What’s the best way to keep productivity high?

Sam Altman (President at Y Combinator)
Startup advice, briefly – Sam Altman

Be decisive and act quickly. Instead of thinking about making a decision over the course of week, think about making it in an hour, and getting it done in the next hour.

Paul Graham (Co-Founder & Partner at Y Combinator)
Startups in 13 Sentences

Don’t get demoralized. Though the immediate cause of death in a startup tends to be running out of money, the underlying cause is usually lack of focus. Either the company is run by stupid people (which can’t be fixed with advice) or the people are smart but got demoralized.

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
The problem with collaboration, and why goals should have single “owners” | A Founder’s Notebook

Maximize what you can get done on your own. Before you ask for help from others, get as far along as possible on your own. Identify the key person you need to collaborate with, and don’t involve anyone else. Be explicit about what you need from people. Minimize your “ask” of other people’s time

Ron Friedman (Founder of ignite80, Social Psychologist)
The Collaboration Paradox: Why Working Together Often Yields Weaker Results

Collaborations breed false confidence. A study in Psychological Science found that when we work with others to reach a decision, we become overly confident in the accuracy of our collective thinking. Collaborations introduce pressures to conform. Studies show that group members tend to conform toward the majority view, even in cases when they know the majority view is wrong. Collaborations promote laziness. Ever been to a meeting where you’re the… (read more)

Adam Grant (Wharton professor, NYT writer)
9 Productivity Tips from People Who Write About Productivity

Top performers, Grant argues, avoid saying yes to every helping opportunity. Instead, they specialize in one or two forms of helping that they genuinely enjoy and excel at uniquely.

Unknown (who knows!?)
Working With McKinsey: What Is the “Obligation to Dissent” at McKinsey?

[At McKinsey] If your boss knows that you disagree with something, you will be reminded of your “obligation to dissent“. The “obligation” comes from the fact that at McKinsey, voicing your dissent is not optional, it is required.

James Whittaker (Dintinguished Engineer and Technical Evangelist at Microsoft)
The Anti Meeting Culture | JW on Tech

Build an anti-meeting culture within your organization. Every meeting is useless until proven otherwise. Meeting organizers need to be put on notice: make this meeting meaningful, it’s your job.

Adam Grant (Wharton professor, NYT writer)
9 Productivity Tips from People Who Write About Productivity

Intentionally leave important tasks incomplete. We often race to finish assignments quickly so that we can move on to the next item on our list. [There is a] human tendency to ruminate over unfinished tasks, otherwise known as the Zeigarnick Effect. If you start a project and leave it unfinished, you’re bound to think about it more frequently than after it’s done. Instead of aiming to complete important tasks in one sitting, try leaving them inco… (read more)

Paul Graham (Co-Founder & Partner at Y Combinator)
Economic Inequality

One of the most important principles in Silicon Valley is that “you make what you measure. ” It means that if you pick some number to focus on, it will tend to improve, but that you have to choose the right number, because only the one you choose will improve

Ben Horowitz (Co-Founder & Partner @ Andreessen Horowitz)
The difference between a great company and a lousy company | A Founder’s Notebook

In good organizations, people can focus on their work and have confidence that if they get their work done, good things will happen for both the company and them personally. In a poor organization, people spend much of their time fighting organizational boundaries, infighting, and broken processes. They are not even clear on what their jobs are, so there is no way to know if they are getting the job done or not.

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
The difference between a great company and a lousy company | A Founder’s Notebook

How do you ensure that if people get their work done, good things will happen for both the company and them personally? Define clear goals; identify levers to achieve those goals; appoint owners; measure results

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
Limiting decision fatigue | A Founder’s Notebook

Limit decision fatigue. In decision making and psychology, decision fatigue refers to the deteriorating quality of decisions made by an individual, after a long session of decision making. It is now understood as one of the causes of irrational trade-offs in decision making. For instance, judges in court have been shown to make less favorable decisions later in the day than early in the day. This is one of the reasons why it’s important to delega… (read more)

Tony Schwartz (CEO of The Energy Project)
The Power of Stepping Back

Its not possible to race between meetings and e-mail all day long, and simultaneously reflect on what all this frenzied activity is accomplishing. [I] offer all of our employees the opportunity to take time away from the office, simply for reflection. All I ask is that they come back afterward and share with their colleagues, in some form, whatever insights they’ve had.

Mark Suster (Managing Partner at Upfront Ventures)
Do Less. More. | Bothsides of the Table

Success often comes from doing a few things extraordinarily well and noticeably better than the competition and is measured in customer feedback, product engagement, growth in usage and ultimately in revenue growth. Do less. And do the things that you ARE doing better and with higher quality. Have a shorter to-do list with more things that are in the “done” category.

Lew Cirne (Founder & CEO at New Relic)
Six chairs for an ideal meeting

One of the things I do on a quarterly basis is to review the standing meetings on my calendar, and every one of them ought to be able defend itself. The point is not to keep going to that meeting just because you always have to go. I think it’s a great practice to say, “OK, we meet every Thursday on this. Does it have to be these people every Thursday? Why?”

David Jackson (Founder, Seeking Alpha)
Avoiding mediocrity by showing “tough love” | A Founder’s Notebook

Avoid mediocrity by showing “tough love”

Matt Blumberg (Co-Founder, Chief Executive Officer & Chairman @ Return Path)
The Management Team – Guest Post From Matt Blumberg – AVC

We consistently work at improving our management skills. We have a strong culture of 360 feedback, development plans, coaching, and post mortems on major incidents, both as individuals and as a senior team

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
The Nature Of The Firm and Work Markets – AVC

In The Nature Of The Firm, Coase investigates why “individuals choose to form partnerships, companies and other business entities rather than trading bilaterally through contracts on a market.” Coase argues that transaction costs that make “trading bilaterally through contracts” expensive spur the organization of firms. And if those transaction costs could be eliminated, more individuals would choose to trade with each other rather than forming p… (read more)

Seth Godin (Founder at Yoyodyne Entertainment)
Seth’s Blog: Paying the smart phone tax

Like most things that are taxed, smart phones are often worth it, creating connections and giving us information when we need it. Perhaps, though, turning our phones off for six hours a day would be a useful way to cornering us into creating work we can’t live without.

Fred Wilson (Co-Founder and Partner at Union Square Ventures)
Focus – AVC

Many entrepreneurs and CEOs misjudge how many things they and their team can do well. It is always less than you think. I once was involved in a 75 employee company that was in three different businesses. It took a difficult financing to convince the CEO to exit two of those businesses, but it was the best move that company made. The next three years were a time of explosive growth for that company.

Paul Graham (Co-Founder & Partner at Y Combinator)
Startups in 13 Sentences

You make what you measure. Merely measuring something has an uncanny tendency to improve it. If you want to make your user numbers go up, put a big piece of paper on your wall and every day plot the number of users

Paul Graham (Co-Founder & Partner at Y Combinator)
Startups in 13 Sentences

Avoid distractions. Nothing kills startups like distractions. The worst type are those that pay money: day jobs, consulting, profitable side-projects. The startup may have more long-term potential, but you’ll always interrupt working on it to answer calls from people paying you now. Paradoxically, fundraising is this type of distraction, so try to minimize that too

Sam Altman (President at Y Combinator)
The Post-YC Slump – Sam Altman

Work on real work. Stay focused on building a product your users love and hitting your growth targets. Try to have a board and peers who will make you hold yourself accountable. Make the mistake of focusing too much on what matters most, not too little, and relentlessly protect your time from everything else.

Sam Altman (President at Y Combinator)
How things get done – Sam Altman

A combination of focus and personal connections. Charlie Rose said this to Paul Graham, who told it to me. The Y Combinator version of focus is write code and talk to users. On the personal relationships part, most people eventually realize its hard to do really good things by yourself.

Sam Altman (President at Y Combinator)
Startup Playbook

A surprising amount of our advice at YC is of the form just ask them or just do it. First-time founders think there must be some secret for when you need something from someone or you want to do some new thing. Just be direct, be willing to ask for what you want, and don’t be a jerk.

Joel Spolsky (CEO @ Stack Exchange)
Software Inventory – Joel on Software

In between each of these stages, inventory can pile up. For example, when a programmer finishes implementing their code (stage 3) they give it to a tester to check (stage 4). At any given time, there is a certain amount of code waiting to be tested. That code is inventory.
The “cost” of code inventory is huge.

Matt Blumberg (Co-Founder, Chief Executive Officer & Chairman @ Return Path)
The Management Team – Guest Post From Matt Blumberg – AVC

We learn from the successes and failures of others whenever possible. My team regularly engages as individuals in rigorous external benchmarking to understand how peers at other companies – preferably ones either like us or larger – operate. We methodically pick benchmarking candidates.

Seth Godin (Founder at Yoyodyne Entertainment)
Seth’s Blog: Prep, spec, fit and finish

Dinner at a fine restaurant is mostly cleaning, chopping, mise en place and service, not the part we see on the plate itself. And yet… We often get confused about which part is important, which is worth our time, which is the point of the exercise. Without a doubt, if the thing we built isn’t of high quality, don’t bother. But it turns out that all the other parts, the parts that we think might be beneath us, it’s those that matter the most. W… (read more)

Mitchell Harper (Co-Founder & Board Member @ Bigcommerce)
28 things I’d do differently next time around — Medium

Fire fast and be less forgiving of mistakes, especially in departments that are measured with raw numbers, like sales and marketing

Ben Erez (Product at Breeze)
22 Mistakes I Made as a First Time Founder — Viabilify

In the process of building a startup, I found myself thinking sometimes about the long term vision and how what I was doing on a given day fed into the 1-year, 3-year, and 5-year vision. This was an inevitable result of all the stories you hear about people spending years building something before they “make it”. The problem with that long-term thinking is that it takes you out of the present and guess what? The present is the only place where … (read more)

Sam Gerstenzang (Director of Product at Imgur)
16 product things I learned at Imgur — Medium

Find the one thing you need to get right and spend most of your time on it. You can screw up basically everything else.

Ron Friedman (Founder of ignite80, Social Psychologist)
How to Spend the First 10 Minutes of Your Day

Ask yourself this question the moment you sit at your desk: The day is over and I am leaving the office with a tremendous sense of accomplishment. What have I achieved?

Geoffrey James (a contributing editor for Inc.com, is an author of the award-winning blog Sales Source)
How many hours per week should you work to maximize your impact? | A Founder’s Notebook

Conventional business wisdom is that there’s a positive correlation between long work hours and employee productivity. Instead, the opposite is true. It’s now known that long work hours reduce creativity by decreasing the amount of waking hours when the mind is at rest.

Shane Parrish (Curator of the popular Farnam Street Blog)
9 Habits You Need to Stop Now

Do not answer phone calls from people you don’t know. Do not e-mail first thing in the morning or last thing at night. Do not check email constantly. Do not work more to fix being too busy. Do not expect work to fill a void that non-work relationships and activities should.

Peter Nixey (Founder at Copyin)
Peter Nixey – The most important question in a startup: Am I…

As you put jobs into your daily to-do list, ask yourself: “is this proactive or reactive”? If it’s the former and it’s “tangible, fail-able and do-able” then it’s probably an excellent task.