There's an incredible amount of magic in having very little time to get things done.
That's why at Startups.com, with over 200+ people, we manage our entire workload based on what we plan on getting done by Friday. That's it. No long term planning sessions, no confusing Gantt charts or Trello boards. Just 5 days to get stuff done.
And damn it's effective.
The problem with creating longer planning cycles is that every additional day, week, or month decreases the visibility and accountability for a single day of work. Our focus needs to be reducing the amount of time we can cheat on our time.
Imagine we wanted to lose 10 pounds this year. At lunch, we can order a cheeseburger, because hey, we have all year to make up for it. But if we want to lose 2 pounds by the end of this week, we better get our asses back on that Peloton bike right this minute!
Short windows force us to make the most efficient use of our time because there's no room to "make it up later."
The other reason we force short windows is to make sure all of our attention goes toward our top priorities. When we've got weeks or months to plan, we can jam lots of stuff into our schedule, including many things that may or may not be the most important.
When we've got 5 days, the only things that we can focus on are our priorities, which means we're forced to have a hard discussion about what really matters to us most — which is a very important and cathartic conversation to constantly have.
Just because we operate in short timelines doesn't mean we don't have long term thinking. We zoom out and pick strategy like everyone else. But once the course is set (for now), we zoom all the way back into, "OK now what can we ship tonight?"
Some startups may suffer from lack of planning, but that's separate from a short focus window. A short focus window is about maximizing output with zero room for waste.
Those are two things every startup should constantly strive for.
Optimize For Productivity. Working through peak productivity is easy. It’s the valleys that we’re concerned about. They key is to plan for and optimize the valleys so we can recharge effectively.
Don’t Work Long Hours, Work Efficient Hours. As Founders, we should stop being "long hours" champions and instead start being proud of how much we can do in as few hours as possible.
How Much Should I Be Working? (podcast). Wil and Ryan take a deep dive into the benefits of thinking quality and not quantity when it comes to your weekly punch card.
Wil Schroter is the Founder + CEO @ Startups.com, a startup platform that includes Bizplan, Clarity, Fundable, Launchrock, and Zirtual. He started his first company at age 19 which grew to over $700 million in billings within 5 years (despite his involvement). After that he launched 8 more companies, the last 3 venture backed, to refine his learning of what not to do. He's a seasoned expert at starting companies and a total amateur at everything else.