GQ (South Africa)

How to manage your time like a pro

Balancing a packed schedule while nurturing a team, Elizabeth Varley has turned Techhub’s co-working culture into a transatlan­tic business

- Charlie Burton

For Elizabeth Varley, productivi­ty isn’t just a virtue – it’s her business. As co-founder and CEO of Techhub, she builds co-working spaces to help startups perform at their best. The firm operates in six cities worldwide and, over the past eight years, has supported thousands of companies that have collective­ly raised more than $1bn. Varley is a high-achiever herself – she also sits on boards at both Imperial College London and the Open Data Institute. With Techhub’s New York opening creating a whole new set of transatlan­tic demands on her time, how does she fit in so much?

Give yourself space

‘I live on a garden square and every morning I walk through the garden to get to the Tube to go to work. I have a new rule, which I started last year: I do not look at my phone in the garden. It takes me one or two minutes to walk across it, but it's this moment that's just for me. I look around and see the changing seasons, the squirrels running around – and just enjoy it.’

Waking up to the working week

‘I tend to group my meetings into Tuesdays and Thursdays. On Mondays I might still have meetings, but they'll tend to be internal meetings, so that I’m around for the team. Fridays are wild card day. But whatever the day, I wake up at around 6am. People often wonder how I do it – but really I'm just a morning person.’

A day at home is valuable

‘I work from home on a Wednesday every week. I get up, I don't have to travel anywhere, I don't have to get dressed, I don't have to worry about what my hair looks like or any of that external stuff that doesn't really matter to your job but still takes time and effort, and I sit down with my laptop. Everybody in my team knows that that's the day that their inboxes will fill up with things I need to delegate or send on. I also use that day for bigger things that I find much harder to get done if I'm having to stop every now and again for a meeting.’

Keep meetings to the point

‘There are some people on my team who tend to go into a lot of detail and narrative when presenting data. That's something that I find challengin­g unless that's the point of the meeting. I like to focus on strategy and action. We can expand the conversati­on if necessary, but I'm not a fan of going through everything just ‘because’.”

embrace Siri, embrace alarms

‘I never used Siri until I saw a friend go, “Set alarm, 8am” – and I was like, “Oh, that’s so useful!” Manually it takes about seven presses to get there. If it's something urgent, I'll set an alarm rather than a reminder, as you can still put text against an alarm. I do that is because I have to actively turn it off.’ »

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