Shorter Meetings

One of the universal complaints that people in business around the globe have is meetings — why they have to take so much time and yet often create so little value.

For a moment, let’s give meetings their due, and talk about the good parts of meetings. 

  • First, meetings are an efficient way to get people updated and coordinated. 
  • Second, meetings are a great way to build connection and trust on a team: we get to see our colleagues in action, brainstorm with them, learn about what’s important to them, perhaps even get to know them personally. 
  • Third, meetings can spur creative thinking: seeing other people wrestle with a common issue, here them thinking out loud, bounce ideas off them. 
  • And finally, sometimes it’s nice to work along side others on a common task.

Those are all compelling reasons to keep having meetings. So now let’s get to some ideas for making the meetings we have more productive and enjoyable. Here are some possibilities:

  • Consider whether you have to have the meeting at all. If you do, then be very judicious about whom you invite; only invite those people who must be at the meeting and have something to add.
  • Change the default meeting time in your organization from 60 or 30 minutes to 20 minutes; you can block together several 20-minute increments if you need more time, but make the default 20 minutes. Consider changing the default meeting length in your calendar app from 60 minutes down to 30 or 20 or 15. (Here’s how to do it in Google Calendar. Here is how to do it in Outlook. And here is how to do it in iCal.)
  • Hold standing meetings (that’s right — don’t use the chairs). This will keep things short.
  • Always have an agenda for meetings (and make sure to stick to it).
  • Begin meetings on time and end them on time, regardless of whether everyone is there (this will train people to be on time).
  • Start meetings with a moment of reflection and centered breathing to allow people to settle into it and focus their minds on the task at hand put devices on do-not-disturb mode; no exceptions.
  • End meetings with a check-in around who is doing what by when so that all action items are assigned to someone with a specific deliverable and deadline. Write this down!

The Cost of Under-Estimation

OK, so everyone agrees they want to avoid underestimating the time, effort and money it takes to meet their goals. But how exactly can you do that?

Well, the first step is merely to know that if you are human, you are quite likely underestimating everything.

The second step is to develop systems to counter-balance this very human tendency. Here’s one that we like. It’s pretty simple and it doesn't have to take long (in fact, it’s better when you do this quickly, so set a strict time limit). Here it is:

  1. Hold review of all project timelines and cost/revenue projections with the broadest possible team. (You want a diversity of views of the project, not just the bosses.)
  2. Ask: Given what we know today, are these estimates still reasonable and valid? 
  3. Ask: Do we want to make any changes going forward? 
  4. Set a strict time limit on this review of 5-10 minutes per project (this will force crisp discussion and avoid arguments over details). It is a check-in, not a re-examination of the entire project.
  5. Repeat regularly (weekly, monthly, quarterly, depending on the pace of your projects).

You can super-charge this by tracking your initial estimates and then the changes you make, so you can see the variance between those first estimates and delivered reality. After a while, you should be able to spot some patterns and create a constant to add to estimates upfront and arrive at more realistic timelines and costs.

Time Habits

As a leader in both startups and gigantic legacy companies, I quickly learned there’s more to getting through the day effectively than just managing the calendar. 

This short video will give you the essential three steps to moving smoothly through your day, and to creating more energy as you do it.


First, be very specific about what it is that you're doing, what the deliverable is, when it's due by, and who's going to be doing it.

Second, get clear with yourself.  Check in and ask, "Do I want to do this? Am I the best person to do this? Is there someone who could do it even better?" Get clear about that at the very start. Don't just say yes automatically.

Third, when you have completed it, take a moment and celebrate that you got it done. Then, take a moment to rest, rejuvenate. Perhaps get up, walk around, before moving onto your next task.

If you want to dive even deeper into this, check out David Allen’s classic book “Getting Things Done,” which has become a bible for many Silicon Valley startup leaders.


Correcting the Planning Fallacy

Hello Everyone,

Here is a mistake I have made continuously throughout my entrepreneurial career. The planning fallacy... 

The simple tip is this... do not let the charismatic founder or charismatic leader set the timelines. The reason is because as the visionary leader, often times when we see new strategic directions, we see the path as a straight shot to success. The reality is the straight path is more like a rollercoaster. Along the way we're going to encounter learning and challenges that we were not anticipating. 

This is one of the ways that we feel scarcity of time, as founders, and as team members. Often times the founder will say, "Hey, we're going to be cash positive in six months," and the founder is not actually considering all that it's going to take to become cash positive. As soon as challenges set in, and the founder realizes they are not going to hit their timelines, then all of a sudden everybody becomes stressed. You begin working long hours trying to make up for the fact that at the beginning, the founder was simply off in their planning. 

The way to correct the planning fallacy is to bring in an experienced advisor or coach. Somebody who can objectively look at the timelines you're setting as the founder and leader and provide you a realistic assessment of what it will actually take to get there. Accounting for all the learning, the growth, and all the ups and downs that you're going to experience along the way. This will ultimately help you expand your time.

Here is an example of a real-life and recent example of the planning fallacy going horribly, horribly wrong. This company is now in the middle of a $100MM lawsuit and FBI investigation because they failed to see the obstacles...

Cheers - The Good Startups Team


Expand Your Time by Giving It Away

[Assignment : Expand Your Time by Giving It Away]

1. The Science

I’m sure you’ve heard the research on the power of generosity, but in case you haven’t, it’s a pretty powerful paradox: when you give selflessly, you get major psychological benefits in return.

For example, studies show that people who give money to those in need tend to feel more financially abundant in their life, even if they objectively don’t have so much in their bank account. Even people who start out with a scarcity-based mindset around finances (e.g., “There’s not enough so I have to hoard everything for myself,” etc.) - end up feeling way more abundant (e.g., “Actually, I have a lot in my life and I don’t have to obsess about money,” etc.) after they give a little bit of what they have away to someone who needs it more.

Amazingly, the same effects hold for mindsets around time scarcity. That’s right, if you’re the kind of person who’s always feeling crunched for time and stressed out about deadlines, one of the paradoxical things you can do to expand your time is to give it away selflessly.

Here’s how it works. After many years of being hard on yourself for always needing to do things faster, better, and more efficiently, a subconscious program develops that basically says “There’s never enough time for anything, so I need to spend all of my time on myself.” This creates a negative feedback loop with everything you do in your life - work, relationships, family - where you’re always running around in emergency mode. This makes you less effective at your work and, you guessed it, make you miss important deadlines across all aspects of life - creating more time scarcity. Yikes.

What we need to do is break that cycle as soon as possible, and brace yourself, because if you’re in the cycle you’re not going to like how we’re going to do this. The more resistant people find this idea, the more they tend to need it, so keep a close eye out for subconscious pushback.

We’re going to break the time scarcity cycle by giving our time away to someone who needs it more than we do.

2.  Getting Started - What Inspires You?

We know your business inspires you, but what else? If you could inspire or uplift someone or some group in your life, who would they be? How would you uplift them? Here are some fantastic suggestions from our Good Startups Community:

I’m inspired by...

  • “A clean, healthy planet for everyone to enjoy.”

  • “Helping those who can’t easily help themselves.”

  • “Giving someone knowledge and opportunities that they would usually never have access to.”

  • “Making sure economically disadvantaged communities have healthy foods to eat.”

  • “Safe and healthy communities nationwide.”

Now it’s your turn. List three passion ideas that complete the phrase “I’m inspired by…”

  1. I’m inspired by…

  2. I’m inspired by…

  3. I’m inspired by...


3.  Make it Actionable

Now, let’s take your favorite idea from above and make it something that you can really do to expand your time through generosity. In this step, think of three opportunities for you to express your inspiration through action. Here are some examples, based on the inspiration ideas above:

  • “I’m inspired by a clean, healthy planet for everyone to enjoy. Go for a walk in a nature reserve/park with a trash bag and clean up the trail while also enjoying the beauty of nature.”

  • “I’m inspired by helping those who can’t easily help themselves. Assisting at my local shelter to help those who don’t even have a place to sleep at night.”

  • “I’m inspired by giving someone knowledge and opportunities that they would usually never have access to. Tutor or mentor a high school student or intern from a disadvantaged background.”

  • “I’m inspired by making sure economically disadvantaged communities have healthy foods to eat. Help a food bank package fresh food for people who can’t afford healthy food on their own.”

  • “I’m inspired by safe and healthy communities nationwide. Giving workshops to marginalized community members so that they can build thriving local businesses.”


4.  Schedule it, Right Now

You have your inspiration concept and actionable idea, and now it’s time to expand your time through time generosity. In this final part, grab your digital calendar or write a note to your personal assistant to allot at least two hours per month dedicated to this growth opportunity. If you can do more than two hours, your time expands exponentially by that much.

Congratulations, you just took a small chunk of time to expand your time by giving away your time. Yes, you can count this exercise as part of your two hours per month :)

Reserve High Bandwidth Times

Hello everyone,

If you have not already done so after the live presentations, take a few moments right now to block out the times in your calendar when you normally feel the most energized and creative. If you are like me, this could be mornings from 9-11 a.m after I am done with my morning meditation and exercise. For some of my clients who have kids, it's 9-11 p.m. where they enjoy quiet time and can more easily get into flow states.  

Once you discover the times where you feel most creative and vital, reserve these times for your most important priorities (e.g. sales, fundraising, product, leadership development, team culture.). For those times you don't feel high energy, focus on more mundane tasks like e-mail or slack. 

Your ability to reserve high bandwidth times and track your energy will have a significant impact on your productivity. 

Cheers - Justin

Top Three Distractors

It’s one thing to be distracted — that’s a problem. It’s another thing to know you’re distracted and how it is you are distracting yourself — that means there is the possibility for positive change.

To support you in shifting from distraction to focus, we've got a short inventory for you to fill out that will help you identify your top three distractions. Here’s the link to it.

Once you’ve done the inventory, you’ll be armed with a powerful change tool: self-knowledge. When you see what your major distractors are, you have a choice. You can choose to keep doing the same thing (yup, even doing nothing is a choice). Chances are you don’t want to be distracted and you’ve already put a lot of effort into being less distracted. And, the results show that you've had limited success. 

So we don’t recommend doing more of the same. Instead, armed with the knowledge of the top ways you distract yourself, can you think of some new ways to limit or eliminate at least one of those distractions over the next week?

Some ideas:

  • Delegate that distracting task to someone else.
  • Tell people you don’t want to hear about the distracting issue any more, until it’s solved.
  • Create time locks in your schedule to focus on the thing that distraction is getting in the way of.
  • When you notice you are drifting into one of these distractions, get up, move around and breathe deeply. Then re-apply yourself to the task at hand.
  • Create a contest for yourself: what is the least number of times you can engage in your top distractors this week? Low number wins (you can even compete with others on your team, or friends in other organizations).

Whatever you decide to do to break the grip of your top distractors, gauge your progress and celebrate success when you’ve lessened your distraction time.

Have fun!