Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post by Thursday Bram. She writes for 21times.org, a daily newsletter helping developers take the plunge into building a business.Pick up the dry cleaning. Wash the dishes. Paint the house. Every day, there’s something else that needs to be done. It can seem like there’s never enough time to get everything done on your list.
If you’re planning to found a startup, though, time is the most important asset you have — you need as many hours as you can invest in coding, marketing and all the other details of operating a new business. The same is true, by the way, of most big projects you can think of in your life. You can’t be running around, worried on whether your day-to-day chores are getting done. You’ve got to streamline your life.
How Far Can You Afford to Go?
We have this stereotype of startup founders as a couple of guys coding in a garage at all hours of the day. It’s rare that we think about startup founders with kids, active social lives or even owning houses. There’s some truth to the stereotype: in order to build a business that you can sell for $100 million or take to an IPO, you’ve got to invest something in it to create value. If all you’ve got is time, that’s what you have to put into it.
But how much time can you really afford to free up? If you can save up enough to live on, you can probably free up all the hours you might otherwise devote to an employer. Family, significant others and kids aren’t quite so easy to deal with, though. You may need to have some tough discussions about where you’re willing to put your time in terms of your family. I’ve had a few of those conversations myself — there are some people who just won’t understand, some who are willing to let you do whatever you think is right and others who will give you the time you need, but only with a specific deadline in mind.
Make sure you understand the real limitations of streamlining your life before you wind up having to explain to a very irate significant other that you just didn’t budget time for him or her.
The Ultimate Streamlining Option
Personally, a lot of my time goes towards taking care of specific tasks in order to achieve a certain end. For instance, I own a house. I spend time maintaining the house and the surrounding yard. I spend time improving the house as well. I have two ends in mind: first, that I have a place to live, and second, that when I sell the house, I get as much money as possible. If I’m in startup mode (how I internally think of spending all available hours on one project), having a place to live is important — but I’m honestly not going to care if I have a trimmed lawn. I’m also not going to be focused on increasing the value of my house. The most logical thing I can do, from the point of view of operating the startup, is to sell the house.
As long as I value the end result of the best startup I can build for any other end result that I spend time on, I can trade away the work. I can sell the house and rent an apartment that needs minimal cleaning and maintenance. I might even come out ahead with money from the sale that I can add to my savings.
You can’t trade away your obligations to your friends and family, but just about everything else can probably be eliminated, if you’re willing to make some dramatic changes. In some cases, you may need to spend some money to get necessary end results — you have to eat, after all, and buying food that requires minimal prep time does take some cash, whether you go with pizza or something a little healthier. But if you sell most of your belongings, you won’t need to dust ever again. That’s the extreme end of things, but to ensure that you can sink as many hours as possible into building the best project ever, you have to be fairly extreme.
The More Realistic Version
Honestly, most of us aren’t prepared to take a hardcore approach to freeing up time for founding a startup or doing anything else. Selling everything we own and moving into a small box to code for six months or a year is just a tough sell. But you can take some smaller steps in that direction, provided you’re thinking about a longer time frame for what you’re starting.
- Start by clearing off everything you can manage easily. We all have junk cluttering up our day that we know we don’t need to be messing with. Block video games on your computer, stop checking celebrity gossip sites and otherwise eliminate the things you only do when you think nobody’s watching.
- Track your time. Pay attention to where you’re spending your time. That’s the first step to finding more efficient options than you might be using now. You’ll find the big time sinks (hours you could be spending on your startup!) if you’re looking for them.
- Make appointments with yourself and your project. Block out chunks of time whenever you can to work on your project. Don’t let anything else interfere with these appointments. Treat the time like an appointment with the most important client you’ll ever land.
Your time is the most important asset you can invest in your startup. Even if you can’t sink every single hour of your day into it, you need to invest as much time as you physically can.
(Photo credit: Deadlines and Schedules of Events and Important Dates… via Shutterstock)