Brian Ma's Blog (@zealoustiger)

Weekly insights from an Entreprenuer: To spend one year as a tiger is better than to live forever as sheep

Running a Startup: Time management

Startups are time consuming.  At least 10 hour days, 7 days a week.  Not because you have to, but because you want to.  At this rate, even the greatest of the greats will burn out.  So how do you prevent yourself and your team from burning out?  Here’s a couple strategies we’ve tried, maybe some of them will help you:


4 hour sprints: Creative people (developers, designers, etc) need time alone to get things done.  Sure, teamwork and discussions are necessary, but studies have shown that context switches and interruptions – even in the form of someone asking a quick question – actually do a lot of harm to productivity.  That’s why every day, we have 2 large blocks of time periods around 3 to 4 hours each where everyone puts on headphones and just works on their part.  It works like a charm.  A lot gets done.

Eat together: We also cook together, but just eating together works too.  A lot of really good things happen when you eat together – you learn about each others quirks, you have extra time to discuss stuff, you get everyone comfortable with contributing, you can talk about stuff completely unrelated to work, etc.  Teams that eat together, stay together.

Play: Wii’s, Xbox’s, guitar hero, super smash, etc are a must.  No better way to relieve the stress and take your head off that annoying bug than kicking each other’s butt in an epic game.  Ah, so many stories to tell.

Work from home: Find people that work well by themselves and can motivate themselves even when not at ‘work’.  Working at home is one of the best things ever – you’re more relaxed, you dramatically lower the chance of someone interrupting you, and you’re on your own schedule.  This also has the strange benefit of making it so ‘work’ never ends.  :)

We’ve played around a ton with how we work as a team and have settled on something that combines the 4 of the above items.  We work together and meet 2 to 3 days a week.  Usually M, W, F, where a typical day contains of: cook breakfast, work 4 hours, cook/eat lunch, smash, work 4 hours, go home, shower, work 4 hours.  All the rest of the days (weekends included), we work by ourselves at home and stay on IM for any immediate needs.  Works really well for us, but I’m sure every team is different.

It takes a long time to find that “team rhythm” but once you’ve found it, it’s a great feeling.  Cause things get done.

One response to “Running a Startup: Time management

  1. dannielo December 4, 2008 at 8:22 am

    If you would like a tool to manage your small business activities and Projects, you can use this web aplication:

    You can use it to manage and prioritize your Goals (for business but also in other areas of your life), Projects and Tasks. It has a Checklists section, for the routines and repetitive activities that any business has to do. Also, it features a Schedules section and a Calendar, for scheduling you time and activities.

    Some features from GTD are also present, like Contexts and Next Actions.

    And it’s available on the mobile phone too, so you can access it from anywhere.

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