I’m willing to try almost anything to be more productive.
One of the most beneficial practices I’ve adopted in pursuit of productivity is ketamine infusion therapy. It’s the deepest, most powerful meditation I’ve ever experienced. You can accomplish in 30 minutes what could take a month with traditional meditation.
As a founder, especially when you’re running a small company that lives or dies by you, it’s imperative to maximize your time to get the highest ROI possible. Through running Hydros while juggling investment projects and building my network, I’ve found that productivity is about prioritizing what really matters—no more than one or two major goals.
Here are some productivity strategies I stand by:
1. Establish your most important goals and ruthlessly prioritize accordingly.
When you keep the big picture in clear focus at all times, you start to see a value curve—the things that really do matter and the things that really don’t matter all that much.
Hydros is my top priority right now, for example. My company has much higher potential than all my other side projects. Of course, there are lots of small tasks—touching base with investors and team members, taking phone calls, etc.—that amount to big moves for my company. That’s where most of my time goes.
How can you squeeze out the most value for your time and effort? Figure it out, and do that.
2. Learn how to say no.
As is true for most founders and investors, there’s a constant demand for my time. I simply don’t have enough of it to give. So I’ve learned how to say no—and more importantly, when to say no.
I recently decided I wanted to resign as the head of a networking organization because I just didn’t have the time. But they requested that I stay on in a more hands-off role, since they wanted to continue to leverage my name and connections. They still sometimes email me with requests, and while it’s difficult, I’ve consistently told them that I can’t help—I have more important responsibilities and no time to spare.
Of course, you don’t want to burn bridges, so you have to say no the right way. If you’re respectful and kind and explain why you don’t have the bandwidth, people should understand. Most importantly, have the conviction to stay firm in your “no” when necessary.
3. Hire the right people and delegate to them as much as possible.
Arm your organization with the best people available—a well-rounded team with complementary skillsets. Once you do, provide that team with the necessary resources.
Then, establish a culture of independence. Your team should only come to you when they really need you. When you trust your people to do an excellent job on their own—and they feel empowered to operate and make decisions without you—then you can focus on big-picture, needle-moving stuff.
For example, I tell my sales team, “If it’s extremely important, I’ll make time for it. Always. But make sure my involvement is crucial.” It’s about setting a tone: I’m always available—but only when absolutely necessary.
When I have the support of a skilled, independent team, I’m so much more productive.
4. Determine what you can handle assuming that everything in your life goes wrong at the same time.
People tend to underestimate just how chaotic your situation can become very quickly. It’s best to assume that, at some point, things will take an unexpected turn for the worse and prepare for it.
Last year, our COO was diagnosed with cancer and was forced to leave. A key team member quit shortly thereafter. Shaken, I had to recruit several new people while handling a bunch of business responsibilities I wasn’t used to handling. In the middle of all this, my dad was diagnosed with a serious illness. It was challenging to say the least.
Take a hard look at what’s on your plate when things are going smoothly. If you’re already stretched thin, think of how much tougher things would be if you got hit with a series of unfortunate events and cut back accordingly.
5. Work hard, but take care of yourself.
As a founder, there will be times you need to push yourself, work intensely for long hours, travel often. At some point, you’ll realize time management and your health—psychological, physical, and emotional—are very closely related. Self-care is important.
I recently juggled a video shoot, showing VIPs around the medical practice I invest in, and dealing with my dad being in the hospital—all in one crazy week. So I then took a day off and dedicated 14 hours to sleep.
To recharge, I also enjoy cold plunges, nature walks, and renting an AirBnB alone for deep, reflective thought. I get so little time alone that it’s become a meaningful, powerful experience.
When you haven’t had a day off in weeks and feel like you’re on the brink of insanity, take a mental health day. Sure, there will be a bit of backlog tomorrow, but that’s OK. Burning out would be far worse.
6. Maximize your time.
Last week, I had my new car rain-proofed, which took about two hours. Instead of sitting in the waiting room doing nothing, I went for a walk on a nearby trail. When I passed an empty playground, I stopped and did pull-ups on the jungle gym. When I picked up my car, I felt recharged. And when I returned to work right after, I was amped up to close out the day with some phone calls and a meeting.
Whenever you find yourself with idle time, instead of playing around on your phone, consider how you could be productive. Even if it’s just going for a walk to clear your head.
7. Find areas where you can get more bang for your buck.
If you want to be optimally productive, you need to fine-tune your strategies and processes—AKA do only that which offers the highest return.
Early on at Hydros, we focused on placing our product in small, family-owned stores. But we quickly realized this was inefficient—we were dealing with 15 brokers plus individual stores, which was a lot of work and expense. While it was sustainable at the time, we knew there was a better way.
Today, we focus on medium-sized retailers—regional 20-to-30-store organizations, mostly—throughout the U.S. Dealing with these companies is much more centralized and efficient, particularly when working through specialized brokers. We call them up and they handle virtually everything, from paperwork to distribution to Amazon warehouses and stores like Target and Wal-Mart. And managing one relationship can be worth millions of dollars in revenue. Simply put, this business model is a much bigger bang for our buck (and time and energy).
If you think there might be a way to get more out of your time, optimize your process, be more efficient, search for it and implement it. Never settle for an “OK” return on your finite time.