How to Be More Productive & Get More Out of Your Day

how to be more productive

In today’s digital world, we’ve all got a million things on our to-do lists. From catching up on emails, to picking up the dry cleaning, and everything in between, the list never seems to shrink. Even with all this technology we have to make our lives easier, there’s still never enough time in a day to get everything done.

But look at Dave Balter. He’s the newly appointed Head of Global Investments, the Executive Chair of BzzAgent and Smarterer, an angel investor with Boston Seed Capital, the cofounder of, and he has time to run 10ks (it only takes him 52 minutes and 9 seconds) and be a father.

Diane Hessan, the CEO of Communispace, has been busy tripling the revenue of the company over the last four years, and sits on the boards of Tufts University, Panera Bread, Governor Deval Patrick’s Council on Innovation, the Advertising Research Foundation, Horizons for Homeless Children, and The Boston Philharmonic, just to name a few.

And then there’s Aaron White, who when he’s not working on his latest side project, is currently a VP at Venrock and the former CTO of Boundless. Aaron uses a virtual personal assistant to help crunch through his work.

No matter how many tasks we think we have, there are always little tips and tricks that can help us get more work done in a day. Sound too good to be true? Ben Rubin, cofounder of Revv, a company dedicated to helping you get more out of life will teach you how to be more productive in his class on Productivity Hacks at on Monday, July 29.

We’ve rounded up a few productivity hacks that you can immediately apply to your own life and get work done faster. Read on below.

Productivity Hack #1: Skip the to-do list and instead schedule specific times in your day to accomplish your tasks.

While to-do lists are great at mapping out the tasks you need to take care of, they never seem to get completely crossed off. To work around it, schedule specific times in your day that you’ll dedicate to tackling each project. It’s a better way to manage your time and to make sure you cross everything off that list.

Productivity Hack #2: When checking email, remember OHIO — Only Handle It Once.

This hack comes from Erin Schulte, senior editor of Fast Company. As she writes in an article on productivity hacks, When it comes to checking email, don’t put off answering them until later. If you answer it right away, it will be out of sight and out of mind, allowing you to free up more time to do other more important things later.

Productivity Hack #3: Go to bed earlier or on time.

While this may sound counter-intuitive, getting a good night’s rest is essential to keep you staying awake and focused throughout the day, and the more awake and focused you are, the more work you can crush.

Want to learn more productivity hacks to get more out of your day? Join Ben Rubin on July 29th for his class! 

Image credit: ALT1040 via Compfight

Jennifer Fremont-Smith, CEO of Smarterer, on Hiring Interns

Creating a startup from scratch is not small feat. You sure can’t go it alone, but limited initial funding can cause huge headaches when looking to hire cream-of-the-crop talent. So where to turn when looking to hire a stellar team? The answer? INTERNS!

Interns, often looked at as the coffee-runners and copy-makers of offices, can serve as the foundation for a star-studded team, helping a new startup excel. More colleges and universities are incorporating internships into their requirements for graduation nowadays than ever before, producing a huge pool of qualified students, jumping at the chance to get their hands on one a coveted experiential learning opportunities. It’s truly a win-win for all.

So, where to start, and how to leverage interns to help your startup to succeed? Jennifer Fremont-Smith, cofounder of Smarterer, has the answers in her class, How to Hire an Army of Interns To Build Your Business. We spoke earlier this week to talk about her experience working with teams of interns, and what students can expect from her class. Check out our conversation below:

I.LY: You’re a repeat founder and serial entrepreneur. What challenges are you tackling now at Smarterer?

JFS: The big challenges we’re tackling every day at Smarterer tend to be around our product and our go-to-market. What’s cool is that interns get to work on all of these things. Here are the initiatives that are top of mind for everyone at Smarterer right now:

• How to build a great product that attracts and engages users, and delivers real value to customers.

• How to ensure we have great, high quality content in our system at all times, and how to leverage users to accomplish this.

• How to create massive scale

I.LY: Managing a team of interns for success can be easier said than done. How are interns helping you Smarterer progress?

JFS: I’m a huge believer in the importance of experiential learning for students. A lot of what is wrong with our higher educational system could be solved if more students gained practical experience through internships and apprenticeships. We practice what we preach by giving interns at Smarterer real world problems to solve, like how to crowd-source more great content on Smarterer, how to get the word out about our product to recruiters, and how to turn our blog into the world’s premier destination for people who care about learning practical skills and furthering their career. By working on these things they help create huge forward motion every day!

Also, and perhaps most important – having energetic, bright, and eager interns around makes everyone happy – and helping them gain practical, marketable skills reminds us all of the important work we’re doing at Smarterer by giving people a way to validate their skills and level the playing field.

I.LY: What are typical qualities you look for in interns?

JFS: When hiring interns look for three things: intelligence, great attitude, and digital skills. We don’t expect our interns to know everything – they’re still students – but we do expect them to have the intelligence to figure lots of stuff out. They don’t need tons of experience – again, being interns they are here to learn. But we absolutely require that they’re comfortable with a baseline of software tools that they’ll need to do their job, and the ability to quickly pick up new skills.  And last of all, they have to be bright, positive people ready to learn. Our very best interns are always the ones who ask the most questions – who start with the attitude of “I have no idea how to do this but I am going to ask questions and figure it out!”

I.LY: How have you successfully utilized interns in your other companies?

JFS: Other startups I’ve been involved in have used a similar approach to Smarterer in working with interns – recruit bright, passionate people, give them some gnarly challenges they can sink their teeth into, and they can do amazing things for the company – and learn a lot at the same time.

I.LY: What can students hope to learn during your class next week?

JFS: Every student who comes to the class with leave with an actionable roadmap for designing a high-impact internship program. We’ll cover our secrets for how to recruit a pipeline of candidates, an amazing process for identifying the very best candidates, how to on-board them, what kind of work to give them –  in short, everything you need to know to create an astoundingly successful internship program!

Don’t miss out! Make sure to register by clicking here! We’ll see you in class!

Get the Financial Fundamentals eBook

Do you know how to fill your company’s piggy bank? If not, can teach you how. As we announced last month, we’re teaming up with Silicon Valley Bank to teach you the basics of financial literacy and how to make sure your company sees financial success.

When it comes to startups, Silicon Valley Bank has seen the good, the bad, and the ugly. Here’s the deal – it’s all about the numbers. Many entrepreneurs bite off more than they can chew, with sophisticated business models. Others drown in vanity metrics.

In this eBook, SVB will take you back to basics, covering the fundamental metrics and financial accounting principles that will make or break your startup. We’ll review income statements, balance sheets, and key financial terms you’ll need to know to be conversant about your business.


If you like what you read, we encourage you to learn more about the financial fundamentals and apply for a FREE 1:1 session with an SVB Boston team member to assess your startup’s key performance indicators. Click here to apply today!

Finding the Financial Metrics That Matter

Financial Metrics

As an entrepreneur, it’s not enough to just have an idea. In addition to all the necessary management, marketing, and business development skills that accompany starting a business, a good entrepreneur must also know how to handle the finances of the company. Overlooked and taken for granted all too often, financial literacy can make or break an organization.

Financial literacy doesn’t mean being able to calculate long strings of numbers, it’s really about being able to tell the story of the financials to investors and stakeholders, and being able to make sense of what the numbers actually actually say. It’s no easy feat to learn all the financial fundamentals on your own, which is why is teaming up with Dan Allred from SVB to teach you about the financial metrics that matter. He dropped us a line this week and told us all about what it takes to be financially literate.

I.LY: What are some of the key financial metrics that entrepreneurs should pay attention to?

D.A.: Gross margin is easily overlooked by a lot of entrepreneurs. It feels great to get early revenue, but if you’re doing that through low pricing and the gross margin is likewise low, then you are not really building value, especially if it is a model where it is difficult to raise prices as the business scales. Gross margin is the percentage of your revenue that is left after you pay the costs associated with producing and delivering your product or service.

I.LY: You’ve worked with a lot of startups before. Could you talk about the one of the worst financial situations you’ve seen a company get into?

D.A.: The toughest situations I’ve seen are when an entrepreneur and a capital provider (angel, VC, bank, etc.) do not see the future the same way. I can’t stress how important it is to align with your capital providers on how much money you need and how much risk you plan to take with that money. All of these classes of capital (angel, VC, debt, etc.) have pros and cons, and you need to be clear on that going in. You also need to make sure you and the individual providing the capital are aligned on expectations. There will always be surprises, but you have to get aligned as much as possible upfront.

I.LY: What is one of the most common financial mistakes entrepreneurs make when first starting out?

D.A.: Not raising enough money because of concern around valuation. You have to make sure you have enough capital to get through to key valuation inflection points, or the valuation you negotiate upfront will never really matter – you’ll either run out of cash or require more capital at a time when you have not hit your milestones and your investors have all the leverage.

I.LY: Are founders better off hiring someone to do their finances, or can they manage on their own?

D.A.: Founders need to be able to tell the financial story, but they don’t need to do the books themselves. There are lots of great resources available to entrepreneurs, ranging from bookkeeping services that will do routine work to outsourced contract CFOs who will get involved in strategic planning, financial modeling and investor/BOD meetings.

I.LY: What is your top piece of financial advice to someone who is starting a company?

D.A.: Make yourself attractive to capital. Investors and lenders are always impressed when they meet with a company and think “how did this entrepreneur accomplish all of this without any outside capital”? Nothing will endear you more to investors and lenders.

Join Dan for his FREE class next week on May 15th!

3 Tips for Designing Effective PowerPoint Slides


You are a young professional. You’ve been put in charge of landing a new client. This is a huge deal, both for you and your company. Successfully landing this client will significantly increase your businesses revenue, and will also make or break your chances at that promotion. You have until tomorrow to create a rocking presentation and blow them away. However, you’re not particularly good at PowerPoint. You don’t  think of yourself as very creative and you sort of resent making PowerPoints.

Lucky for you, Adam Sigel, the accounts and rewards program manager at My Energy stopped by to teach us how to design effective PowerPoint slides. Here’s what he had to say:

Designing Your Slides – Before designing your slides, it is useful to plan your content. First write down everything you want to say, and then organize it in a logical way. When you begin designing your slides, start with a white slide. Don’t choose a generic office theme. Everyone uses them. Simplicity in your slides is good. Leave as much white space as possible. There is no need to include your logo, URL, and email on every slide. Unless your company mandates it, put this stuff on the last slide of your presentation.

Pictures – Decide what the general theme of your slide is, and find a picture to represent that general theme. Metaphorical pictures work well.  Make sure you use good quality images. Using a fuzzy photo shows you were rushed or maybe you don’t care. Take the extra minute and find a good quality photo. A great place to find images for presentations is  If you’re using charts to show data, make sure your chart tells one story. Design it so that the point you are driving is obvious. Everyone in the audience should get the same point if you didn’t say anything for that slide.

Font & Colors – Choose a serif, or sans serif font that you like, that looks professional and that fits your
brand. Avoid the default windows office fonts. Even though they look nice, they are generic, and everyone uses them. Certain colors evoke certain emotions. For example, red signifies anger and passion, purple signifies wisdom, etc.  Choose colors to evoke emotional responses in your audience.

Follow his advice, and you’ll be sure to come up with some creative and unique slides to help you land that big client!