The future of work has always inspired startup co-founder and investor Charles Naut.
He’s a Big Data enthusiast and a full-stack web developer who taught himself how to program in middle school. The company he started in high school, myCollegeSTAT, won $15,000 in a business plan competition and he was hooked.
In 2014, Naut co-founded Playbook HR, an applicant tracking system for the gig economy that Intuit acquired and rebranded as Intuit Workforce a year later.
Today, Naut is an investment scout for Lightspeed Venture Partners and a Fellow at On Deck, where he’s currently dreaming up his next company that will further innovate work life.
As a founding member of Flow Club, Naut recently told us how working solo impacts his focus, the importance of quantifying productivity, and how Flow Club helps him protect his time and clear his to-do list.
Overcoming distractions while working solo
Like many during the pandemic, Naut says he’s encountered several barriers to productivity while working from home over the past year. While he plans his next startup venture, Naut needs to tap into a flow state where he can achieve deep, uninterrupted work regularly. Three obstacles stood in his way.
Collaborating without a structured team: Naut doesn’t have a core team at the moment. He lives in NYC while his collaborators live in the Bay Area, so it’s been hard to find momentum and stay in sync while working remotely. “Not being able to collaborate in person is difficult, and it requires a lot of self-discipline to focus,” he says.
Naut says Flow Club helps him stay on track. “I’ve had days where I didn’t get any coding done because I couldn’t get into flow and tackle the bigger stuff I wanted to do,” he shares. “Now I like to do early-morning Flow Clubs so I can get some small wins under my belt.” Crossing the smaller tasks off his to-do list creates the momentum he needs to dive into deeper work.
Too many meetings: Naut also found himself loading his schedule up with Zoom calls during the past year. “I was sending my Calendly link out to people to schedule meetings with me, but it ended up where my day is completely booked with meetings, and I couldn’t get any actual work done,” he says. “I have to be defensive with my calendar.”
Now, he blocks out his workday with Flow Club. Planning ahead, he schedules sessions to ensure a few hours of uninterrupted deep work every day.
Not having a proper home office: Naut just moved into his new NYC apartment, so he’s still setting up his home office. He doesn’t have a desk right now, making it harder to focus, but he has a plan. “I’m taking the move as an opportunity to make sure my physical setup is ideal for productivity,” he says. Naut ordered a standing desk to stand for easy, repetitive tasks like checking emails and sit during intense work like coding. “Little things like that add to my workspace to make it more enjoyable and productive,” he says.
While he waits for his new desk to arrive, Flow Club makes it easier for him to focus. “The ambient music they play in the background is really helpful for me,” he says. “I get into flow a lot easier when I have something very lo-fi in the background.”
The importance of quantifying productivity
Naut gets more done with Flow Club, and he can prove it. He’s a staunch believer in tracking productivity, even though it can be tricky. “I don't think there is a right answer to it,” he says. “You have to find what works for you and your project.”
Naut tracks his contributions to GitHub for a snapshot of his progress over time. “I can see where this week I wasn’t that productive because my GitHub contributions weren’t as high as I want them to be,” he explains. “Then I can also see what habits are contributing to my productivity.”
He encourages others to find a way to measure their productivity, too. “You can have more feedback on whether what you’re doing is making you more productive, which is helpful for the tasks that really matter to you,” he says.
Building momentum with Flow Club
Naut’s favorite thing about Flow Club is how it empowers him to break complex projects into smaller, more manageable pieces. Before a session, he identifies an achievable goal for the hour (like writing some code for his latest project, Sign and Wire) and focuses on that. “It forces me to think in smaller chunks, so it’s not as overwhelming as having a huge thing to get done,” he says. “It shifts the way I think about building things. I make more progress and build more momentum because of Flow Club.”
Flow Club is Peloton for your brain. Everyday, the world's top founders, builders and operators join Flow Club's facilitator-led, structured co-working sessions to get away from distractions and dive deeply into the work they get to do.
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