October 25, 2017

Last week’s HelpFest brought Inc.com writer and entrepreneur Damon Brown all the way from San Diego to Durham to chat about productivity. The talk centered on insights from Brown’s latest book, The Productive Bite-Sized Entrepreneur. Brown launched and sold a company, Cuddlr, while being the primary caretaker of his infant son. Below are some quick insights from his talk to entrepreneurs in the American Underground:

1) Measure your focus, not the time spent: People frequently view their effort in terms of hours spent. In the startup community, this is shown by being the first one in, last one out. But Brown points out that productive people are focused, not necessarily grinding out long hours. It’s easy to fill a 70 hour week with needless meetings, social media distractions and endless networking. Rather, a productive entrepreneur determines his/her purpose in the company and ruthlessly focuses on it.

2) Determine when you’re most productive…and protect that time with your life: Brown notes that it isn’t about length of time but finding that section in your day when your best ideas, brainstorms or synthesis happens and protecting it from distractions. For some, this might be the drive home at the end of the day. So rather than filling that time with returning calls to clients, use it to take voice memos of new ideas or products. For others, it could be early in the morning before the deluge of emails. Either way, DO NOT let others control this time for you. Protect it, and your productivity will rise.

3) Always leave space: In our world, we often scheduling things so densely that we’re running from one thing to the next. The problem is that blank space between is often where serendipity happens or you process an idea after the meeting. Your brain is still working after a meeting so walking into the next one means you are rarely present. Noted entrepreneur Chris Heivly has shared this insight after being away from The Startup Factory the past few months — he’s now giving himself the chance to put down his phone between meetings or look up and around himself while walking to the next meeting. It leads to a more relaxed, satisfying day and often gives room for new ideas to bloom.

4) Understand that productivity is a cycle, not a sprint: This is a tough one for entrepreneurs. We think every day must be endlessly productive. But this assumes the human being is more like a machine rather than someone who is dynamic. Some days we are sharp and on point, other days we are in a slump and have a hard time focusing. You will have days where you need to recharge and days where you will be charging hard after a new product or idea. It’s important to recognize both are a part of the same productivity cycle and build in the time to allow for both.

If you are interested in reading more from Damon Brown, we recommend his excellent books available here. We also invite you back to the next HelpFest at the American Underground with Hilton Worldwide Executive Phil Cordell who will lead a presentation on maintaining and growing culture as you scale. RSVP is required here.

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