Having limited resources is a struggle for so many startup companies. (I hear you, “Tell me something I don’t know”). Time and money are the obvious ones, hence the late nights and leftovers. You work hard to make every hour count and squeeze the best value out of every last penny. However, the efficient allocation of one resource is often overlooked.
That resource is you; the limited supply of manpower that is you and your co-founders, if you have any. Start-up teams are small and it is therefore absolutely crucial that you direct your energy wisely. As the entrepreneur, you are the person with the ideas driving the company, but in the beginning, you might also be the person doing endless data entry, proofreading and tea making. What happens when you’re sucked into a whirlpool of menial tasks by the company which you envisioned making waves? You simply can’t expect your business to grow if you spend every day ticking off a to-do list. Remember that thing Einstein said about insanity?
“Doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results”.
Making these subtle shifts in the way you think about and engage in running your startup can help you to optimise your creativity and efficiency and avoid a monotonous task-trap.
Think like an artist. Art doesn’t teach you what to think, it teaches you how to think. People whose strengths lie in subject areas such as maths or science are handed a set of rules. They can only work within these confines or the work is not valid. On the other hand, people better at art or music are encouraged to create new work on their own terms. Artists write their own rulebooks and do so with conviction. Your talent may not be painting or composing, but adopting the fearless creative attitude of an artist could lead you to exciting, new ideas and solutions.
“Confidence is crucial. Artists don’t seek permission to paint or write or act or sing; they just do it,” says Will Gompertz, Arts Editor for the BBC.
2. There’s no time for work-life balance: Myth. Having focus is a necessity, but you want to avoid getting tunnel vision. Going to events related to your industry is a no-brainer as a start-up. Also, doing things you don’t perceive to be relevant can be refreshing and equally beneficial. The Beatles creative process comprised a 10:30am start and a 5:30pm finish. Every evening after clocking out they’d go out together, meaning that the next morning, they actually had things to talk about and ideas for their next song. Make time for doing something different. You don’t know who you will meet or what you will learn.
3. Teach a team member. As your company grows, act like Pixar (where even the janitor is a film-maker), and ensure that everyone on your team would feel capable and confident in any role. Swap roles for a day. Doing this can have many benefits. Showing somebody else what your role entails will bring you clarity and help you establish your priorities, the capabilities of your team will undoubtedly improve and you may even teach each other more efficient ways of working. This exercise is also bound to improve morale and increase creativity.
4. Stop looking at statistics and remind yourself you can shape them. As a young business, gaining positive reactions from your audience and/or customers is high on the list of priorities, and rightly so. However, when you are constantly pandering to feedback and statistics, it can begin to feel like they’re in control of you, instead of the other way round. If you think you’re you’re chasing your tail, it’s time to take a step back. This can be as simple as looking at your company’s twitter account, for example. Set aside a couple of days, or a week during which you do not look at analytics once. Spend the time you would have spent analysing, coming up with new things to share or different ways to tweet. Whether the engagement ends up being greater or less than before, it will remind you that you do have control over the responses you generate.
The points above are just suggested ways of getting yourself out of the burrow to refresh and refocus your energy. When you’re busy starting a business, and your To-do list never ends, it can be tempting to go for the quick wins; going to meetings, responding to emails and sending tweets. So some of the ideas above may seem scary. Who will man the ship while I’m re-energising? But every once in a while it is crucial, and if you don’t you can become jaded and all of your work will suffer.
As creativity expert Chris Baréz-Brown, who has even given a TED Talk on the subject, puts it:
“We have to cast aside our comfortable, mentally unchallenging habit loops in order to allow our minds and thoughts to flow fluidly, but to do so requires our brains to work very hard. Given that the human brain, even on tick over mode, uses up to 20% of the body’s energy resources (more than any other single organ) it is vital to ensure that the energy level of a creative session is as high as it can be.”