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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 February 11, 2021

    10 Secrets of Making Every Presentation Fun, Engaging, and Enjoyable

    10 Secrets of Making Every Presentation Fun, Engaging, and Enjoyable

    Not a lot of people are good at public speaking. You could even say that virtually everyone needs to get some practice, and preferably good guidance, before they can learn to stay calm when facing a room full of people. Having all eyes on you is an uncomfortable experience and it takes time to get used to. However, even if you can manage to control your stage fright and stay focused, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your presentation won’t put people to sleep. This is usually the case with long presentations on a very dull subject, with the presenter speaking in a monotone voice and dimming the lights to play a PowerPoint presentation.

    You have to work hard to develop the right skills

    If you want to be remembered and actually get people engaged, you need to make your presentation fun and enjoyable, without coming off as corny or desperate to please. I know, it doesn’t sound that easy at all! A good presentation during a promotional event or given to an important client can be a game changer for your business, so it is easy to get stressed out and fail to perform all that well. Luckily, giving an interesting lecture is something that can be practiced and perfected. There is plenty of advice out there on the topic, but let’s look at the most important aspects of giving a memorable and fun presentation.

    1. Make your presentation short and sweet

    With very long, meandering speeches you tend to lose the audience pretty early on, and from then on out it’s just a test of endurance for the few bravest listeners. Not only will people’s attention start to drop rapidly after sitting and listening to you talk for 30 minutes, but you also risk watering down your core ideas and leaving your audience with little in the way of key phrases and important bits of information to take away from the whole ordeal. Famous speakers throughout history have known the importance of condensing the information by using well thought out sentences and short phrases loaded with meaning.

    JFK’s famous: ”It’s not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country,” expresses so much in very few words and gets the audience thinking. Ancient Spartans, for example were famous for their quick, dry wit, often demolishing their opponent’s argument with a single word or phrase. You’ll want to channel that ancient spirit and be as concise as possible when preparing your presentation.

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    2. Open up with a good ice breaker

    At the beginning, you are new to the audience. There is no rapport, no trust and the atmosphere is fairly neutral. Even if some of the people there know you personally, the concept of you as an authority on a particular matter giving a speech will be foreign to them. The best way to encourage a warm and friendly atmosphere is to get some kind of emotional response out of the audience right at the beginning. It doesn’t matter what emotion it is, you just need to connect with them on a more personal level. It can be shock, curiosity, laughter, knowing smirks, nervousness – whatever gets them out of that initial feeling of indifference. There are different kinds of effective ice-breakers, but generally speaking, the most successful ones utilize one of these tactics:

    • Joking
    • Tugging on their heart strings
    • Dropping a bombastic statement
    • Telling an interesting and relevant anecdote
    • Using a metaphor or drawing comparisons

    You can make a small, self-deprecating comment, stir the presentation one way and then suddenly surprise the audience, use sarcasm, open up with a short childhood story that taught you a lesson, quote a famous person and elaborate on it from personal experience, use an inspirational anecdote or hit them with a bit of nostalgia. Just remember to keep it short and move on once you’ve gotten a reaction.

    3. Keep things simple and to the point

    Once you’re done warming up the crowd you can ease them into the core concepts and important ideas that you will be presenting. Keep the same presentation style thoughout. If you’ve started off a bit ironic, using dry wit, you can’t just jump into a boring monologue. If you’ve started off with a bang, telling a couple of great little jokes and getting the crowd riled up, you have to keep them happy by throwing in little jokes here and there and being generally positive and energetic during the presentation. You need a certain structure that you won’t deviate too far from at any point. A good game plan consists of several important points that need to be addressed efficiently. This means moving on from one point to another in a logical manner, coming to a sound conclusion and making sure to accentuate the key information.

    4. Use a healthy dose of humor

    Some of the best speeches and presentations in the world, which have been heard and viewed by millions, all feature plenty of humor. No matter the subject, a great speaker will use natural charisma, humor and beautiful language to convey their points and get the crowd excited about what they are saying. A great example of building rapport with the audience through the use of humor is Barrack Obama talking about the government building Iron Man.

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    It is silly and fun, and absolutely not something that you would expect from a man in a position of power speaking in such a serious setting – and it’s exactly why it works. The more serious the situation and the bigger the accent on proper social behavior, the harder your jokes will hit.

    5. Try to tell a story instead of ranting

    Some people can do all of the above things right and still manage to turn their short and fun little presentation into a chaotic mess of information. You don’t want your speech to look like you just threw a bunch of information in a blender in no particular order. To avoid rambling, create a strong structure. Start with the ice breaker, introduce the core concepts and your goals briefly, elaborate on the various points in a bit more detail, draw logical conclusions and leave your audience with a clear takeaway message. You want to flow naturally from one part to the next like you are telling a big story chapter by chapter.

    6. Practice your delivery

    Standing in front of the mirror and practicing a speech or presentation is a technique as old as mirrors – well, come to think of it, as old as human speech, since you can see yourself reflected in any clear and calm body of water – and that means that it is tried and true. The theory is incredibly simple, yet the real problem is actually putting in the effort day in and day out. Work on your posture, your tone of voice, accent, pauses between sentences and facial expressions. The most important thing is to talk slowly and loudly enough to be heard and understood clearly. Many famous speakers, such as Demosthenes and King George VI, overcame speech impediments through hard work.

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    7. Move around and use your hands

    Although you won’t instill confidence in your project if you are very jittery, moving around erratically, not knowing what to do with your hands and making fast movements, standing dead still can be just as bad. You shouldn’t be afraid to use your arms and hands when talking as it makes you seem more passionate and confident. The same goes for moving around and taking up some space. However, try to make slower, calculated and deliberate movements. You want your movements to seem powerful, yet effortless. You can achieve this through practice.

    8. Engage the audience by making them relate

    Sometimes you will lose the audience somewhat in techno-babble, numbers, graphs and abstract ideas. At that point it is important to reel them back in using some good, old-fashioned storytelling. Make comparisons to events from everyday life that most people are more than familiar with. By making things look simple, not only will you help your audience get a better understanding of the subject by enabling them to visualize the information more clearly, you will also draw a connection between you. After all, you are all just regular people with similar experience, you just happen to be performing different roles at the moment.

    9. Use funny images in your slides

    Although slides are not really necessary at all times, if you do need them to make your point and present your information more effectively, it’s best to liven them up. They say that facts aren’t always black and white, and your presentation should reflect this. Add a bit of color, make the information stand out and use an interesting animation to switch from slide to slide. You can use the slides to add some more humor, both in terms of the text and the images. An image that is used to elicit a positive response needs to be funny within the context of what you are discussing. For example, if you are discussing the topic of authority, an image of Eric Cartman from South Park in a police uniform, demanding that you respect his “authoritah,” is a nice way to have a bit of fun and lighten things up.

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    10. End on a more serious note

    When all is said and done you will want the audience to remember the core concepts and keep thinking about what you have said after the presentation is over. This is why you should let things naturally calm down and end with an important idea, quote or even a question. Plant a seed in their mind and make them think. Let us turn to Patrick Henry for a great way to end a speech: “Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death.”

    As you can see, there is quite a bit to learn when it comes to giving a good presentation, one that is both memorable and fun. Be sure to work on your skills tirelessly and follow in the footsteps of great orators.

    Featured photo credit: Austin Distel via unsplash.com

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