Have you ever had that impression of working like crazy just to end up feeling exhausted and without any sign of progress?
I spent a lot of time in the past caught in hustling mode. Just mindlessly plowing ahead with the next task on the list. It worked for a while, but I got to a point where it felt like swimming upstream. Lots of efforts without moving much.
As you’re scaling up your tech startup, hustling could become your worst enemy.
In this post, we’ll show you how moving from hustle to focus can boost your team’s output and help you transform spread too thin into laser focused.
The most important skill to scale a startup
As you scale, tasks and problems start to pile up. To reach your goals, you’ll need to get awesome at focusing on the wildly important.
One of the most famous examples of “extreme focus” is Steve Jobs’ return to Apple in 1997. At the time, the company was struggling and lost in creating a huge (and forgettable) catalog of products - printers, cameras, servers - you name it.
Knowing that the huge number of offerings only caused the company to lose focus, Jobs completely streamlined the company’s product line cutting it by 70%. He focused on the company’s strengths and visualized the new product portfolio into a grid.
At the end of the exercise, the grid held just four products. The iMac and iBook targeted consumers while more powerful versions catered to professionals.
Applying this extreme focus to your own startup is very tough. It’s a bit like the investment advice: buy low, sell high. Easier said than done.
There will always be an opportunity to expand your product portfolio, add a new feature, partner with another company, launch a new market.
Your human fear of missing out will ruthlessly fight against any attempt to focus.
If you manage to focus though, you will get two instant benefits:
Better resource allocation People always complain that there’s not enough people and too much to do. Once you narrow your focus, you’ll discover that you may have enough people. A streamlined product portfolio and geographic footprint give you the opportunity to concentrate your resources on what will move the needle. Remember the Battle of Trafalgar.
More headspace Focusing on less will also allow you and your team to put calm, centered, and productive effort into your projects. That means less interruptions and mental noise and more accomplished faster. It’s no surprise that mediation has gone mainstream.
Removing should be your first reflex
In any company, there’s always someone adding another project, tasks, initiatives to the list.
Let’s launch in the U.S., the U.K., Australia, Latam, Asia. World domination! Let’s make a sales push for a specific customer segment. Let’s completely revamp our UI or build this new cool feature that will give users more control and customization options.
Human nature seems to be hard-wired to always add, not so much to subtract.
Instead, try taking a smarter approach to your work. Don’t get bogged down with distractions. Think about how often your employees and partners come up with the next big idea.
Every single week, employees, CEOs, business development reps, and entrepreneurs reach out to me to talk about a new project, how their AI tech could help 10X my sales results or how we could develop a strategic partnership.
I could talk to all of them. But every minute I put into listening to them is not invested into the company's wildly important goals. The brainpower I put into evaluating their ideas does not go to the company’s wildly important goals.
I’m not saying you should be an asshole, but you need to develop the habit of removing instead of adding.
At every opportunity, ask yourself whether adding another thing to your to-do list is the best idea. You don’t need a junk filter on your client email. You just need to learn to be your own filter.
The simplest way to narrow your focus
To narrow your focus, try applying the now well known Pareto Principle. If you're not completely sure about what’s really critical in your business, it’s the simplest way to know you’re on the right track.
The Pareto Principle or 80/20 rule suggests that 80% of your results come from 20% of your efforts. For instance: