How to stay productive when you’ve got a tiny startup team

In a small team, it’s common to feel like you have too much to do with too few resources. Making sure you use your time wisely is vital, particularly when your startup is growing fast.

With a reported 42% of small business owners experiencing burnout, founders need to build sustainable systems that are good for both productivity and their mental health. 

Staying mindful of stress levels will actually help your business in the long run too: burnout often leads to a drop in motivation and productivity.

So how can you stay productive when there are only a few of you in the business? And how can you look after the wellbeing of your team during hectic times?

In this article, we’ll discuss:

  • How to best spend your time as a founder
  • Making sure your team stays productive
  • Avoiding stress and burnout
  • Delegating to freelancers using platforms like Fiverr

Organise your day-to-day tasks

To keep on top of your workload, organisation is key. Your startup team could be juggling everything from managing suppliers and potential investors to running sales and marketing activity; it’s incredibly easy for something to slip.  

There are lots of different ways you can prioritise your tasks, as well as different ways to manage your responsibilities. This could be as simple as a handwritten list or there are more formal productivity tools online.

Find time to work on the business

Allocate time away from working in the business to work on the business. It’s tempting to get caught up with the day-to-day activity of your startup, but be ruthless about where you’re spending your time. 

Structuring your diary at the start of each week is a good way to set boundaries. That way, you can balance those all-hands-on-deck moments with time away to focus on top-level tasks.

Recognise when you’re a bottleneck

Whether it’s just you and a co-founder or you’ve started hiring employees, most startup founders struggle to let go. 

It’s normal to want to have sign-off on everything – after all, you know your business better than anyone. However, be honest with yourself about when you’ve become a bottleneck. The last thing you want to do is slow the productivity of everyone else on your team.

Delegate your tasks

It’s likely that there are tasks taking up a fair amount of your time that could be handled by someone else. Even if it’s something you enjoy doing (for example, posting on social media), there comes a point where founders need to start delegating.

You can delegate to other team members, but this isn’t always possible. Many tasks will require a certain skill set or level of experience, and it’s likely your team is already stretched.

This is where external freelancers or contractors come into play. By using a platform like Fiverr, you can offload tasks to qualified professionals who you can trust to deliver to a high standard. 

Some examples of work you could delegate to freelancers include:

Freelancers are a great option when you’re at a point where your workload is growing beyond your team, but your finances would struggle to hire someone full time.

Make sure your team have all the information they need

Making it easy for your team to access all the information they need will really speed up productivity. 

Whether it be on a file storage system (such as Google Drive or OneDrive) or another alternative, having a platform where the team can access and share files reduces a lot of hassle in the day to day.

There are other perks of file storage systems too. You can:

  • Comment and tag people in a file
  • See any edits happening live 
  • Access the files from any device
  • Safely share files with external freelancers

Encourage team communication

Even if you all sit together in an office or coworking space, encouraging your team to communicate regularly will boost productivity. 

Hold weekly team meetings and make sure everyone’s up to date with what’s happening and what your focus is for the next month. Things change quickly in a startup, so having structured meetings will make sure everyone is pulling in the same direction.

Being open with communication will also help your team feel more comfortable asking questions. That means less time will be wasted on them trying to figure things out independently.

Work with your team to help their productivity

Sometimes people may need a bit of a helping hand to manage their workload and remain productive. 

Advise them to focus on one thing at a time – blocking out time to work on a specific task (for example, two hours for planning a marketing campaign) is an effective way to stay on track.

Give them the option to work from home if they find that working in an office is too noisy and/or disruptive, or vice-versa.

There’s also a mass of productivity tools at your disposal, many of which have free versions if you’re on a budget. Trello provides visibility over the status of projects and Todoist is a great way to visualise your to-do list. Test a few and see what works for you and your team.

Check in on staff wellbeing

Life is fast paced in a startup. It’s important to prevent staff from feeling overwhelmed with work, otherwise they may not stick around for long.

Stay on top of your staff workloads by scheduling regular one-to-ones and watching out for signs of stress.

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Holly Sawyer
Holly is the Marketing Manager at Inkwell, the company behind The Pitch.

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