In today’s episode of The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about how to increase your productivity.

If there’s one thing founders struggle with a lot, it’s being productive. With all the distractions of social media, mobile gaming, and the internet, in general, staying productive at work can be a challenge, and this can have a negative impact on your startup.

In today’s episode, Steli and Hiten talk about what it means to be productive, how to define productivity for the role you’re in, tips for being more productive. and much more. 

Time Stamped Show Notes:

00:00 About today’s topic.

00:35 Why this topic was chosen.

01:50 How being productive makes Steli happy.

03:42 Why it’s a good idea to consciously review your day, week or month.

04:10 What some of Hiten’s most productive days look like.

05:00 How to define productivity for the role you’re in.

05:35 Why Hiten works a lot on weekends.

06:01 The different angles to productivity.

06:37 Tips for being more productive.

07:14 How to measure productivity as a manager.

3 Key Points:

  • Productivity is a human desire.
  • The feeling of productivity is really high up on the list of things that make me happy.
  • Some of my most productive days are the most random days ever.


Steli Efti: Hey everybody, this is Steli Efti`.


Hiten Shah: And this is Hiten Shah and today on the Startup Chat we’re going to talk about how to increase your productivity and there’s a really good reason we’re talking about this. We’ve been wanting to talk about this. We know that this is something that is on most of your minds, whether you’re working in a company or working on your own company or in a really large company of some kind. It doesn’t matter. Productivity is something that’s almost like a human desire, especially at work.


Steli Efti: Okay?


Hiten Shah: That’s where I’ll start. I’m like, hey Steli, I think it’s a human desire.


Steli Efti: That is not what I thought you would say. So like my mind was wandering off in a specific direction and you took a left turn while I was still going straight and eventually I was like, where is he? He must have taken a left turn. I kind of lost it over there.


Hiten Shah: There we go.


Steli Efti: What did you say? Human desire?


Hiten Shah: Yeah, we want to achieve. We want to be productive. We want to get stuff done. I also want to be happy. Don’t get me wrong.


Steli Efti: No, but you know what I mean. I fucking love this because that is actually one of the, I’m sure it’s the same with you. I’m sure it’s the same with most people that listen to us. If I have to identify a very big contributor to either my happiness or my lack of happiness. Productivity, the feeling of productivity is really high up the list. So even when everything is going well, like I could have a great day with lots or a week where lots of good things happen, where there’s a lot of reasons to be happy. But if I personally didn’t feel productive that week, I guarantee you I’ll be unhappy. It’s feeling productive is kind of a crucial, fundamental thing I need to be feeling kind of good in my own skin, right? To feel comfortable, feel it.


Hiten Shah: When you reviewed, you actually think of it like that?


Steli Efti: Yeah. But you know what it is? The crazy thing is it is not a mental thing. It’s not a, wow, I had so much fun this week. Everything went well. Let me review the week. Let me think, what is everything that happened then? Shit, I wasn’t as productive. God and then I start mentally making myself feel bad about it. It is literally like not showering the entire week, right? If you told me we’re going to have an amazing week. You’re going to make a bunch of money. We’re going to have fun. We’re going to laugh. It’s going to be all these great things happening. That’s all cool. But if I can’t shower the entire week, it’s really going to bug me, right? By day two, I’m going to feel uncomfortable and by day four, I’m really going to be irritated by that. No matter how many great other things happen. The same thing is true for that sense of productivity. If I feel like I haven’t accomplished enough. I haven’t created enough. Haven’t done the things that I really wanted to do or norm people were doing, no matter how many good things are happening, there’s discomfort. There’s a physical sensation of discomfort that I have, that I carry around with me and I can tell what is going on with you. I can instantly go, I feel unproductive. I haven’t been productive since it’s bugging me.


Hiten Shah: So I think one thing we can do is suggest that people actually consciously review their day and, or their week or even their month and just gauge it and say, “Was I productive?” In my opinion, “Did I accomplish what I wanted to accomplish? Do I do I feel like I was productive?” Because sometimes it’s like you might not accomplish what you wanted to or what you thought you were going to, if you had some preconceived notions about that, but you still could be productive. Like some of my most productive days are the randomest days ever. And what I mean by that is ones where I took some meetings that, you know, I didn’t know how they’d turn out. I didn’t know if they were going to be worth it, so to speak. Or I just woke up and I had an empty day and all of a sudden like I do a whole bunch of stuff. My to do list is pretty low and I feel really productive because I accomplished things right? And a lot of times for me, that’s a lot of different things. It’s like I’m not an engineer. You’re not either. So it’s not like we’re sitting there and productivity to us means, we cranked on a bunch of code. Right? And chips and stuff or whatever. I’m assuming you’re not doing sales full time either. So it’s not like set up these many meetings, right? Or had these many calls or got to the next step in your sales process with so many different customers. So you know, one way to think about it is like how do you define productivity for the role you’re in? And I think as a manager, it’s probably one of the trickiest things to figure out. It doesn’t matter what level of manager, because a manager’s job is management and management is somewhat vague. So you know, I think it’s much easier in certain roles than others. And you know, one thing I actually shared this weekend was the fact that I think I’m kind of weird like this maybe, but I got a bunch of responses. I wasn’t really looking for responses. I made a confession, Steli. I confessed that I actually work a lot on the weekends and I work a lot on the weekends because I like the fact that there’s less Slack and less email.


Steli Efti: Yeah.


Hiten Shah: Just change the game. Like even right now, like there’s engineering messages coming through as I’m talking to you that I just had to close Slack because I’m like I don’t need this right now. You know? And a lot of those messages I don’t look at. Like there’s folks on our team that look kind of, but I still see them and I want to know what’s going on so to speak on it like a high level. So I think, for me there’s a lot of different angles to productivity. One of the biggest ones is just, you know [inaudible 00:05:48]. What does it mean to you?


Steli Efti: I love that. I love that question as a fundamental question to start with. I think for me a couple of things. When I think of productivity, one I think you know, there’s a powerful question. I don’t know where I heard this but it’s the question that I’ve been asking myself for many, many years now, maybe close to a decade. Not daily, but almost every day where before I start jumping into tasks and to-dos and calls and meetings, I try to start my day by asking a number of questions and one of them is usually if I could only get one thing done today, what would be the thing that I feel like it would make the biggest difference? Like what’s one thing that if I do that and nothing else, I feel like I’ve accomplished something significant for reason? I had an impact. I helped to empower somebody. You’re right. As a manager, often times your productivity is not measured by the units of work product that you got done or you shipped, but by how much you’ve helped your direct reports. Your team to produce better work and to be more productive. Like how productive is your team is really the KPI that tells you how productive you are as a manager, how effective you are as a manager. So have I helped somebody else to accomplish great things today? Have I helped somebody else to unbottleneck or get unstuck or do better work? But asking the question, what is the one thing that I feel like could make the biggest difference is kind of a clarifying question and a tool that I found helpful. The only thing that I want to say touching on the weekend for work, because it’s a more focused, quieter time to work is the early mornings or late nights. I often find that for most people, for me specifically super early in the morning or super late at night, I can often times be a lot more productive for the exact same reason, right? Even for better reasons sometimes because everybody’s asleep. It’s not just that people don’t bother you because it’s the weekend, it’s they’re not even conscious. Nobody’s around to make any noise, any demands or stimulate you in any way. And I know for certain late at night it’s tough for people because usually they have a long day of other stuff going on. But when you can get into a routine, I’ve gone on and off of it many, many times, but when I’m in a routine where I wake up super early. For almost like a year, I was waking up at like 4:30, 5 AM. The hours between 5:00 AM and 9:00 AM, those four hours were worth, you know, 15 hours during the day. Like it’s just such a focus, such a clear time. But it came with the challenge that I had to go to sleep super early, like 9:30 or so, which I don’t always enjoy doing. But finding the right time in the day where you can’t, or the right day in the week where you can do the best work can be a big, a big help and a big hack to becoming more productive.


Hiten Shah: Yeah. I couldn’t agree more. I think one thing that you know really inspires me is like you said, when you have, you know that maker time, right? There’s maker versus manager, something really old from Paul Graham. We’ve talked about it before on the podcast as well. And that concept really hits home for me and I really try to figure out, what do I do? How do I get into that sort of maker mode and make sure that I maximize my time when I do have that whether it’s morning, evening, weekend, you know, whatever it is when I have that maker time, how do I maximize it?


Steli Efti: I love it. All right, so those are some of our tips on how to increase your productivity. Now I want to give a shout out to one of our sponsors, This is actually music that you can listen to that will help you focus, more relaxed, sleep better. This product uses science backed music and it actually works. Both you Hiten and I have used it before. I’ve used it mostly for focusing and doing like two or three hours of hyper focused work and I absolutely love it. I think this stuff really works. It really gets you into kind of a certain hyper-focused state of mind. I love listening to to the the the kind of playlist that they have there and the music they have there. If you guys listen to us and want to become better and be more focused and therefore also more productive. Just give it a try. You can go to to get 20% off your subscription of Just go to They have a free trial. You can play around with it. You can listen to it and see if you can really get incredible work done. I’ve used it for the past two, three weeks, a ton of times and I absolutely love it. Have you used the, mostly the focus one or have you played around with a relaxing of the sleeping modes as well?


Hiten Shah: Yeah. So I have been using it for a while now, several months and I’m actually a paying customer and it’s one of the cheapest things to get me focused. And I’ll call it cheap cause it’s only six bucks a month or $40 a year. And yeah, I’m like you where I spend most of my time using the focus sort of version of it. And the key to it is whether it’s focused, relaxation or sleep, whatever you want, you can get because it’s science backed to focus on those things. And I used to be someone that used to play around with binaural beats, which is sort of, you can find those on YouTube and they kind of help you with similar things, but they’re not as effective as And so I actually tried to relax just few days ago when I just wanted to relax after I was getting off my computer and going to bed. I don’t really think I want to try the sleep button quite yet because I don’t necessarily have much thought much on sleep, but we can talk about that some other time. And so yeah, I tried it and it was actually really fascinating. I did relax when I heard it. And this is something where you’re just gonna have to try it to believe it. So 20% off. Check it out. One of our sponsors and one of our favorites too. Not that we should have favorites just because it’s such a simple product and it’s something that anybody can use.


Steli Efti: Absolutely love it. Definitely check it out. This is it from us for this episode. We’ll hear you there soon.


Hiten Shah: See you.