“The TV had filled our lives with noise. In the silence, we could hear our thoughts,” writes one founder.
By Unmana Datta (Co-founder, Markitty)
I tell everyone who asks: my husband and I would not have started our business if we hadn’t gotten rid of our TV.
Sometime in late 2011, I discussed with my husband about building a marketing reporting tool that would make my work – and that of other online marketers like me – easier. Coincidentally, a couple of weeks later, our TV broke down.
With jobs that kept us both working late, plonking down in front of the TV every night had become a ritual. So when the TV broke down, we recognized this as an opportunity. We decided not to replace it right away, to see if we could live without it.
It changed our lives.
We had more time to think, and more time to talk to each other. Most weeknights, we spent hours talking about our product idea. It began to take shape. It would be built for small businesses, who are the most time and resource-pressed. It would make marketing easier.
If we had had the TV, even if we had come up with the idea, we would never have gone forward with it. But as it was, we got back from our day jobs late at night but spent time on research and planning. We went on walks and hashed out plans and wrote them down when we got home. We shared our fears of jumping into something so unknown, so terrifying.
We even made a business plan. And that drove it home – this wasn’t just an idea, it would be a business.
The TV had filled our lives with noise. In the silence, we could hear our thoughts, our dreams.
We quit our jobs and plunged into entrepreneurship. It’s been a year and a half since we got rid of the TV, but we haven’t missed it. For entertainment, we read, play games, or even watch videos online. But no more ads, no designated TV time.
And when we want to think or talk about something important, we can hear ourselves loud and clear.
Does that mean you need to donate your lovely new LCD TV? Only if you think this will work for you. It isn’t about the TV, really. (But you know that.) It’s about minimizing distractions, about reducing the noise, so you can focus on your work. For you, it might not be the TV, it might be something else. Here are a few other things that might work for you:
Reduce Distractions From Your Work Space
I work better when my desk is facing a wall but near a window. It helps me concentrate if I have a blank space in front of me, but I can look out into the distance once in a while and take a little break from the screen. I have a bunch of little bamboo plants nearby to make me feel better about sitting in a room all day. And if the neighborhood kids are making too much noise, I turn on rainymood.com.
One of the first things we bought after starting out was a whiteboard. We use it to brainstorm and explain ideas to each other, and also to put up important tasks or goals or even motivational messages. It helps to see these written out as soon as we walk into the room, and puts me in a mood for work.
Figure out what makes for a better work environment for you. Do you work better alone or sitting next to your co-founder/colleagues, at home or in a café? Can you make little changes to your office to feel more productive?
Change Your Schedule
At my last job, my boss was in the U.S. (I’m in India), so the evening was the busiest time of my day. Since I got more control over my schedule, I tried to spend the first part of my day testing and reviewing the product, the second working with my team members, and the last reading and writing. Now I realize this means I’m blogging less than I should, so I am trying to transition to spending the first third of the day writing. (Wish me luck!)
Basically, experiment with different activities at different times of day and see what works for you. I hate morning/afternoon meetings where I have to commute because I feel like I lose the whole day: I can rarely get up much productivity once I’m back. You might prefer morning meetings because you can get through with it and move on with your day.
Stop Going out so Often
Not just meetings – even going out for errands or dinner seems to break my rhythm. When I need to be extra productive, these are the first things that go. This means shopping online, getting food delivered instead of going out to eat, watching a movie on the computer instead of going to the cinema, and so on. I wouldn’t carry this too far – we need to get out and meet friends or other humans, but having made these occasions less frequent I also find them much more relaxing and fun.
Get out (to Exercise, Not to Party)
Most nights, we go for a walk after we’ve shut down our computers. It’s much needed exercise, and the air outside helps to refresh us. We often end up talking about work, but even so, it’s a nice end to the workday, especially as otherwise work never ends and I always feel dissatisfied with how much I’ve managed to do.
What about you? Are there any habits you broke or made when you became an entrepreneur?
Unmana Datta is the co-founder of Markitty, a tool that offers daily tips and insights to improve your online marketing. She writes about online marketing for small businesses on the Markitty blog and answers to @Unmana on Twitter. You can also follow Markitty on Twitter or Facebook.