Three months of my life have been excruciatingly hectic while I was working with two startups at a time. The situation just dawned on me rather than me pushing for it. Here is how it happened.
8 months into the first startup I was doing good, learning a lot and enjoying my life. I was in love with my work and bonus points it was in music space. I use to discover and listen to great music all day long. Then one fine day I was contacted by another company who liked my enthusiasm level and my love for startup world. They made an offer to a young 22 year old lad who was still learning. I knew it was tough to work for two startups because startups demand attention and a lot of hard work but somehow the idea excited me so much that I ended up working for both. It seemed manageable at first but it started getting crazier. The better part of the whole situation was that I was the only person handling the complete online marketing operation in both the startups so there was nobody to give me shit. However this also made me accountable for everything. It was in a way blessing as I was the one figuring out strategies and implementing them however it was also a pain in the ass to research on two different markets at the same time and retain everything in the head by the end of the day.
While it was hectic working 12 hours a day apart from 3 hours of travelling it was a joy ride which taught me a lot. I learnt how to effectively manage my personal and professional lives but it came at cost which I hope you don’t pay. So take another 11 minutes and finish reading this post.
Here are my experiences and how you may or may not be able to deal with it:
First experience is always the hardest
It’s like your first sex, you have a lot of enthusiasm and theoretical knowledge but you are inexperienced. You think you’ll rock it but you eventually fumble up somewhere. Being a nerd it was exciting for me to work on both the projects. I thought I’ll manage it, I thought I’ll go by text-book and it will all be fine but I fucked it up. Sleeping late, waking up early, not having breakfast and countless other shortcuts to save time bit me in the ass after every few days.
Probable Solution: Following a perfect schedule is next to impossible because you are human and not a machine. Know your limits and schedule your day accordingly. Add proper breaks in your schedule and take them no matter how much work is pending. If you know you can work for 10 productive hours then limit yourself to that, if you go for extra 2 you will disturb your next work cycle.
Missing out important stuff happens automatically
Remember I was bit in the ass? The biggest side effect was that I was forgetting small yet important things. Had to reply to someone, had to go for a local meetup, wash clothes, skype call, follow up with someone and the list goes on. Every day I was missing out on something small which was frustrating. To-do list wasn’t cutting it for me as I wasn’t even able to update it.
Solution: Keep post-it with you. Every time you have an important task to do in near future, write it on a post-it and carry the post-it pad with you, always. The trick is to not write the complete task but to jot down keywords like name, time and what to do within 6-7 words. This saves few minutes of your work every day. I’m old school and I still use a notebook. You might be comfortable with applications like evernote, so go for it.
Sleep deprived you make more mistakes
I’m still not able to find a solution for this. I personally need 8-9 hours of peaceful sleep to keep my brain 100% active throughout the day and I was actually sleeping for only 4-5 hours which made me dull and non-productive. Out of my 12 hours of work schedule my actual productive hours were hardly 7-8. If I would have added 4 extra hours to my sleep I would have been more productive. Know how much rest your body demands and take it. It’s better to work 8 hours with full concentration rather than 12 hours with half concentration.
You are always fire fighting (chasing the next task) so you’re unable to think from a strategic level
This was a pathetic situation which I realized one day out of the blue. I had infinite things to do and I was moving from one task to another without realizing where I’m actually heading. Finishing up tasks is good but it’s even more important to know how those small tasks are adding up to your strategy you defined in the first place.
Probable Solution: Introspection. Every week keep a few hours just for this. Sit back, relax, have a beer and think about what you’ve been doing for the whole week and then try to analyse if it syncs up with the strategy. If not then stop working on those tasks and first figure out how to move ahead so that all your actions and work is fruitful in the end.
Fucking up your health is the biggest blunder
This might not apply to everyone but it was a blunder I did. Don’t play with your health. A person earns to live properly and enjoy a healthy life and if you are not doing that there is no point in earning and working so hard.
Initial learning curve is too much
Don’t be afraid if initially you don’t understand what the fuck is happening. It took me 3 months to figure out how exactly things work in our product; what are we lacking and what are our future goals. So prepare yourself because initial learning curve will always be steep and it’s ok to feel stupid for a few months.
Interference is bound to happen
You can’t keep the two jobs separate, you just can’t. You are working in your day job and suddenly an email pops-up with a problem from the second company and you are thinking ‘What the hell should I do at this moment?’ You go out make a few calls, settle the situation for then and come back. This is just one small case and it keeps on happening.
This breaks your complete work flow and you are bound to lose a lot of time.
Solution: Let your second company know that you won’t be able to do anything while you are at your first job. Secondly don’t open your second company’s emails, skype, asana or any other communication channel while you are working for the first. I’m assuming that only your second company knows that you are working at two places because your first company will almost never allow you to work anywhere else especially in the startup world.
You are unable to work on your personal brand
You would be too busy handling all the marketing channels of the companies that you won’t be able to use yours. While you’re achieving 1000 followers mark for your companies your personal twitter account will still be short of 100.
Solution: You have only two choices here, you either have to be a multi-tasker if you want to carry everything together or you need to devote special time to your personal brand. Moreover this point won’t matter if you don’t care about your personal brand which I think you should.
I still have less than 100 followers on twitter even though I tweet some interesting stuff. Follow me maybe? 😉
Your social life is zero
Common sense says if you devote 12 hours a day to work you are bound to have zero social life and it’s true. You are unable to meet your friends; even if you go out for a few drinks you’ll still be thinking about your pending tasks and how to finish them.
Solution: Sorry folks I’m not able to come up with a solution. You have one? Tell me in comments.
Eliminate all the non-essential things
This is one of the most trivial yet the most overlooked part. You know you are working with two companies, every single minute of your day counts and if you’re still indulging in unimportant things you are wasting your time. Unimportant things can vary for every individual. For me it was watching TV series, Facebook and getting carried away every time someone mentioned beer. 😉
Solution: Figure out what’s unimportant in your life and reduce it if not eliminate it completely.
Focus more on action rather than planning
This is one of the best things you can do to yourself every day. I’m not saying planning is a waste of time but your ratio of action to planning should be 9 is to 1.
Take 2 minutes and quickly analyse how many times you have thought of doing something but ended up not doing it, either because of your poor time management or lack of enthusiasm or just because you’re lazy?
In Noah Kagan’s terms ‘Imagine how good you’d be if you committed just 1 hour a day for a month to something you want to improve.’
Solution: Do I need to say anything? And for the record, I’m still trying to adopt it. It seems simpler but is lot tougher than you’d expect.
Have you worked with two startups at a time? Share your experiences in the comment.