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Streamlining Your Life in Order to Go Do a Startup (or Anything Else That Will Take Full Focus)

Streamlining Your Life in Order to Go Do a Startup (or Anything Else That Will Take Full Focus)

    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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)

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    Last Updated on June 18, 2019

    5 Types of Leadership Styles (And Which Is Best for You)

    5 Types of Leadership Styles (And Which Is Best for You)

    It takes great leadership skills to build great teams.

    The best leaders have distinctive leadership styles and are not afraid to make the difficult decisions. They course-correct when mistakes happen, manage the egos of team members and set performance standards that are constantly being met and improved upon.

    With a population of more than 327 million, there are literally scores of leadership styles in the world today. In this article, I will talk about the most common leadership styles and how you can determine which works best for you.

    5 Types of Leadership Styles

    I will focus on 5 common styles that I’ve encountered in my career: democratic, autocratic, transformational, transactional and laissez-faire leadership.

    The Democratic Style

    The democratic style seeks collaboration and consensus. Team members are a part of decision-making processes and communication flows up, down and across the organizational chart.

    The democratic style is collaborative. Author and motivational speaker Simon Sinek is an example of a leader who appears to have a democratic leadership style.

      The Autocratic Style

      The autocratic style, on the other hand, centers the preferences, comfort and direction of the organization’s leader. In many instances, the leader makes decisions without soliciting agreement or input from their team.

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      The autocratic style is not appropriate in all situations at all times, but it can be especially useful in certain careers, such as military service, and in certain instances, such as times of crisis. Steve Jobs was said to have had an autocratic leadership style.

      While the democratic style seeks consensus, the autocratic style is less interested in consensus and more interested in adherence to orders. The latter advises what needs to be done and expects close adherence to orders.

        The Transformational Style

        Transformational leaders drive change. They are either brought into organizations to turn things around, restore profitability or improve the culture.

        Alternatively, transformational leaders may have a vision for what customers, stakeholders or constituents may need in the future and work to achieve those goals. They are change agents who are focused on the future.

        Examples of transformational leader are Oprah and Robert C. Smith, the billionaire hedge fund manager who has offered to pay off the student loan debt of the entire 2019 graduating class of Morehouse College.

          The Transactional Style

          Transactional leaders further the immediate agenda. They are concerned about accomplishing a task and doing what they’ve said they’d do. They are less interested in changing the status quo and more focused on ensuring that people do the specific task they have been hired to do.

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          The transactional leadership style is centered on short-term planning. This style can stifle creativity and keep employees stuck in their present roles.

          The Laissez-Faire Style

          The fifth common leadership style is laissez-faire, where team members are invited to help lead the organization.

          In companies with a laissez-faire leadership style, the management structure tends to be flat, meaning it lacks hierarchy. With laissez-faire leadership, team members might wonder who the final decision maker is or can complain about a lack of leadership, which can translate to lack of direction.

          Which Leadership Style do You Practice?

          You can learn a lot about your leadership style by observing your family of origin and your formative working experiences.

          Whether you realize it, from the time you were born up until the time you went to school, you were receiving information on how to lead yourself and others. From the way your parents and siblings interacted with one another, to unspoken and spoken communication norms, you were a sponge for learning what constitutes leadership.

          The same is true of our formative work experiences. When I started my communications career, I worked for a faith-based organization and then a labor union. The style of communication varied from one organization to the other. The leadership required to be successful in each organization was also miles apart. At Lutheran social services, we used language such as “supporting people in need.” At the labor union, we used language such as “supporting the leadership of workers” as they fought for what they needed.

          Many in the media were more than happy to accept my pitch calls when I worked for the faith-based organization, but the same was not true when I worked for a labor union. The quest for media attention that was fair and balanced became more difficult and my approach and style changed from being light-hearted to being more direct with the labor union.

          I didn’t realize the impact those experiences had on how I thought about my leadership until much later in my career.

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          In my early experience, it was not uncommon for team members to have direct, brash and tough conversations with one another as a matter of course. It was the norm, not the exception. I learned to challenge people, boldly state my desires and preferences, and give tough feedback, but I didn’t account for the actions of others fit for me, as a black woman. I didn’t account for gender biases and racial biases.

          What worked well for my white male bosses, did not work well for me as an African American woman. People experienced my directness as being rude and insensitive. While I needed to be more forceful in advancing the organization’s agenda when I worked for labor, that style did not bode well for faith-based social justice organizations who wanted to use the love of Christ to challenge injustice.

          Whereas I received feedback that I needed to develop more gravitas in the workplace when I worked for labor, when I worked for other organizations after the labor union, I was often told to dial it back. This taught me two important lessons about leadership:

          1. Context Matters

          Your leadership style must adjust to each workplace you are employed. The challenges and norms of an organization will shape your leadership style significantly.

          2. Not All Leadership Styles Are Appropriate for the Teams You’re Leading

          When I worked on political campaigns, we worked nonstop. We started at dawn and worked late into the evening. I couldn’t expect that level of round-the-clock work for people at the average nonprofit. Not only couldn’t I expect it, it was actually unhealthy. My habit of consistently waking up at 4 am to work was profoundly unhealthy for me and harmful for the teams I was leading.

          As life coach and spiritual healer Iyanla Vanzant has said,

          “We learn a lot from what is seen, sensed and shared.”

          The message I was sending to my team was ‘I will value you if you work the way that I work, and if you respond to my 4 am, 5 am and 6 am emails.’ I was essentially telling my employees that I expect you to follow my process and practice.

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          As I advanced in my career and began managing more people, I questioned everything I thought I knew about leadership. It was tough. What worked for me in one professional setting did not work in other settings. What worked at one phase of my life didn’t necessarily serve me at later stages.

          When I began managing millennials, I learned that while committed to the work, they had active interests and passions outside of the office. They were not willing to abandon their lives and happiness for the work, regardless of how fulfilling it might have been.

          The Way Forward

          To be an effective leader, you must know yourself incredibly well. You must be self-reflective and also receptive to feedback.

          As fellow Lifehack contributor Mike Bundrant wrote in the article 10 Essential Leadership Qualities That Make a Great Leader:

          “Those who lead must understand human nature, and they start by fully understanding themselves…They know their strengths, and are equally aware of their weaknesses and thus understand the need for team work and the sharing of responsibility.”

          The way to determine your leadership style is to get to know yourself and to be mindful of the feedback you receive from others. Think about the leadership lessons that were seen, sensed and shared in your family of origin. Then think about what feels right for you. Where do you gravitate and what do you tend to avoid in the context of leadership styles?

          If you are really stuck, think about using a personality assessment to shed light on your work patterns and preferences.

          Finally, the path for determining your leadership style is to think about not only what you need, or what your company values, but also what your team needs. They will give you cues on what works for them and you need to respond accordingly.

          Leadership requires flexibility and attentiveness. Contrary to unrealistic notions of leadership, being a leader is less about being served and more about being of service.

          More About Leadership

          Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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