A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step – Lao Tzu
Trying to bootstrap my business I’m running into the problem of being overwhelmed by all the things I have to do. The books I read are packed with actionable advice, which is great, but this also turns into a big drawback when it comes to actually implementing the advice.
Knowing what to do is as an important step in the process as it is actually implementing the ideas. Some ideas, although easy to understand, can be daunting when you are exposed to too many concepts at one time.
At the moment I have three big projects on my list. The first one is finding clients for my consulting. After redesigning my website, I have now to find ways to attract people to it by writing blog posts of interest to my target market and to start email newsletter to start my sales cycle and keep potential clients interested. I have to look for networking events where I can meet new clients (and maybe host one on my own, as suggested in this great comment by Patrick McKenzie on Hacker News). And many other strategies the books suggests.
The second one is writing an ebook on iOS programming to start creating some products or productized services related to it (like online classes). For this purpose I am going through Stack Overflow, looking at the topics people ask questions about to see what the common problems might be for other iOS developers. I’m trying to gather data and this is not an easy process for me, since it’s the first time I do something like this.
The third one is writing posts for this blog. I have some posts in the queue on what I’m learning and doing. When I will have gathered enough knowledge I might turn this material into an ebook too. In the meanwhile I’m also trying to study Dutch, since I live in the Netherlands and I miss many business opportunities since I don’t speak the local language yet.
This is a lot and I’m finding it too much at times. Many times I find myself not having clear ideas on what to do next, so I try haphazardly only to find myself frustrated at the results. I keep then switching to other tasks, with again the same result and increased frustration. I come to the end of the day feeling I have not accomplished anything substantial. This is very different process from writing code, where I can always see the progress towards a goal.
Luckily I found an idea in this free ebook from Nathan Barry, which is working pretty well for me. To tell the truth this idea was also suggested to me by my counselor, but the very fact of being overwhelmed by all the tasks kept my mind away from it. In the morning, just after breakfast, I plan my activities for the day. For this process I force myself stay away from my computer, since I noticed that if I open my laptop it first thing in the morning, it quickly becomes a huge time sink that puts me back in the vicious cycle I described above. I work through my notes and todo lists for the projects and identify the next actionable item I can do something about.
At the end of the day I look at what I accomplished and what result or insight it provided. If the result is not satisfactory, I can ask myself why and then see if I can improve it or do something else the day after. Sometimes I find myself not having time or energy at the end of the day to do this step. I then do it first thing the next morning.
Sometimes stopping to plan what to do might feel like a waste of time. I always thought that I already knew what to do, so I didn’t have to plan it in detail every day. I used to think “one hour spent planning is an hour spent not working on something more important”. This is also because it has worked pretty well for me until now. When I’m programming, I’m in a familiar place, I can easily identify what need to be done first to move forward. But this is different in a field where I have only vague ideas on what to do, because I’m still learning and because the process is less linear than programming.
I found that this helps me a lot getting things done. When I look at the items I accomplished at the end of the day I can now clearly see the progress and identify what I need to do next. This also helps me in not finding me in situations where I feel I don’t know what to do, since I limit the planning phase to the first part of the morning.