 1 p.m. as long as they proved highly productive. Second, I wanted to pay them better for more the more focused effort that would take. Their per-hour earnings were set to nearly double overnight: we’d be rolling out 5% profit-sharing at the same time.
Prior to the switch, an employee making $40,000 a year would’ve been paid $20 per hour ($40,000 divided by 2,000 hours per year). With the profit-sharing program leading to about $8,000 per person, that same employee would now make about $48,000 but only have a baseline of 1,250 hours per year, so their per-hour earnings would jump to $38.40. And it was crucial to me that this didn’t increase the company’s expenses by a single dime—there’d be no increased financial risk to our bottom line.
In exchange, though, I had a big ask: I needed each of my team members to be twice as productive as the average worker. We had a high bar of productivity to clear before this, and that didn’t change. I told them they just needed to figure out how to do it all in just five hours now—but there’d be support: we’d all need to figure it out and were in this together. If anybody couldn’t, though, they’d be fired. The pressure was real, but so was the incentive to meet the challenge; their workweek had suddenly become better than many people’s vacation weeks.
The results have been astounding. We’ve been named to the Inc. 5000 list of America’s fastest growing companies the past two years (we ranked #239 in 2015). This year, our 10-person team will generate $9 million in revenue.
A LEAP OF FAITH, MADE FOR GOOD REASONS
To make sure we didn’t bite off more than we could chew, I termed the pilot program “summer hours,” and set the expectation that we’d go back to traditional hours in the fall. This made some room to keep an eye on anything that might go wrong. I was concerned that our reduced customer-service hours and shop hours would mean an equal reduction in revenue. My gut told me that attracting better people, making them happy, and getting out of their way would compensate for these limitations, but we’d need to prove that. I actually suspected things would go down a bit, but the net effect would be worth it.
The reality is that we didn’t take a hit at all. Our annual revenues for 2015 were up over 40%. All our numbers were improving, in fact. When I tell people my team only works five hours a day, their response is always, “That’s nice, but it won’t work for me.” The 9-to-5 workday (or worse) is so ingrained that it’s hard to imagine anything else…