How can Startup Founders Practice Ruthless Prioritization? [11 Steps Inside]

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As a working woman, I am often asked how I manage my time and everything at once. 

As a startup founder, that happens every day.

My answer to this question has been constant since I began my professional journey 7 years ago. 

And that is – Ruthless Prioritization

And there arises the need to explain what it means and how it works out for me. 

And this blog will be a helping hand for you in that case. 

Even though the title mentions that the blog is for startup founders, you and I both know that I am a human of uniformity. And when I write, it can be more or less applied for everyone 🙂

What is ruthless prioritization?

Since there’s no bookish definition for the term, I will just share what it means for me. 

Ruthless prioritization is an activity and a state of mind where you have your priorities sorted. The “sorting” is the variable here, because it depends on factors you relate to. 

The steps you see in this blog are based on those factors, in addition to a few generic ones. 

Why practice ruthless prioritization?

Considering how our lives have changed lately (thanks to what should not be named), our attention span has been affected the most out of all. 

Count in Instagram reels, YouTube shorts and TikToks, and your day is done. 

At the same time, the will to achieve more in less time has increased manifold. We find people ambitious, working multiple jobs simultaneously, and whatnot. 

Even the interns we have had at TCC. Everyone is doing something or the other, while in school. 

Too many things to do, too little time, and the one sure shot solution is – ruthless prioritization. 

How to practice ruthless prioritization?

Now, let me tell you how I practice it. 

1. Learn to compartmentalize

As the saying goes, work while you work, play while you play. 

And you better do it. Otherwise, you won’t realize where it starts to mess up. 

One more thing I practice when I work is to keep my desk and my documents clean. 

Of course, that has as much to do with my OCD as with my prioritizations, but it does help, more than you can imagine. 

2. Build a routine

No, I am not going to preach about being in the 4 AM club, 5 AM club, 10 AM club 😄

I am merely asking you to divide your day into time slots and assign them to your chores. This will help you focus better and have a timeline to finish something you started. 

Do not forget to keep a buffer for unplanned things. 

Otherwise, let’s face it, we all hold PhDs in procrastination. 

3. Use your lens of objectivity

I have said this before, and I say this now, you have to be practical when it comes to most of the decisions you make. 

Especially if you are running a startup. 

Start seeing everything through the lens of objectivity. Use logic to your advantage and prioritize accordingly. If something is not going to benefit you in the long run, despite the amount of effort you put in, it is time to cut the cord. 

4. Weigh the long-term gains 

While different people might have different factors to prioritize, this is the most common and important one.

What are the benefits in the long term? 

Any and all of your actions are performed for a reason, for a benefit, sooner or later. 

If a blog you write today is going to help you gain some thought leadership for years to come, doing it would be a no-brainer, right? 

Dedicate it to a timeslot in your routine and get it done. 

5. Delegate for ruthless prioritization

It might take time to do this, but learn to trust your team. Delegate what you can’t do, when you have multiple things at the same priority. 

Consequently, your team would learn something, and you would also get a thing or two out of the way. 

Pro-tip: Here’s a book I recommend to learn and practice delegation. 

6. Learn to let go

Phew! One of the hardest things I learned to do in my professional life is to let go. 

Let go of what you can’t do. Let go of tasks and activities which you feel are draining your energy more than you are giving. Let go of those people who take you away from the growth-mindset. 

We have cultivated a habit of doing and achieving all at once. But that is not always possible. Accepting this is not an act of giving up, rather it’s a promise of doing it when you can invest your 100%. It’s all or none, always. 

That’s what we did at TCC too. In 2022, we launched our YouTube channel to share our knowledge and expertise with the world. As 2023 rolled in, we monitored and evaluated how the channel has performed against the effort we put in, and the answer was clear. We decided to keep it on hold for now, so as to focus on other better things in store. 

On the same note, learn to say NO to things when you know you don’t have the bandwidth to invest. It’s easier said than done, I know, we want it all. BUT, keep your mental wellbeing in mind and say no.

7. Give structure to your plans and strategies

Most of the time, we have to plan and execute things on-the-go. Neither do we get a chance to evaluate or do our research, nor do we get to say no. 

While these plans and strategies might work for your good, it is not recommended that you follow this approach. 

Any strategy you build, any campaign you plan – structure it properly, and follow it as much as possible. This would make it easier for you to gauge where it went wrong or amazingly well 🙂

8. Document for better clarity

Connected with my previous point, I always advise people to document everything. 

Note down your thoughts, your experiences, ideas, purposes, plans, goals – I mean everything. You do not need to make a fancy presentation out of it, just do it well enough to make sense 😄

This will give you better clarity when it comes to decision making, and will also keep you accountable for the goals you set for yourself. 

9. Take enough time out to introspect

Normally, this is the first step in my mind when I prioritize. But, it’s not always the ideal time to introspect. 

You introspect after you act, after you get something back from those acts. Did you do it right? Should you have done it? Where did it go wrong? Could you have done better? 

I can answer the last question right now. YES, you can do better, always.

Introspect to see whether the prioritization worked, the results it has fared into, and where could you have done it better. 

I usually do this kind of introspection on a daily basis, which includes a quick evaluation of the things I did, the time I spent on those activities, and the pluses and minuses behind those efforts. 

10. Strike a work-life balance

I am already grinning as I write about this work-life balance. 

It is a myth, or is it? 

Well, I don’t think it’s a myth, but I definitely think that work-life balance is subjective. Everyone has a different approach to it, and can figure their way out of it by themselves. 

But, a good balance or rather, an imbalance is needed to help you prioritize better. It will make you strive to improve your circumstances, every second of the way.

At TCC, we have a 5-day work week for our co-workers, while Mehul and I work on Saturdays. On Sundays, Mehul and I don’t even call each other because that’s our family day.

11. Have clear communication

As someone who loves communicating, it won’t be fair if I rave about improving your communication skills. 

But I’d still like to share my two-cents on this. 

Miscommunication does not help anyone. In fact, it only complicates things and doubles the efforts required to get them done. Good communication, on the other hand, makes your work smooth and meaningful. 

Pro-tip: I have shared some awesome communication tips previously. Check them out

Conclusion 

We always talk about sorting our priorities, and we even suggest the same to our connections. But, how often does it work? How to prioritize? This blog will now help you answer those questions. 

Every professional, every individual has to manage all aspects of their lives by themselves. 

No one else is going to sort it out for them. You try, you fail, you get up and try again, that’s how it would be. 

At the end, to each its own.

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