Need of the Hour: Prioritizing Routine High-level Time

I’ll share a little story from my life.

I’ve been with Hubstaff for 3 years now and in a millennial’s world – that’s a long time. And it’s not that I never had any thoughts of leaving the company. Those thoughts came into my head multiple times. The last time was a year back, and I vowed to think about why I was dissatisfied instead of moving on to another company. Being employee #5, I’m very proud of what we’ve achieved till now and can’t wait to see what we will achieve in the near future. No way am I missing out on that.

Even though I knew I was dissatisfied, I didn’t know why (the infamous millennial crisis) and I needed to get to the root of it.

As a marketer, I’m always rushing around to get things done. I’d work on projects day in and day out, without pausing. When one project ended, a second one came up. Some projects became recurring so I had to execute them every week. It’s good because it keeps things moving.

However, it’s bad because I burned out. I was demotivated and completely clueless about where I was going. I might have been working on the wrong tasks, but the bigger problem was that I didn’t even know what the right tasks were.

Turns out, I just needed to take a leaf out of our co-founder’s (Dave Nevogt) playbook.

I burned out. I was demotivated and completely clueless about where I was going. Click To Tweet

Dave’s weekly routine

Our marketing team runs on weekly sprints (that run on Hubstaff Tasks), tied to the main business goal. Our sprints run from Friday to Thursday, and all channel owners have to submit their project updates by Thursday at 12 PM for Dave to review.

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Our sprints board

Dave then schedules his entire Thursday morning to review project updates and decide what we should be working on in the next sprint. Here’s how his process usually goes while looking at the sprint updates:

  1. Reflect on the progress of the previous week. Look at overall business KPIs: number of organization signups; number of Stripe subscriptions started; number of upgrades and downgrades; and churn.
  2. Review the project updates from all of us. Which projects got us closer to our goal faster than others (our top 20% that got 80% of the results)? Prioritize those items.
  3. Add new projects that can potentially get us to our goal even faster into the Icebox.
  4. Schedule 20% of all channel owners’ time each week on those new projects.

In simple terms, he wants us to prioritize projects showing results right now and double down on them until they stop showing results.

Prioritizing my own high-level time

Since I was frustrated in my own job, I sat down with Dave and talked to him about it. I told him it was frustrating for me to keep getting things done week over week, without any thought or participation from my side on my own projects.

Funnily enough, Dave said he was frustrated with planning out the projects for the team because it was too taxing for him!

And thus we found the solution to all of this. I needed to prioritize my own high-level time to reflect, review my own projects, and plan out my upcoming weeks with our business goal in my mind. Dave said, “If you could start doing this, that would be a huge load lifted off me.”

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Now, what do I mean by prioritising my own high-level time? It’s the same routine as Dave, prioritising 2 hours at the end of every sprint and reflecting on these 5 questions:

  1. Previous sprint: What did I get done and what did I not get done? Why?
  2. Coming sprint: What do I need to get done?
  3. Do these projects move the needle in the right direction (for the company and for me professionally)? Are they taking me faster to our goals? Are these tasks having the most impact on my KPIs?
  4. Am I prioritizing on the top 20% of tasks that bring in 80% of results for the organization?
  5. Am I working on projects I want to work on? Where will my time be best spent?

This is my list at the moment. The questions could be endless and different for every individual. But the important part is to have a weekly routine to schedule these 2 hours of solitude and reflect on your high-level goals. Why do you do what you do?

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It’s not only helpful, it’s necessary

Regardless of if you’re a founder, CMO, or a marketer like me, you need to pause your hustle and reflect on why you do what you do and if it’s making an impact. Otherwise, I can guarantee you, you’ll face some (or all) of these emotions at some point in time: confusion, a lack of clarity, no plan of action, panic, distress and demotivation.

How has this weekly exercise been helpful to me?

  1. Helps me plan ahead with absolute clarity: I plan my week without Dave’s help, and I know I am focusing on the right priorities 90% of the time. For the other 10%, I have monthly calls with him to get a direction.
  2. Helps me stay creative: I’m free to work on whatever projects I want to, as long as it moves us closer to our business goal.
  3. Keeps the momentum going: I’m excited every day to tackle all the instruction and challenges the projects throw at me, because everything I do is moving me closer to my goals.
  4. Know my priorities and act accordingly: That’s one of the most important skills to have in any career and business. It helped me increase my impact on the business’s bottom line.
  5. Helps me stay real: Most importantly, it helps me maintain realistic plans and aspirations.
  6. Become satisfied and happy: The eventual goal.
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Hubstaff team

We’ve grown our business from $200k to $3 million ARR in under 3 years. That’s a HUGE win. It’s a combination of good product, good support, and good marketing, but most importantly, prioritizing the right things at the right time.

Our aim is to implement this high-level prioritisation exercise across all team members. It’s an important activity not only for the team member, but also for the company.