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3 fatal mistakes to avoid in a startup Perfectionism often equals procrastination and it may cause stress and dissatisfaction with whatever you finally manage to produce

By Tricia Sciortino Edited by Dan Bova

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You know that feeling when you've put in eight, nine or even 10 hours at the office and yet your task list is just as long as (if not longer than) it was when you arrived at work that morning. You're tempted to try yet another task management app, or spend more of your valuable time Googling "how do I get more done?' in a desperate search for the silver bullet of productivity.

We've got the answers (no Google needed!) and even better—we know that these answers will actually help you get more done each and every day. When it comes to the pursuit of accomplishing more, we're often our worst enemy. I know I certainly was, and the productivity mistake I was making was robbing my daughters of valuable time they needed with me as a single mom. Now that I've worked my way up through the ranks to become president of eaHELP, I can tell you that these mistakes would have torpedoed my career if I hadn't fixed them.

Here are the top three mistakes I was making, and how you can stop making them too:

1. Ditch the perfectionism.
Perfectionism often equals procrastination. Procrastination equals increased stress, short tempers and dissatisfaction with whatever you finally manage to produce. Time spent obsessing over small details is really time wasted. Once you learn that good enough is okay, you'll free up a significant chunk of your day. I tell my team that 80 per cent perfect and finished is miles ahead of 100 per cent perfect and two weeks overdue. The pursuit of "perfect' is a recipe for diminished productivity.

2. Don't think you don't have time to learn.

When I was desperately trying to find more time in my day, blocking out time during work hours for learning and development seemed like a luxury I couldn't afford. But the opposite turned out to be true. When I was disciplined in earmarking time for reading, networking and exploring my industry, I found my mind brimming with new ideas and new ways of tackling my work that led to increased productivity. Thinking "I don't have time to learn' is a trap. Truly innovative leaders, the ones who are consistently finding new ways to meet market demands, make learning a priority. At eaHELP, we've baked in learning into our new employee orientation, into our leadership trainings for existing employees, and into the way we communicate with each other— practically everywhere. You've heard, "Leaders are readers' and I've seen that truth come to life all around me as a leader. Make the time to get smarter about how you're working, and increased productivity will follow.

3. Don't do it—delegate it.

As my role at eaHELP grew, my typical "I'll just do it myself' approach quickly took me to my break point. So I hired my first virtual assistant at just five hours a week. Five hours doesn't sound like much, but the mental relief and refreshed energy I felt was immediate. Learning to delegate the tasks I didn't like to do or wasn't great at doing has been the biggest boost to my leadership I've experienced in my career. Whenever you're sitting down to tackle something, ask yourself—"Am I the best person on my team to be doing this particular task right now?' And if you hesitate for even a moment in your answer, delegate it to someone else! Get over the perfectionism ("No one else can do it as well as I do…') or the pride ("I'm not important enough to delegate tasks…') and start delegating as soon as you can. Believe it or not, there are people around you right now who absolutely love doing the things you hate. And because they love it, they're going to produce even better results that you could.

By figuring out that I was making these three mistakes, and finding ways to fix them, my productivity has skyrocketed and my leadership capacity has increased; and that "What did I actually do today?' feeling becomes a blast from the past.

Tricia Sciortino


Tricia Sciortino is the COO of BELAY, which provides virtual services to companies. She joined the company, formerly known as eaHELP, in November 2010 as a virtual assistant and first employee of the company. She has a background in senior retail management, including experience overseeing a team of more than 150 employees, and supporting senior leaders in the church construction industry. Originally from New York, Sciortino currently resides in Charlotte, N.C., with her two daughters. She obtained her B.A. in business from the University of Hartford in Connecticut. 

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