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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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    Published on September 16, 2020

    12 Practical Interview Skills to Help You Land Your Dream Job

    12 Practical Interview Skills to Help You Land Your Dream Job

    Today, with many companies going remote—at least until there’s a COVID-19 vaccine—technical proficiency is a vital skill for every interviewee to master. You may be asked to interview for a job on Zoom or Microsoft Teams. The way you handle yourself in the online interview (your interview skills) will say much about your ability to work from home efficiently.

    Does your workspace look clean or cluttered? Is the area free from noise? Is your home office well lit?

    Once hired, you may be asked to organize meetings on Zoom and other platforms. Along with mastering the technology, you will have to learn to follow certain protocols.

    Now is the time to get up to speed on your technical skills. Learn which interview skills are needed for the particular job for which you are applying and practice them.

    Online learning sites, such as LinkedIn Learning and Udemy, offer courses for free or a nominal membership fee. If you are a DIY type, make use of training videos offered through your particular digital tools.

    Additionally, demonstrating that you have these 12 interview skills will help you land your dream job.

    1. Organization

    When you work in a brick-and-mortar office, some of the organizing is left to others. Your direct supervisor may host a Monday morning quarterback meeting where each worker reports on the progress on their tasks.

    When you work from home, much of the organizing will be left up to you. To a much greater extent than before, you will need to develop a schedule and stick to it. Some tasks may be faster to complete from your home office where you don’t have other workers competing for your attention.

    Conversely, you may find that some tasks that would have gone quickly in an office seem to take forever from your home computer. Your phone may ring a lot, which can distract you, or you may have kids and a spouse who inadvertently disrupt your schedule.

    To do: Set a schedule and stick to it.

    To discuss during your interview: Be specific. Point to the interview skill you utilized to create a schedule for a complex work project and followed it.

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    2. Flexibility

    You set a schedule for the completion of your tasks, but your prospective boss gets their work done between the hours of 2:00 and 8:00 a.m. Your West Coast partners are three hours behind your East Coast partners, and one of your partners lives in England while another lives in Australia.

    Feedback and collaboration (see point 3) may need to happen asynchronously. Be the flexible candidate—the person who is willing to occasionally disrupt their schedule for the greater good of the team.

    For extra credit: don’t just look up time zones, look up whether they observe Daylight Savings Time.

    To do: Be flexible about meeting times.

    To discuss during your interview: Highlight a time when you worked on a team where members lived in different time zones. Discuss your processes.

    3. Collaboration

    As recently as six months ago, before the pandemic raged around the world, collaboration wasn’t quite as essential as it is today. In a remote office setting, collaboration doesn’t just mean working well with others—but actually sharing documents and editing them online on time.

    Several cloud-based tools, such as Google Drive, Basecamp, and Trello, enable the type of collaborative teamwork that most companies want today.

    To do: Download the correct software and practice using it.

    To discuss during your interview: Discuss how you worked remotely with a group. Share how you overcame certain challenges.

    4. Poise

    Murphy’s Law states, “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.”

    When things do go awry, keeping your wits about you will demonstrate your consummate professionalism under fire. This will show your future bosses that you will be able to work well under the pressures of remote work.

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    What could go wrong, you ask? You might be muted without realizing it—your Internet connection may not be robust, your headphones may blip out, your cellphone may ring, Zoom could have an outage. The list goes on and on.

    To do: Make sure you have the most up-to-date versions of Skype and Zoom uploaded.

    To discuss during your interview: Consider highlighting a time when a project did not go as planned. Demonstrate the interview skills that allowed you to rise to the challenge.

    5. Communication

    Your ability to handle online communication is one of the top critical skills you will need to thrive in today’s remote workplace. Download Slack if you haven’t already. Get used to toggling to a different form of online communication if one of your tools fails.

    When it comes to the preferred format for your online interview, demonstrate proficiency by offering several different options. Give your phone number, Google Chat Hangouts name, and Skype ID.

    To do: Familiarize yourself with video conference and online chat tools, such as Slack, Fleep, or Workplace by Facebook.

    To discuss during your interview: Be prepared to share the online communication tools you’re using and examples of how you use each one.

    6. Good Computer Hygiene

    Setting up a backup system for your computer files is one of today’s crucial requirements for working in the digital age. Storing documents that can be shared by team members is also an efficient way to work together on presentations, articles, and reports—although studies show nearly one-third of employees avoid them because of the time it takes to find documents.

    Be prepared in your interview to indicate your experience utilizing this technology, describing how you organize and store files using cloud-based collaboration tools. How do you keep track of links and tabs? Do you use Dropbox? Google Docs? Confluence? Others?

    To do: Take inventory of the cloud-based document sharing and storage systems you know and use.

    To discuss during your interview: Describe the document sharing tools and backup systems you utilize—both for personal protection and professional file sharing.

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    7. Proper Meeting Etiquette

    Today, presenting yourself virtually has its pros and cons. While you only have to show a professional persona from the waist up (make sure to straighten up your office space behind you), you must boost your energy to show that you’re engaged in the discussion.

    Make your voice as upbeat as possible. Have your talking points at the ready and be careful not to ramble on, as long virtual meetings easily become tiresome. Use the mute and chat features to avoid interruptions.

    To do: Once you know the meeting platform, make sure you have it mastered before your interview.

    To discuss during your interview: Offer to share your screen to show an example of a work project— while at the same time demonstrating your prowess with video conferencing tools.

    8. Respecting Feedback

    In the age of working remotely, there may not be as many systems in place to obtain feedback (such as yearly performance reviews). Workers may need to ask for feedback, while managers may need to give more feedback than usual as the team adjusts to working off-site. Respecting feedback is on top of the interview skills list that you should learn.

    Taking a proactive approach with giving and receiving feedback and incorporating it into your work style is a desirable quality that your employers will note.

    To do: Reflect on the positive feedback you’ve received from past employers to bolster your confidence.

    To discuss during your interview: Share a time when you received feedback that made you grow in the job. If you’re a manager, share a time when you gave feedback to an employee who needed to better their job performance.

    9. Project Management

    Staying on task with projects has evolved far past a to-do list, with electronic tools that can track time, manage team workloads, and even do the client billing. While your prospective employer may have its preferred project management program, your experience with any of the various options—whether it’s Basecamp, Teamwork, Smartsheet, or another—will be applicable.

    To do: Know which project management software is likely to be used by the industry in which you’re interviewing, and familiarize yourself with its features.

    To discuss during your interview: Highlight a project management feature that is particularly useful in helping you excel in your work, and explain how you utilize it.

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    10. Staying up to Speed

    Employers expect their remote workers to be technically proficient so that technology runs smoothly and doesn’t create work disruptions. Bosses count on remote workers to know enough about their systems to manage them without relying on the help of overworked IT staff.

    To do: Make sure you have a fast internet connection and have a back-up plan, such as a second computer or other tethered devices.

    To discuss during your interview: Note that you are diligent about keeping your computer and software up to date.

    11. Attention to Cybersecurity Issues

    “Virus” is a loaded term these days. Spreading a computer virus in your company, however, will not only bring productivity to a halt, but it will also make you a pariah. While working from public places using free Wi-Fi (with uneven security provisions) has waned, in pre-pandemic times, coffee shops accounted for 62 percent of Wi-Fi security breaches.

    To do: Keep antivirus software updated and don’t download software without verifying its authenticity.

    To discuss during your interview: Emphasize your awareness of cybersecurity risks and your care in taking necessary safety measures.

    12. Teamwork

    Work relationships now mostly happen in virtual settings, yet employers value team-oriented workers.

    Being a part of a team gives you a sense of connection and shared purpose. A well-honed team understands how mutual reliance makes the sum of its parts greater than when individuals act on their own, improving the end product.

    To do: Take stock of your attributes as a team player and where you can cultivate skills that will enable you to work more collaboratively.

    To discuss during your interview: Inquire about the company’s culture and how it encourages a sense of community despite working remotely.

    Final Thoughts

    Preparing for remote positions available in today’s job market will mean honing your interview skills to highlight your technical abilities as well as your adaptability. By adhering to these To-Do’s and perfecting your online interview skills and charisma, you will rise above the competition and win over any prospective employer.

    More Tips to Improve Your Interview Skills

    Featured photo credit: Christina @ wocintechchat.com via unsplash.com

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