of the week!!
Last year, when I saw this picture of Mark Zuckerberg’s desk with a poster that screamed “Stay Focused & Keep Shipping, I thought it was lame. I could never see myself do something like that until I realized a need for it, very recently. Yes, I have something similar now
When I recently quit my job to focus full-time on my startup, I took a month off to travel alone, and:
1. Satiate my hunger for travel (for a while )
2. Take time to do some serious thinking on what mattered to me, and why I wanted to do this startup
3. Limit technology usage (no phone) and disconnect myself from all tech. blogs, the “gyaan” they constantly feed, and draw some “real-life” inferences about Mobile/Internet usage by simply talking to / observing people in various places I traveled to (more on this sometime later).
During those travels, I came up with a mental map of my what my priorities should be, and how I should stay focused over the next couple of years. Just by observing (and talking to) people, I also discovered some useful insights that shaped the core functionality of the product I’m working on.
As a founder (or an early-stage startup employee), one has to manage a number of things at the same time and it becomes very challenging to prioritize…sounds easy till you actually start doing it and see yourself drifting in so many directions. We easily get distracted by things that do not matter much to a bootstrapped, early-stage startup that just got started. For example: we sometimes spend too much time meeting fellow startups, investors etc. and then soon get trapped into becoming a “fundable” startup…or we start spending too much time on the Internet — blogging, tweeting, engaging in discussions about startups, technology etc. I do acknowledge some of it is important, but given there are limited resources, the question becomes what our priorities should be and where should we focus our time and energy. How do we stay focused and motivated despite all distractions?
I did a few things to help me. One of them was, put up a poster (that I created for myself) somewhere I can constantly see it; I needed a constant reminder on what mattered to me till I get my product-market fit right.
Don’t take my word (picture actually) for it ; each one of us is different and each startup is different. Also, as your startup progresses further along the growth curve, the priorities change. While this info-graphic is self-explanatory (I hope), I just wanted to highlight areas most of us have to deal with as an early-stage startup.
#1. The inner most circle (your customer, product etc.) is what I call the “Circle of Focus”. I believe, this is what matters initially.
#2. Things in next circle (your team, family, health & wellness etc.) are what enable one to succeed — the “Circle of Enablers”
#3. Next one (advisors/mentors, competition, friends etc.) is the “Circle of Attention”. Pay required attention to this after you take care of #1 and #2.
#4. The next one (investors, media, networking etc.) is the “Circle of Moderation”. It is a necessary evil, but we can’t spend too much time on it. Find ways to balance time and effort spent on it.
#5. The “Circle of Distraction”
#6. Last one is the “Circle of Detraction”. Probably the most dangerous one! One has to find ways to stay immune to feedback from many of the so-called “admirers” and naysayers. Identifying what’s noise vs. useful feedback is something that’ll help us, and it’s not easy at all.
P.S. Oh BTW, in case you haven’t noticed “Stay FAB” here stands for Stay Focused and Build.
However, soon I started realizing I was spending more and more time just building product and ignoring other things. Darn it! I’m constantly trying ways (any tips are welcome) to find balance, stay motivated and focused, but below are few things that have helped me over the past few weeks. All of these sound so simple (and more like “gyaan” a.k.a unsolicited advice), but I hope it helps:
1. Finding what helps me focus on a day-to-day/every minute basis. For me it’s music (Electronic works great for me) while working, constant reminders (posters etc.), regular/short breaks, and running at least 4-5 days in a week to help me de-stress.
2. Knowing what I’m doing (and when) — people talk about having a vision but focusing on something small, but I realized there is something in between that is equally important. I went through a high level exercise of coming up with my own 10 year, 3 year, 1 year, and 3 month plan(s) to help me get from vision to anMVP/immediate focus. Now, anything that doesn’t fit with my 3 month plan gets eliminated quickly. I plan to revisit/update this every now and then to see if I’m on track or if the long-term plan needs adjustments.
3. Developing/tracking measurable metrics so that I don’t ignore (or spend too much time on) “low priority” things. It’s not just metrics around financials/budget, burn rate, weekly progress etc., but some very seemingly trivial ones. For example: I now mentally track the number of days I go to gym, have metrics around # of people (potential investors etc.) I need to meet in a week/month etc.
4. Getting organized, and getting on a schedule. I still struggle to get my sleep schedule right.
5. Last one is something I read yesterday in an interview of Richard Branson: Delegate (use it if you have a team).
Enough of gyaan! I’d like to hear any suggestions/tips that might have helped you stay focused and motivated. Also, would be great to know if you tried any of the above and it still didn’t work…and lastly, feel free to call this BS if it doesn’t resonate with you