Your time is gold

David Turnbull

Early-stage startups are hard. Your list of todo’s is a mile long and new challenges are appearing every day, pulling you in all directions. When you can’t throw large piles of money and teams of people at your problems it’s easy to rely on what you do have – your time. But that’s a mistake.

‍Your time is gold, and you need to treat it like the scarce resource that it is.

Like money, the time we spend in one area cannot be used anywhere else. But while most of us try to be sensible with our finances, we are far more relaxed with how we spend with our time. If we want to reach our goals and objectives then we’ll need to be more intentional.

Ask yourself: am I spending my time on high-impact activities that will help me achieve my goals?

You can use the question as a decision-making filter. Should you take that meeting/clear your inbox/film a TikTok video for your startup? Well, will it bring you closer to achieving your goals and objectives? If the answer isn’t a clear yes, then it’s a no.

You should spend some time planning your day so you can make sure you’re focusing on important tasks and projects, rather than responding to whatever lands in your inbox. But be careful not to take the planning too far – it’s easy to fall into the “busy work” trap. If your goal for the week is 10 new customers then spending your entire Monday morning organizing Asana is probably not the best use of your time.

Also, remember Parkinson’s law: work will expand to fill the time allotted for its completion. If you set tight timeboxes for your work then you’ll probably manage to get it done, but if you allow yourself too much “breathing room” you’ll inevitably end up using it.

Some projects and tasks are very important, but still not be a good use of your time. In those cases, don’t confuse low resources with no resources. You don’t have the bandwidth to do everything yourself so if you can afford to trade money for time then you should seriously consider it. Hire a VA to take repetitive tasks off your plate. Get outside help with the business if it will allow you to spend more time focused on building your product.

And remember, your team’s time is also gold. If you’re trying to launch an important feature then your engineers should be writing code, not sitting through OKR planning sessions. Larger companies need layers of structure and formal processes to operate effectively, but early-stage startups don’t.

Instead, the lack of rigid structure can be your advantage, allowing for speed and agility in execution that the larger companies can only dream of.

But it only works if you can avoid the traps, and treat your time like gold.