Startup Founder Chris Cummings Offers Productivity Hacks For Entrepreneurs


Chris Cummings, the founder and CEO of interactive touchscreen interface designer Pass It Down, shared a number of productivity hacks at a recent Tech Park Academy event at the Louisiana Technology Park.

Pass it Down, which recently moved its headquarters to Baton Rouge, took the $100,000 top prize at the BREW High Stakes investment pitch competition in late 2019, impressing the judges with its easy-to-use but powerful platform that enables cultural institutions such as museums and other brands to create their own interactive experiences.

The fast-growing Pass It Down offers a template library that lets museums, libraries and private brands quickly design and deploy touch screen interfaces for a variety of exhibit types. The platform works on touchscreens and via phone, tablet or computer, and includes an analytics dashboard to give institutions valuable insights into their visitors.

As the company has grown, Cummings has learned how to more efficiently manage his time and energy. The serial entrepreneur and LSU Law School graduate fields 50 to 100 actionable emails a day, while also balancing conversations coming in from clients, investors, media and prospective vendors. Cummings says optimizing his work day allows him to sell more, faster while maintaining a better work-life balance and preventing burnout.

“Every single day there’s a chance I’m going to fall behind,” he says. “Here’s the good thing: everyone does fall behind. It’s impossible not to. But trying to be as efficient as possible and understanding your day and learning how to really understand your day and make that day as successful as possible is important.”

Here’s a look at some of the highlights of Cummings’ presentation.

Plan Ahead and Schedule Everything

When it comes to weekly calendars, Cummings says often times people will only schedule their meetings, relegating key tasks to free time and the whims of the demands of the workweek. Instead, he schedules every important task on his calendar to ensure it doesn’t go overlooked.

“I write out every single thing I have to do and I hold myself accountable for doing it within that time, because if I don’t do it it’s not going to happen,” he says. Cummings says he shares his schedule with his team to promote transparency and prevent confusion or resentment if he’s on the road for the company.

His personal productivity starts each Sunday when he spends 2 to 3 hours reviewing his entire upcoming week. “I look at both the past week — and what worked and didn’t work — and what I’m going to do this week,” he says.

Cummings says in addition to his Sunday-night planning, he spends some time each night developing a list for the next day of the five things he needs to accomplish. Limiting his to-do list to five items keeps him from getting overwhelmed, Cummings says.

He says a good question to ask is “what is the thing I don’t want to do?” because that is often the task that needs to be taken care of. “We unfortunately tend to avoid the most important tasks,” he says.

Keep Meetings Short and On Time

Cummings says he limits work meetings to an hour. “We have 60 minutes to do whatever we need to do, and that’s it,” he says.”That means that we all keep our head down and work a lot harder in that time frame as well.”

He also suggests never going to a meeting without an agenda for that meeting to guide the discussion. “Every meeting should have a plan,” he says. “If you’re booking the meetings, have an agenda. If you’re going to a meeting someone else is booking and they don’t have an agenda, you impose your own agenda.”

Cummings also suggests taking notes, strictly adhering to meeting end times (even if someone is late) and setting as many meetings as possible with a scheduling tool such as Calendly.

Protect Your Energy and Willpower

Cummings says once you wake up in the morning, your ability to do what you want to do is going to decrease as the day moves on.

“So you have to protect that energy,” he says. “The time you spend mindlessly scrolling through your phone at the start of the day is depleting your ability — when you get to something that you actually need to handle — to do that job well.”

Cummings also says the time spent doing things you don’t like to do will kill you in the long run. “It will kill your happiness, it will kill your energy, it will kill your productivity,” he says.

He says determining which tasks you like doing and which you dislike can help you prioritize some things and find someone else to take over other tasks. “Ask yourself what are the things that are soaking up your time in your business that you hate doing because that’s not who you are,” he says.

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