Productivity Tips from a VC Neophyte

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Probably the hardest single aspect of my job as a venture capital neophyte is efficiently managing my time for the greatest productivity. Making great investment decisions is pretty hard too but as far as this post is concerned, we’re talking time management. I’m fairly certain time management is an issue for many people in many professions so I thought I’d outline my time management challenges, and how I attempt to overcome them.

OpenView is a small investment firm and as such, we run pretty lean and mean. My core job is to find great companies to bring into our portfolio, evaluate and execute investments once opportunities are sourced, and then support those investments once they are in the portfolio. Sounds pretty simple right? That’s what I thought…until I came on board and found out that its really difficult. Seriously fun, but very difficult. Why is it so difficult?

Each element of my job is multi-faceted and I can seldom focus on one discrete task for a long period of time. For example, any on any given I’ll have a number of phone calls with prospect companies, an in-person meeting, a post-LOI piece of financial analysis to produce, dozens of emails to respond to, a market research call with an industry expert, an interview with a prospective OpenView employee, and the list goes on.

So what do I do to keep myself on task and organized?

It may sound simple to some of you, but below is the “blocking and tackling” of what gets me through the week in a productive fashion:

  • Block Scheduling: I try to block my mornings (from 8:30am to noon) for calls/meetings with prospect companies. This way I always have a time reserved on my calendar for an activity that otherwise may get pushed to the back-burner when new items up pop-up during the week
  • Create a weekly “backlog”: Every Monday (or Sunday night) I create an excel sheet with the most important activities that I need to accomplish during the week ahead of me. I also add an estimation of time to completion for each task. I try not to have more than 35 hours of “scheduled” activities on my backlog as this last year has taught me that a) I generally underestimate how long it takes to get certain things done, and b) 35 hours seems to be the magic number when it comes to how much highly-focused work/work-product can be produced in a work-week. You might think that sounds like a small number for a hard-working VC, but if you consider your own week, I have a hunch that you do 35 hours or less of highly-focused activity.
  • Schedule time for email: Email is highly distracting. I get emails all day-long almost every day of the week. If responded to every email as I received it, I’d become even less efficient than I already am! As such, I try to schedule an hour every day, or several hours over the weekend (typically on Sunday night) to get my inbox as close to zero as possible.
These are just a few of the tactical things that I do to manage my own time and personal activities during the week. There are myriad books written on the topic but I have found that the above three tips have drastically improved my efficiency.