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Making room for the big ideas that drive startups

November 16, 2022
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Getting mired in the tiny details and chores of everyday work life can sap an entrepreneur of the brainpower and vision needed to move their business forward.

“If you are measuring your productivity by tasks when you’re supposed to be creating strategy, you will probably fail at the strategy piece,” said Ashley Quinto Powell, author and serial entrepreneur.

Powell, founder of the virtual assistant agency myVA Rocks, told participants at the Wisconsin Technology Council’s Early Stage Symposium that freeing themselves from mundane tasks through a combination of technology and common sense can help create more productive time.

She urged entrepreneurs told carve out time to think the big thoughts. Some of her best thinking comes during bike rides away from the daily grind, she said.

“It’s a really hard switch from execution to strategy,” she said. “If you can’t figure out how to remove yourself and take the time, you won’t ever have the head space to develop the strategy.”

She encouraged entrepreneurs to use virtual assistants, suggesting Motion to automate calendaring and time management—and urged them to fight back on time-sucking email management.

“If you take a look at your email, there are probably four emails that you get 90% of the time and those get the same responses,” she said. “So, just make sure there is a template for each of those.”

Powell, the author of “Executive Motherhood: The Art of Having it All Without Doing It All,” said managing crises is a matter of perspective and common sense. What seems like a crisis in the moment often isn’t, she said.

“When someone has a crisis or plops something in a message to me that they think will make me scramble, I snooze it,” she said. “I’m not going to freak out because you did something wrong and you need me to solve it.”

She added: “I remind my team all the time, ‘Listen, what we’re doing is really important, but we’re not curing cancer here. No one’s grandmother is going to be taken off life support if we don’t get back to an emailer in three minutes.’”

Managing work life efficiently can also mean rearranging family life, Powell said. For example, she handles early-morning chores like getting the kids off to school, and her husband manages evening duties like bathing the children and putting them to bed.

“That works really well. That means I can be at networking events in the evening and entertaining clients,” she said. “Plan your family life, too, and don’t make it come second.”

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