When I started working on my startup a few months ago, I followed the same process that most other bootstrapping early-stage founders were doing; Wake up, go to day job, come home, work on startup till the wee small hours, sleep only when necessary and coffee doesn’t work. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Time to Switch Off
After a few months or so of this cycle, I started finding it difficult to focus, hard to sleep and my productivity had plummeted. Eventually a whole week had passed and very little progress was made. I decided to take some time away from my laptop, and let myself forget about my work for a while.
However even this proved difficult, as I couldn’t completely ‘switch off’ from work, constantly thinking of what needed to be done and how to do it. After a chat with my good friend Joel I realised that switching from one extreme to the other is unlikely to work, it’s just the way we’re wired. If we had any sanity we wouldn’t be building our own startups after all!
So this past week I decided to try a different daily routine, and tried to match my working hours to my energy levels. At the start of this week I wokeup at 5:30am, and worked for an hour before getting ready to go to work. This proved very productive, having made more progress in that one hour than I would have normally achieved in a single evening, to the point where I was frustrated I had to stop working to go to my day job, i.e. I had regained my enthusiasm.
Towards the end of the week, as I was getting used to this new routine I’ve been waking up at 5am, though I’ve been partially awake just before the alarm went off. In the evenings, instead of coding I focus on low-energy work like reading and paperwork.
Pick me Up
However, even though I’ve found it much easier to wakeup in the morning now that I sleep earlier, I still needed a little extra kick to get me going. I’ve been substituting my morning coffee with green tea each morning, which gave me just enough of a boost to get working without the crash of coffee. I’ve also recently discovered Matcha Tea, and will be trying that over the following week.
Overall my new routine seems to have helped me remain productive and happier when working, and on recommendations from Joel and a few other blogs, I’ll gradually add an exercise routine.
Do you have a healthy startup routine? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Photo Credit: Jim Shields
I’ve been working on my startup for the best part of 5 months, since the start of this year. During this time I’ve refined my idea, and have been battling through the ever-changing codebase that is Node.JS. However, I still haven’t shipped my first MVP.
Quite simply I got too caught up in the tech, and haven’t focused enough on keeping everything lean. I’ve gone from building in PHP, to Ruby on Rails, to node.JS, and changed from MySQL to MongoDB. While I’ve enjoyed the learning process and relished the chance to play with new platforms I’d forgotten the main aim of this work; to build a ramen-profitable web startup.
Don’t Lose Your Objectivity
Working on your own means you have to think about all aspects of the business, from development to marketing. However, in order to keep making progress you need to retain your objectivity and avoid getting bogged down in the little details, especially in the early stages of your startup.
In retrospect, I’ve realised the following would have helped me to stay focused and perhaps released my MVP sooner:
- Talk to others - Having to explain what you are doing and why to other people forces you to think about your work from an outside perspective, and retain a customer-focused frame of mind. This also gives you accountability for your work, forcing you to keep focused.
- Understand your work - Having a todo is perhaps the most important thing to have in a project. It’s hard to understand what you need to work on without a list, but you need to have sufficient detail for it to be effective. It doesn’t matter if a task is only half an hour of work, the process of being able to tick things off as you go is a positive boost, and a personal metric that you are making progress, keeping you motivated.
- Drop the emotions - When trying to bootstrap a startup whilst also keeping a fulltime job, your time and energy is very limited. Therefore making decisions based on emotions can be detrimental to progress. Make yourself think about why each piece of work would be important to a customer, because in reality they won’t care whether you built it with the latest framework or used bleeding-edge tools to make it work.
- Don’t be a perfectionist - The whole point of an MVP is to get early feedback from potential customers. Therefore the MVP doesn’t need to look the prettiest, or have all the bells and whistles your competitors, it just needs to demonstrate the bare minimum and nothing more.
- Develop a fear of not shipping - Instead of worrying about what users will think if you release your buggy half-finished code early, worry about what they will do if you don’t ship. You could end up losing customers to your competitors, or someone else may release a product just like yours.
Having realised my mistakes, I hope to have my newly stripped-back MVP in front of users within the next week, and will need beta testers willing to provide feedback. If you’re interested then please signup at http://slidereach.com/signup
Photo Credit: Jessica McFadyen