This is Part 2 of a series of posts on what I’ve been fortunate enough to learn about startups, career, business and relationships. Part 1, on priorities, can be found here, and Part 2, on doing what you’re best at/career mobility here.
I’ve always had a habit of getting involved in lots of things. In high school, that meant multiple sports, several clubs and a few academic projects. In college, it was primarily the student newspaper and a bunch of organizations around writing, journalism, and Western culture, plus internships. Just AFTER college, at Google, it was the internal sales newsletter, Google+ and a few more side projects.
That sounds like a lot, but here’s the kicker: the projects kept me energized and actually helped me manage my time when it came to my core areas of focus (i.e. homework, class, sales, respectively).
But now that I’m at a startup? The same willingness to say “yes” that helped me gain exposure and challenge myself can easily get me into trouble. Dailybreak (the business model) has only been around for about a year and a half. (CampusLIVE before it was around for several years but had a very different model.) Dailybreak the brand has been around even less time — a week and a half at the time I’m writing this.
That means there’s PLENTY to keep me busy that moves the needle on major business objectives…without me needing to step outside my day to day and take on side projects here.
This isn’t me saying that I’m focused on the mundane or the same thing every single day. Quite the contrary - my job in product management requires me to run all over the place, take on things that seem like “side projects” but really aren’t. They’re all necessary.
So it becomes CRITICAL for me, and anyone in a similar boat, to politely decline things that are truly on the side at work. Outside work? I try to get involved, for sure, but I’d also prefer others know me for my work than for a Twitter following. It’s way more tangible and lasting. It has more impact on my career. And despite my love for the Boston startup community, there are times I choose to head home after a long day’s work because it’s crucial to pick my non-work projects carefully.
The bottom line is this: just over one year into a startup, I’ve never had a dull day. Because there’s so much to do, and so much to learn, I always feel challenged and fulfilled and therefore can really buckle down and focus without needing to take on side projects.
My advice to anyone in a startup (or even a large company where side roles are available): always ensure your core role is on complete lockdown before thinking of anything else. At a startup, nothing is ever completely on lockdown as you build a business.
So…FOCUS! And the success you drive at your startup will stick with you and make you stand out for a long, long time.
I’m taking a stance here - I know a lot of folks love getting involved in tons of projects inside and outside work. I’m a big believer in channeling your creative energy against a small set of problems to achieve success. Agree? Disagree? Leave a comment or shoot me a tweet!
And for the inspiration behind this post, visit Dharmesh Shah’s OnStartups blog post on saying no here.