The two tracks in my mind

There seem to be two tracks in my mind.

Both pertain to running Pocket Revolutions and having a stable income.

One track pertains to what I want to be doing. Let’s call this the Fuzzy Ideal. It has to do with doing a lot intellectual work. Synthesizing new ideas and sharing them. I imagine making money by getting paid consulting gigs in combination with some money from my indie products. Is that a pipe dream? I don’t know, neither of those sources exist right now.

The coaching sessions I did with indie hackers recently goes in this direction. So does giving the online Wardley mapping workshop I did for a local meetup. So does figuring out Twitter and reading up on note taking.

It’s not clear how I’m going to make money on this track, but I’ve got an intuition that it’s ultimately the right track for me.

The other track is what makes sense on paper. It’s what others expect of me. Let’s call it the Swiss track.

My business partner probably sees me as someone that makes apps and does digitalization. And there are a lot of companies that probabl need help with the latter right now. The company name, Pocket Revolutions, on the other hand, sounds like a company that makes apps.

My girlfriend is also thinking in a similar direction. She is thinking in terms of me getting out of the office and talking to people. People like Axova’s CEO that landed me the Axova app project. Swiss business owners.

This reminds me of the conversation I had on a mastermind call recently. We had a guest expert on and the guy said that sometimes it makes sense to think of yourself as two versions. You’ve got this version of yourself of who you want to be, but sometimes you’ve got to put that aside for the moment and work on who you are here and now.

Maybe you want an internet business and you want to be known for X, but right now you need to put in the effort and make something happen locally.

That advice would point to investing in the Swiss track.

Where is the problem? Where is the tension?

The problem is that the second track, the Swiss track, doesn’t really resonate with me.

That statement, however, raises suspicions with me.

Does it not resonate because it’s uncomfortable? It involves talking to people in real life and probably speaking German. Those are things I typically don’t do as someone that works behind his computer. Those are things that are, however slightly, outside my comfort zone.

On the one hand my mind tells me it’s good to avoid those things because they are not my strengths, and you should invest in your strengths.

On the other hand my mind knows that it’s often by pushing through the difficult things, by seeking out the edge of your comfort zone, that you truly learn and grow.

I said a couple of days ago to my girlfriend that this Swiss track should be my focus. But then yesterday I spent 4 hours reading up on Zettelkasten and Andy Matuschok’s note taking philosophy. In doing that I could not be further removed from this Swiss track.

I think, at least for the time being, it’s worth investing on an all-in experiment on the Swiss track. At the least I’ll be investing in a track that the people close to me think has the most potential for me. I’ll also be pushing myself as there’s a lot of discomfort there. Maybe it will offer insights that will help me find my way onto the main track.

Update: 30 minutes later

The above thoughts were heartfelt, but also a bit silly when put next to the previous post about focusing my efforts on status trackers.

Why, because a big reason why this strategy made so much sense was because it addressed the short-term (~the Swiss Track) with the long-term (~the Fuzzy Ideal).

It feels like I had this problem, found a good solution I could sink my teeth in, forgot about the solution and wrote a blog post about the initial problem again.

For my own future reference, here is the key insight once again.

I need to find new clients and make money short-term. To do this I will showcase what I’ve done with Axova. This is best described as a status tracker for a service provider, and this can be seen as a digitalization strategy. I might find companies that are interested in this directly (which makes me appear as the expert) or interested in digitalization more broadly (which still gives me something behind my name). This is my strategy for the Swiss track.

The Fuzzy Ideal track is longer term, but my Swiss track lays the foundation for this. It could be that more service providers will be interested in keeping their customers in the loop and to offer transparency into their processes. This could start off as a play in the local market (Swiss track) but then later evolve into the international market as a productized service, or even an automated service (e.g. SaaS). This would put me in the position of inventing, driving forward a new SaaS product, which pretty much fits with the Fuzzy Ideal track.

Niching down on status trackers and progress updates

As readers of this blog will know, my goal is to build one or more successful software companies.

I didn’t (and still don’t) have the financial cushion to spend most of my productive time figuring out how to do that just yet. So my strategy has been to first establish a somewhat stable income.

Unfulfilled by my previous stints as an employee and unable to support myself with my side-projects, I was looking for ways to do contracting work.

I assumed (and still do) that you’re most likely going to find work as a freelancer/contractor when you focus on what you’re good at.

My experience and my skills were in the product management domain and it wasn’t clear to me how I was going to find clients doing that. Although useful skills to have, product management as a role isn’t typically something that gets outsourced.

This is one of several influences that led me to consider whether to reposition myself or re-educate myself.

At the same time I was growing frustrated with my lack of ability to create stuff (especially quickly). As a product manager having worked with many developers, I had always been in awe of the things they were able to create.

This led to me playing with the idea of diving deeper into software development.

I mentioned my tentative desire to do more programming to a friend of my girlfriend’s who responded by telling me he wanted my help to build an app. I agreed. There was only one problem. At the time, I was in between legal residences and I was unable to charge him as a non-resident freelancer in Switzerland.

One thing led to another and this friend ended up funding a Swiss business entity for me so I could help him bring this app into being.

With a Swiss business entity and a first client I was off to the races. I decided to say embrace this opportunity in the biggest way I knew how and decided to establish myself not just as a coder for hire, but as an agency.

I didn’t know what kind of agency at first, but when my second project turned out to be another mobile app, and considering my side-project Pingcoin is an app, it made sense to position myself as an app agency.

This is what led to the name Pocket Revolutions (technological revolutions in your pocket).

While the first project lost momentum, the second project kept moving along.
My client for the second project, Axova AG, a Swiss solar panel installation service provider had two goals in mind when they conceived of the app.

Firstly, they wanted to reduce the amount of customer support their customers seemed to require of them. This seemed do-able, since most of the customer’s questions were answered by quick look-ups in their internal CRM. Information, in other words, that could easily be passed on to their clients in an automatic or self-serve way.

Secondly, they wanted to produce an app that would help them differentiate themselves from their competition. I’ve been told it’s hard to distinguish yourself as a solar panel installation service company, so a more innovative company image could convince potential clients to work with Axova.

After diving deep into the problem space, the concept I came up with is analogous to a package tracker. It’s a one screen app where you can, at a glance, view what steps in the solar panel installation process have been completed and what’s left. Additionally, any upcoming appointments are prominently displayed on the home screen.

The one-screen Axova status tracker

As I was working on this project, I was thinking about the next steps for my agency and how to get my next client.

Several things were clear in my mind.

I needed a way to differentiate myself

If I were to position myself as an app agency, and nothing else, I would be competing with other app agencies. I have a relatively short track record in both development and design and putting myself in the same category as agencies with people dedicated to those domains seemed like a bad idea. I knew I would need to differentiate myself.

Niching down made sense

I also knew that niching down would probably be the best way to differentiate myself. Jonathan Stark, who makes a living teaching software developers how to charge more and structure their consulting businesses also likes to tell his readers and listeners that niching down is important. He talks about two strategies, niching down vertically (e.g. I’m an expert in technology X) and niching down horizontally (e.g. I do a wide range of work, but only within industry Y).

I considered niching down vertically, e.g. approaching other companies in the solar/energy sector. I also considered niching down horizontally, e.g. specializing in digital transformations, or more commonly known as digitalization here in German-speaking Switzerland (German speakers have strange habit of incorporating English-sounding words into their language, see also “Handy”)

One way I was reflecting on my skillset was that I could take a deep dive into a business, understand their processes and workflows and help them make things more efficient by leveraging software. This is how I was interpreting digitalization. Unfortunately there seems to have been so much hype around this word in the German speaking world, that I have found it to have become almost meaningless.

There are many consultants that thrive in an environment of hype and meaningless words, but I don’t like it at all. So, positioning myself as anything to do with “digitalization” didn’t sit well with me (although helping companies better leverage technology did make a lot of sense).

Another aspect I was drawn to within the topic of digitalization was that I believed it might be also be ticket to a very interesting conversation. Talking to businesses about their problems (to be solved at an hourly rate) would also put me in a position where I’m hearing a lot of business problems. This might surface ideas for a SaaS business (my main goal, remember?)

Not sure what to do, I ended up half-heartedly committing to digitalization. Verbalizing “digitalization” made me sick to my stomach, but on paper it seemed like a good idea.

This changed on a recent mastermind call I had. On this particular call our mastermind facilitator Paul Colaianni had invited a guest. His name is Jeff J. Hunter and he’s an expert at LinkedIn marketing.

On the call Jeff gave me feedback on my business and encouraged me to think in terms of: what other industries could use what I had built? Thinking in this way would allow me to leverage what I had built in the past.

Jeff suggested that I could do the same thing I had done for the solar panel installation company for any service provider. He mentioned the example of landscapers and how he would sometimes get caught off guard by his landscaper coming to work in his garden, disrupting his conference call with the sound of his mowing machine.

What he was saying was that he would have loved to have known exactly when his landscaper was going to come by. A very similar problem to what my solar panel installation tracker was solving.

This led me to start googling to see if I could figure out if this was a “thing”. “Is there a company providing services in this space?” I asked myself. I didn’t find much (which is good news!), but this article by the Nielsen and Norman group stood out.

A status tracker, according to NN, is: “an online or app-based feature for tracking the progress of the delivery of a product or service.”
They differentiate this from what they call “progress updates” which are “notifications sent by the company or service provider when the status of the delivery has changed — such as when an item has shipped or a decision on an application has been made.

Both provide information about the status of a delivery but the status tracker information gets pulled by the user and the progress updates get pushed to the user. They advise companies offering one to also offer the other.

Coming across the article by NN group, having them define the terms I was intuiting and having them say: “Status trackers and progress updates are so prevalent now, that users expect them.” transformed my thinking.
It helped crystallize in my mind the idea that I could focus on providing services around developing status trackers. I could become a status tracker expert. I could approach other companies in Switzerland (but also beyond) by showing them what I’ve already done (the solar panel status tracker) as a case study.

This made a lot of sense. One way in particular that it made a lot of sense was that it seemed to satisfy my needs for a short-term and a long-term plan.

Short-term

Firstly, I have a way to position myself, to differentiate myself and to specialize. I won’t portray myself as product management consultant, an app developer or a digitalization consultant. Instead, I will say I make status trackers and progress update services. As evidenced by my client and what the NN/g is saying, there’s a market for this.

Medium-term

If I get more experience with building status trackers and progress update applications, I’ll be building more and more re-usable component and compounding my experience. I can start to think about productizing the service.

Long-term

The evolution of technology tends to go from custom-built to being commoditized. If we apply this lens to the custom status tracker I built, I suspect there might be possibilities for a fully automated e.g. SaaS solution as well. Imagine you’re a landscaping agency and you sign up for my SaaS WhatTheStatus. You’ve got a no-code interface that allows you to connect the app to your company’s CRM and configure the type of statuses you’d like to show your clients. You tell your clients to download the WhatTheStatus app and scan the QR code you send them, which gives them access to updates on the status of your landscaping work on their property.

Another benefit is that this is a multi-disciplinary challenge. There will be development work, design work, UX work etc. And that excites me.
So this is it, this what I’ll be focusing on for now. Until I obtain more information.

Here is my strategy in brief

My short-term goal is to achieve financial stability.

I believe the best way to do that which is aligned with what I enjoy, what I’m good at and what the market wants is as an independent consultant.

To raise my profile I will niche down and specialize in developing status trackers and progress reports for medium-sized service providers.

I will continually invest in improving and automating my service offering. I believe this will allow me to productize my service (medium-term), and with time, it may allow me to automate it completely as a SaaS business (long-term).

Distracted by Corona [Retro Mar, 2020]

What is this and what am I trying to achieve here?

My goal is to build and run 1+ successful online (software) businesses. Until one of my side-projects is able to support me financially, I have decided to do product design & development consulting as a boutique agency (Pocket Revolutions) in Basel, Switzerland. These monthly retros cover my journey to success for my agency/consulting as well as for my side-projects.

High-level overview

Goals and grades

(Did I achieve my goals? If not, why not?)

(I’m experimenting with a different way of grading my goals. See a short elaboration here.)

Goal: Finish the Axova app

I didn’t finish the app, but it was the right goal to set and I am happy with the progress that I made. The reason it falls short of what I hoped to do has to do with the fact that the remaining tasks took much longer than expected.

While getting the codebase ready for launch, I was refactoring some methods, which broke other parts of the code that relied on these methods. This sort of cascaded through the entire app so I needed to refactor almost everything on the front-end.

This also took a long time because I didn’t fully understand all the code on the front-end. Relying heavily on RxJS (as Angular does) if the code worked, I would leave it there, not always fully understanding why it was working. This came to bite me in the ass this month.

But overall I’m happy that I did, because this month I levelled up my understanding of RxJS.

Goal: Finish PR website case study section

I’m happy with the direction of this goal, but because I wasn’t able to finish the first goal, I never got to this one. This will probably be carried over to next month.

Goal: Include Axova as a PR case study

I wanted to include Axova as a case study on pocketrevolutions.com, but since I didn’t finish the app yet, that hasn’t been possible.

Check in with yearly goals

Yearly goal: 200k in revenue with Pocket Revolutions in 2020 (10/200)

I’ve only been able to charge my one client so far and I’m still working on the app. To get more revenue I need new projects and for new projects I need to do some outreach and for that, I need to finish the Axova app first.

Yearly goal: Get involved with 5 new apps (0/5)

I’m not on track to get involved with 5 new apps this year but I’m taking a look at what’s being done by different teams with regards to contact tracing apps for COVID-19.

Yearly goal: 24 blog posts (4/24)

Not on track. Including this retrospective I’ll be at 4 posts, whereas I should probably be at 6 seeing as we’ve passed the 1 quarter mark for 2020.

Time distribution

My main gig (design & development agency Pocket Revolutions)

In-depth update

This month was mostly about finishing the Axova app and implementing the needed tests in Angular/Ionic.

I also spent quite a bit of time cleaning up my SQL queries, which was more work than it sounds like. I ended up deciding to put quite a bit of logic into the SQL queries as opposed to doing this on the API server. As a result the data passes unchanged from the database, through the API server to the client.

Initially I thought the benefit of this would be that, seeing as my client is comfortable with SQL, he could view and edit queries himself. I did not expect the queries to get as complicated as they have, however. At this level of complexity I now believe it’s a better choice to keep the query bare bones and to do most of the logic in the API server.

That said, there’s always optimizations that can be made and one must draw a line somewhere. I felt tempted to work on implementing more logic in the API server this month, but decided not to.

My side projects

In-depth update: Pingcoin

I started taking 2 days off per week in March, mostly because I was working so hard during the week that 1 day a week wasn’t enough to reset and connect with my girlfriend. Thankfully 2 days is.

My girlfriend and I had set out to do chores on one day and relax and do something creative on the second. We were thinking about playing with a macro lens my girlfriend borrowed from a friend and we needed a subject that would be fun to record up close. This is when we thought about doing a video for Pingcoin.

I’ve been wanting to do an introduction video for Pingcoin, but it didn’t seem important enough to warrant taking the time. Now, it seemed like it would be fun to work on, especially with the constraint that we needed to finish and publish the video by the end of the day.

I’m actually really impressed and happy with the result. What about you?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b4LbRGKTNiE

In-depth update: Rapid Breakup Recovery

I spent almost no time on RBR, which has not been easy. I run a facebook support community and it is only because of the amazing other moderators in there that I was able to be absent for a month. I don’t know how (or if) I can combine a strong focus in another area without the community going to waste.

Commentary

Overall I spent a lot of time on my research of the Corona virus. I’m trying to apply a new rule to myself whenever I get drawn into something. The rule is that if I spend time researching something, I have to synthesize that into something new. For every portion of time spent consuming information I need to spend some time synthesising that information into something new.

In the case of the Corona virus I decided to generate some custom made plots in a Python notebook and share those with friends and family. They’re heavily inspired by the graphs done by the Financial Times. I made a slight innovation by taking a 10-day rolling derivative of the cumulative log death counts (which turns a line corresponding to a 33% daily increase in death into a straight line). This is perhaps a bit too abstract for FT readers, but I like it because it gives you a better impression of how countries are doing. And luckily they all seem to have really cut their exponential growth rates.

Next month is going to be about actually shipping the Axova app, showcasing it on pocketrevolutions.com and perhaps, if I have time, starting with outreach towards getting new clients.

What did I learn?

The Pingcoin video is a great result. But I didn’t reach it with my normal strategy of breaking things down, waking up early, working alone, grinding it out. Instead the idea came from my girlfriend, and although we had the constraint of needing to finish it the same day, it was mostly a relaxed and creative exercise. Maybe this is evidence that supports the case that a more playful approach to things can yield better and unexpected results.

All-in on Roam [Retro Feb, 2020]

What is this and what am I trying to achieve here?

My goal is to build and run 1+ successful online (software) businesses. Until one of my side-projects is able to support me financially, I have decided to do product design & development consulting as a boutique agency (Pocket Revolutions) in Basel, Switzerland. These monthly retros cover my journey to success for my agency/consulting as well as for my side-projects.

High-level overview

Goals & grades

(Did I achieve my goals? If not, why not?)

(I’m experimenting with a different way of grading my goals. See a short elaboration here.)

Goal: PR website is client-ready

Status: Started
Grade for goal direction: F
Grade for estimated progress towards goal: Too ambitious
Grade for actual progress towards goal: B

Last month I was happy to report the launch of v1 of the Pocket Revolutions website, believing it would be enough to shift my focus towards lead generation. Based on some initial feedback I’ve received I had to conclude it wasn’t entirely client-ready. Mainly due to some cosmetic glitches I had ignored and the lack of any real content.

I spent the first portion of the month trying to resolve this. I was hoping to finish my intended improvements while leaving enough time to finish implementing tests for the Axova app. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to finish either.

With hindsight, I should have worked on the Axova app first, until it was finished as I had verbally committed to finishing it by the end of February. I had to call my client and tell him this wasn’t the case. This was quite painful.

This is a case where the goal I set (make the PR website client ready) was the wrong goal to set. (This happens quite often and is the reason why I’ve moved away from simple goal grades. More info here.) With hindsight, it seems clear that my time should have gone towards finishing the app first, and the PR website second. For this reason I grade the goal direction with an F (although I’m pleased with my progress there (B)).

Goal: Reach out to my network

Status: Started
Grade for goal direction: B
Grade for estimated progress towards goal: Too ambitious
Grade for actual progress towards goal: D

I reached out to some individuals. When I set these goals, I was feeling okay with the state of the Pocket Revolutions website. But some feedback I received during the month made me believe it was perhaps too minimal. So mid-month I adjusted my goals to include a slight expansion of the website. This caused the whole topic to take longer, and not get finished.

Check-in with yearly goals

(Note that these are draft versions of my yearly goals. As of this writing I haven’t yet completed my 2019 yearly retrospective or my yearly plan for 2020.)

  • 200k revenue with Pocket Revolutions – Not on track
    • Hard to say if I’m behind or on track at this point. My feeling is that the website needs to be client-ready (which it almost is) and I need to adequately display my first project on there (which is almost done) before I can shift my focus fully on to lead generation.
  • 24 blog posts – On track
    • 24 is an admittedly low figure considering I publish a monthly retrospective which I’m counting, but I’ve been burnt in the past with overly ambitious goals, so I’m aiming for 1 retro + 1 post per month. I’ve published a short post on goal grading this month and I’ve got another idea sizzling in the background – so I believe I’m on track.
  • Get involved with 5 apps – Not on track
    • Achievement towards this goal will likely go hand in hand with the revenue goal. New projects would be new apps and new projects would also lead to more revenue.

Time distribution

My main gig (design & development agency Pocket Revolutions)

In-depth update

Adding a case study section to the website

Last month I thought I had put together an MVP for my agency website (it being a one page website), but after some feedback from peers and friends I came to the conclusion that perhaps it was *too* minimal.

I decided to spend some time designing and implementing the pages for individual case studies where I plan to showcase the work I’ve done for clients. I only managed to do (most of) the designing part this month, as I switched back the focus to my first client’s app (more on that later).

Here’s a screenshot of the design so far.

Business cards

One of the things I’ve held back on was ordering business cards. It seemed like one of those conventional things you do when you start a business that doesn’t really do much besides make you feel good (along with spending too much time on the logo + name (which I also did by the way)).

Having no business cards started to feel silly, however, when I started visiting local meetups. After getting asked for my business card multiple times, and having received many others, I decided to bite the bullet and order them.

I thought I’d be able to ask the design agency I work with to design some business cards and print them within a week or two. With the back and forth it took much longer (6 weeks I believe). In the end I’m also not 100% happy with them – but I needed something sooner rather than later, to give out.

Also, it looks like something went wrong in the design or paper-cutting process, because the logo is not aligned. Ah well, better next time!

Learning javascript testing and Angular testing with Ionic

The main thrust for this month was implementing tests for my first client’s app. I had never written tests before.

That’s right 0 tests written.

My coin testing app Pingcoin is completely test-free. But the more I learnt about coding, the more it seemed like the right thing to do. I became particularly convinced after reading Extreme Programming Explained by Kent Beck.

I purchased Kent C. Dodds Testing Javascript course collection on the company credit card and decided to dive in. The course is okay, although it goes over some important basics and helped lay my foundations, it left out some critical topics for me. One was “what should you test?” and the other was “how do you test Angular / Ionic?”.

The former I was able to find some good resources on online. One blog post from Kent himself is particularly good on this topic.

With regards to Angular / Ionic, there’s not much of an answer – anywhere. Angular was allegedly architected in a way to make testing easy. I can see how that’s the case. For a basic Angular app, testing is straightforward. The only qualifier I would add is that it quickly becomes more complicated when you’ve got a handful of dependencies being injected.

Where it gets out of hand is with the combination with Ionic. There is little to no documentation on testing Ionic, very few blog posts written on the topic and many dead ends in the official support forums. Here’s an example of a community post about an issue I also ran into: there seems to be a bug with triggering click evens on ionic elements.

The Angular architects seem to have had testing in mind when designing the platform, the Ionic architects unfortunately seem to have treated it as an afterthought.

The result has been that it’s taken a reasonable amount of time to get up to speed with testing in javascript and testing in Angular specifically, but an unreasonable amount of time to get up to speed with testing in Ionic.

My side projects

In-depth update: Pingcoin

I’m happy to say that due to my focus on my main gig this month, I spent almost no time on Pingcoin. I received one 4-star review in the mean time, someone requesting I add a particular coin. Which, again, leads me to the conclusion that it needs to be easier to send me feedback through the app, because having your customers use your Play store reviews sections as a support desk is a nightmare!

In-depth update: Rapid Breakup Recovery

I recorded a new podcast with a long-term member of our Facebook community. I wanted to focus solely on the PR website and my first client’s app, but this was a commitment I had made the month prior. You can listen to it here: https://www.buzzsprout.com/279895/2892901-02-finding-your-self-worth-with-gus

Commentary

Roam

After reading Nat Eliason tweets about Roam (specifically his reply to mine stating he’s going all-in) and watching a video of him pulling together an article, I became intrigued by this new knowledge management application.

Since then I’ve not only experimented with it, I’ve also gone all in with it.

With Roam I believe the founders have stumbled on something like a new interaction paradigm. Sort of like what Workflowy did with their project, but taking a much bigger leap than they did.

If you imagine the notes you make as your attempt at creating an external brain. Roam is both an update to the interface with that brain as it is that brain itself.

There are some core ideas at play that make it so interesting, and I plan to write a blog post about this as well this month.

One idea is that every unit of text is styled is treated as an entity (like blocks in Nothion). It is styled with a bullet point similar to Workflowy.

Unlimited indentations of child blocks can live underneath a parent block. Any block can be uniquely referenced or embedded into other blocks.

Within each block you can effortless label something with a #Tag

Once you do, your tag will become a hyperlink to a page dedicated to this tag. On this page you will find references to all other blocks mentioning that tag (if any). If it’s the first of its type, there will only be the reference you just created.

There is no top-down structure. This promotes a dynamic where the structure of your notes comes from the bottom-up through tags and the bi-directional links they create.

This sounds to me much more like the brain works and would help explain why it feels like using a high bandwidth neural connection to your brain.

I’m very excited about Roam and expect to use it heavily in the near future.

Follow up on my battle with procrastination

After discovering last month (to my complete surprise) that I am a frequent procrastinator, I became very interested in the topic. I’ve cracked open a book on the topic (which has helped open my eyes even further), I’ve become more aware of my behavior and I’m trying to make more conscious, long-term decisions.

My task for this month was to focus on the website (which I would later regret) and then focus on finishing my first client’s app. It wouldn’t take long for this ideal scenario to fall apart. Before discovering that I am a procrastinator, I had made a commitment to record a podcast episode for one of my side-projects, RBR. As fate would have it, my interviewee confirmed our appointment at the beginning of the month and I felt like I had no way out. I hadn’t recorded a podcast episode in a while, so I could be sure to expect a significant time investment in re-familiarizing myself with podcast editing and the editing itself.

The recording + editing took me 6.5 hours, and I’m still not completely finished.

Lesson learnt: Be very, very careful with the commitments that you make.

Pomodoro

In my quest to get a handle on procrastination I came across all standard recommendations: Get rid of distractions, write your todo list the day before, and – yes – the pomodoro method.

This silly sounding method, allegedly based on some Italian guy in the 1980s is based on just a few simple concepts.

  1. When you start your work you set a timer for 25 minutes.
  2. After 25 minutes you take a 5 minute break.
  3. After 4 sessions of 25 minutes you take a longer 15 – 30 minute break.

That’s it.

I had come across the method before but I had dismissed it out of hand. Why? Because it sounded like it was designed for people that had trouble focusing for 25 minutes. That was never my problem.

Now that I’ve tried it, I’ve come to a different conclusion.

Perhaps it helps people focus that otherwise have trouble focusing. That’s not what it does for me though.

What I feel it helps me do is turn my intellectual activities from a collection of full out sprints, into a better-managed marathon run. The forced breaks after 25 minutes, almost invariably come too soon – or so it feels. But probably thanks to them coming so soon, I rarely find it hard to complete a 25 minute stretch. As a result, I almost never find myself gassed out or brain foggy.

I also make sure that during the 5 minutes I don’t do anything besides making tea, drinking tea and looking out of the window (or going for a walk on my bigger breaks).

I suspect that stopping before your willpower is completely depleted, and sticking to a timeboxed short break in which you do nothing interesting, drastically reduces the odds of finding a reason to procrastinate.

I will write a post about this this month.

What I learnt

  • Writing tests is not a big deal and it’s rewarding work. Writing tests in Angular can get a little complicated. Writing tests for Ionic is a pain in the ass.
  • Pomodoro seems to be working for me, not as a way to focus for 25 minutes, but to ensure I don’t get distracted in between working sessions (and possibly also during).
  • Note to self: Be extra careful with commitments you make.

Grading goals with vectors

As with any aspect of a routine you keep executing on, you also keep iterating on the implementation details. I started off reviewing my goals by simply looking at whether I completed them or not. This was amounted to a binary analysis of my progress. Did I complete the task, yes or no? Any nuance or important context would be lost.

The binary analysis reflected how I was working with my goals. I would set them, have them show up as tasks in notion (now Roam), and I would tick them off when (or if) I completed them, at which point they would disappear from my list. The task was either pending or gone.

This works fairly well when you’re trying to keep track of what you set out to do, and how far you’ve come along. It’s not a very good system to reflect on what got done, and where you can improve.

I was inspired by Cory Zue’s retrospectives where he gives each goal a grade. This gives a much needed nuance – shades of grey if you will – to the simple binary method.

 

Perhaps you’ve done a lot of work towards a goal and you’re really happy with your progress, but you haven’t completed it per se. Such a case would show up as incomplete in the binary method, even though the outcome is quite positive. You can more accurately reflect this positive result by giving the goal a grade – a positive one in this case (e.g. A).

I like how grades give the goals more nuance without making it overly complicated. At risk of doing just that (adding more complexity), I’ve started experimenting with a 3-dimensional grading mechanism.

Although I value the simplicity and the added nuance, I was still facing difficulties grading my goals. To be more specific I was encountering the following problems:

Problem 1: I would set a goal and realize mid-month that it was the wrong goal to set in relation to my longer-term objectives. If I were to complete it anyway, is this an A because I completed it, or an F because it was the wrong goal?

Problem 2: I would set a goal and still be happy with it mid-month (e.g. it’s the right direction in the grand scheme of things) but I simply underestimated how much work was involved. If I only got 1% done, but that’s a good effort, is that an A for effort or perhaps more like a D for results?

One solution, in my mind at least, involved seeing this as a vector (or 2 vectors to be more precise). A vector is defined by a direction and a magnitude.

In the case of a goal, the direction is the direction of your goal. You can set a goal which is in service of your overarching goals. In this case both will have he same direction.

Then there’s the magnitude. If you set an ambitious goal, it would have a large magnitude, an easy goal a small one. You can map your actual progress along this same vector.

As with any solution, it’s important to connect it back to the problem is purports to solve. In this case the problem is the following:

Problem definition

I want to achieve my long-term goals (e.g. yearly), in order to do that I want to keep track of my progress towards my intermediate goals (e.g. monthly, weekly) and periodically reflect on whether I can improve my approach. Keeping track of completed / not completed goals does not give me any insight beyond whether the goal was completed. Grading my goals adds some important nuance (e.g. 90% completion would be an A, rather than “not completed”). Grading still falls short in two important areas: goals might be set in the wrong direction and goals might be set too ambitiously (or naively).

Solution: Goal vectors

Goal vectors is an attempt to solve that with grading the goal direction, the  goal’s magnitude (estimation of progress) and the actual progress that was achieved.

This leads to some different scenarios explained in the figures below:

In the above case we set a goal (yellow) which is perfectly in line with our long-term goals (blue). The only problem is that we haven’t achieved as much progress (green) as we had hoped. The lesson here would be to set a slightly less ambitious goal.

In the above case we’ve achieved just as much progress (green) as we had hoped (yellow), but the goal turned out to be the wrong one. It’s not in line with our long term goals (blue). The lesson here would be to more carefully consider our overarching goals.

In above case we’ve set a goal which is in line with our long-term goals, but it looks like it was much too easy. The progress we’ve achieved is greater than what we estimated. The lesson here would be to set more ambitious goals.


The above is just an idea I’m going to experiment with. Perhaps it’s too complicated to work in practice, but it’s where I’ve caught my mind repeatedly going to.

Finding out I procrastinate [Retro Jan, 2020]

What is this and what am I trying to achieve here?

My goal is to build and run 1+ successful online (software) businesses. Until one of my side-projects is able to support me financially, I have decided to do product design & development consulting as a boutique agency (Pocket Revolutions) in Basel, Switzerland. These monthly retros cover my journey to success for my agency/consulting as well as for my side-projects.

High-level overview

Goals & Grades

(Did I achieve my goals? If not, why not?)

My theme for January was “Pocket Revolutions website & getting out there!” by which I meant, I wanted to launch a first version of my agency’s website as well as meeting new people to find new clients.

(Goal) Pocket Revolutions website is online – Grade: B

I’m proud to say the Pocket Revolutions website is now online. It runs on Gatsby and is hosted by Netlify. Having said that, it’s a vastly stripped down version of what I had in mind. Keeping in the spirit of the lean startup (and cutting down my time to launch) I decided to publish a “skateboard” version of the website. I intend to periodically update it when I do get the chance. As a mastermind buddy of mine told me: “websites are always works in progress.” I completed the objective, albeit with reduced a scope, and decided to grade it with a B.

(Goal) 4 new prospects – Grade: F

I found 0 new prospects in January and also did not follow through on the steps I set out at the beginning of the month. Although I reviewed this goal almost every day of the month, I completely forgot to review the sub-tasks I had come up with that would help me reach this goal. They were (1) Reaching out to 20 people on LinkedIn, (2) Reaching out to 10 people in my network and (3) Go to 8 meetups. Sadly this is a theme throughout my retros: I set goals that I don’t end up achieving, largely because (I believe) the steps towards achievement are largely unclear to me (e.g. What? Find 10 new clients, How? Undefined). The recurrence of this pattern this month led me to seeing for the first time a form of procrastination I was participating in of which I had no previous awareness. More on that below. Because I failed to find even one new prospect my grade here is an F.

Check-in With Yearly goals

Am I on track to achieve my yearly goals? If not, why not?

(Note that these are draft versions of my yearly goals. As of this writing I haven’t yet completed my 2019 yearly retrospective or my yearly plan for 2020.)

  • 200k revenue with Pocket Revolutions – Not on track

To get 200k in revenue I envision I would need to secure something like one or two $50,000 projects and one or two $100,000 projects. Currently I’m still working on generating prospects so a new project seems far away (but who knows :))

  • 24 blog posts – Not on track

To reach 24 blog posts at the end of the year I need to publish an average of 2 blogposts per month. I haven’t published any yet, so I’m already a bit behind here. This retro will be my first post of the year.

  • Get involved with 5 apps – On track

To achieve an involvement in 5 apps I need to get involved with 1 new app every 2.4 months. Being only one month into 2020 I’m still on track with this goal.

Time distribution

My main gig (Pocket Revolutions, a product design & development agency)

In-depth update

Launched v1 of the Pocket Revolutions website

I launched the first version of the Pocket Revolutions website. It’s only one page, it’s bare bones, but it contains the most important elements of an agency website.

Featured on the Help’n’Trade podcast

After visiting a local entrepreneur meetup I was asked to come on a podcast called Help’n’Trade which is connected to the similarly named platform. The platform aims to facilitate the barter (trading) of skills between individuals, thereby creating easier pathways to entrepreneurship. I’ve never been on a podcast before so it was exciting to take part in. You can listen to the resulting interview below. We ended up talking quite a bit about my counterfeit coin detection app, Pingcoin.

My Side-Projects

High-level overview

In-depth Update: Pingcoin

Turning a 3-star review into a supporter

I got a new review on the Play Store for Pingcoin, a 3-star review. Unfortunately it seems that Android users have become accustomed to using the channel of Play Store reviews as means for reporting bugs. There’s an option within Pingcoin to contact me directly via email, yet I get reviews like the following:

I promptly posted a reply, apologising for the inconvenience and encouraging the user to reach out to the pingcoin support email. I’m happy to say they reached out. I got to meet Tomasz, a young coin collector from Poland, and we were able to debug his issue via email.

The issue Tomasz was reporting was that the measured frequency peak seemed to fall within the allowed threshold, yet the verdict that was being displayed was negative. He was kind enough to supply a screenshot. As you can see below it seems that for the 3rd frequency the frequency should have been detected.

It turns out Tomasz helped me uncover two issues with Pingcoin.
For each coin I maintain an internal threshold for each frequency. If the frequency measured by the user’s device falls within the threshold, the corresponding frequency’s tolerance bar (initially red) will turn green.

The width of the tolerance bars is supposed to coincide with the width of the tolerance. Apparently this wasn’t quite the case. They seem to have been displaying slightly wider than they should. This is what was causing problems on Tomasz’ end.

His coin’s 3rd frequency fell outside my tolerance for the 3rd frequency, but, because the tolerance bars were drawn wider than they should, it appeared inside.

Why did his coin fall outside the threshold? This depends on the coin recordings the app uses for its predictions. Small changes in the coin’s minting process can produce small deviations in the frequencies.If it hasn’t “seen” any coins from 2020 and a user pings such a coin, it might fall outside the threshold. In Tomasz’ case, however, this wasn’t what was going on.

On doing some investigation I could see that Tomasz’ coin actually fell within the app’s threshold for that specific coin, had the thresholds been set correctly. I discovered this wasn’t the case for this coin. Luckily it was an easy fix.

The other thing I needed to fix was the fact that the threshold’s visual width did not map onto its actual width behind the scene. This too was easily fixed.

I promptly fixed both issues and got back to Tomasz and invited him to join the beta program. He agreed and deleted his previous review. He had this to say in response to testing the fixes on the Beta track:

Prototyping in Python

The biggest issue with the Pingcoin app right now is the fact that it too easily picks up spurious sounds, rather than only being activated by the sound of a coin. This problem is more pronounced on some devices than other, but it’s an issue across the board.

Although it would seem relatively trivial to come up with a simple algorithm which is able to detect the onset of a coin’s ping (this is called onset detection in the literature), every attempt I’ve made has only led to marginal improvements.

Part of the challenge is that the environment in which I was coming up with new onset detection algorithms was inside the Android code base itself. This is a problem where I want to easily plot information to get feedback on what the algorithm is doing, to easily swap in different approaches and to set up a robust cross-validation pipeline. Android and Java did not seem like the correct environment for this type of prototyping activity.

As such, I had the long-standing idea of creating this environment in Python, where many of the requirements I have are more easily met. With the caveat that it would require a lot of upfront work to set it up.

I’m happy to say that by devoting slightly over two days to this task, I now have an environment set up where I can easily load up coin recordings, plot their spectrograms and swap in onset detection algorithms. A result of one such algorithm can be seen below. Spread out across the y-axis you see vertical lines corresponding to coin strikes with the sustained “pinggg” sounds as horizontal lines starting at each strike. The red lines are the ping sounds that are extracted by the algorithm I’m using. Setting up cross-validation is the next step.

In-depth Update: Rapid Breakup Recovery

Moving to Gatsby

I transferred all of my WordPress posts from rapidbreakuprecovery.com to a local Gatsby installation. I am tired of feeling restricted by the needless complexity of WordPress development and maintaining a WordPress site under source control. I’m familiar now with javascript and the node ecosystem, so Gatsby sounds like it will offer easier maintenance, easier customizability and also a cheaper hosting bill (if any!) Although there are ways to automate the migration process I opted to do it manually as the amount of posts I have is limited.

There are some tweaks that still need to be made to the theme, but after that I will be ready to launch a new version of Rapid Breakup Recovery. A version I will hopefully be able to iterate on more quickly.

Insights

I discovered I procrastinate with worthwhile tasks

I achieved my objective of getting the Pocket Revolutions website online, but I had to strip down the scope. I failed to achieve my second objective of finding 4 new prospects. When I look at my time expenditure (to find out the cause for this), one thing jumps out at me: I did not spend much time on prospecting activities (e.g. Networking 5%). When you don’t put in the time to find clients, you probably won’t find any (duh). Why didn’t I spend more time networking though? We’ll get to that later.

The plurality of my time went to development of the Pocket Revolutions website and is in line with my expectations. What is surprising, however, is that I spent 22% of my time on my side-projects Pingcoin and 10% on RBR, even though neither was represented in my monthly goals.

As I will detail in the side-projects section, my time spent in these side-projects was well spent, and upon first analysis I don’t regret spending it the way I did. What I do feel funny about is not being able to foresee this expenditure to begin with. Why, for instance, did I decide to spend time porting the RBR site to Gatsby this month? I’m not sure I have a good answer to that question other than that it seemed a good idea at the time (yet somehow not good enough to surface during my monthly planning).

To some extent what I’m doing here reflecting on my results and time entires feels like an exercise in analyzing hours logged by someone else. I don’t remember what I was thinking at the time of clocking these hours, nor do I remember precisely what I was thinking when I made a forecast at the beginning of the month.

This strikes me as a potential area of improvement. It would take minimal effort to write a short argumentation for my forecast as well as an argumentation for any deviation thereof. I could then include those in my retrospective and perhaps achieve more focus on my monthly objectives or gain more insight into the reasons for my deviations.

What feels like a red flag here is the realization that I have two conflicting beliefs. On the one hand I believe the initial objective is reasonable and worthwhile (i.e. get 4 new prospects), but I also believe the same about the unrelated work I ended up doing (i.e. port the RBR website to Gatsby). Critically, if I had to choose between the achievement of 4 new prospects (the initial goal) or the porting of the RBR website (what got done), it’s obvious – I would choose the 4 new prospects (the initial goal).

The moment I wrote the above paragraph it dawned on me that something was wrong. I was saying I was happy with how I spent my time, yet if I could choose between spending it the way I did, or spending it the way I intended, I would clearly and overwhelmingly choose to spend it the way I intended.

It seems I’ve identified a form of procrastination I participate which was completely invisible to me before: I avoid a planned task that is valuable and urgent by working on an unplanned task that is also valuable, but slightly less urgent.

The problem with the word “procrastination” is that I associate it with being lazy and/or avoiding something unpleasant. I don’t see myself as someone that does that. Hardly ever. Besides, on the face of it, there’s nothing about finding 4 new prospects that seems unpleasant to me. This led me to suspect there was more going on below the surface. I have some suspicions why I might have avoided this task unwittingly.

For one, although the objective is clear (find 4 new prospects), how I’m supposed to get there definitely is not. As I mentioned above, I forgot I had identified some sub-objectives to complete. When I include the sub-objectives, the goal of finding 4 new prospects feels somewhat clear and surmountable – without them, it’s completely blurry. Not difficult, mind you. It doesn’t feel difficult. Perhaps if I were to take a deeper look at it, the difficult aspects of it would emerge. On the face of it, however, it simply seems uninteresting, inexact, unimportant even – but not difficult.

Secondly, the reason procrastination never came to mind for me was that I wasn’t avoiding work. I was doing work and I was doing important, useful work. Every time I looked back at what I did, I could justify the time I spent, even if I deviated from the tasks I had set out to do.

A quote from Richard Feynman comes to mind:

The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.

In this case I was fooling myself. I’ve been avoiding doing the tasks that are most valuable and most urgent in exchange for doing tasks that are also valuable but less urgent. The question that uncovered this self-deception was: “Would I choose this result if I could choose between it and the objective I had originally set?” The answer to that question was a clear no.

What I learnt

  • I discovered that I procrastinate by doing things that feel worthwhile both in the moment as well as after the fact – except when compared to the original task I set out to do
  • You can convert a bad review into a supporting user
  • The Pingcoin codebase probably needs some love

My December 2019 Retrospective

Summary

(I’m posting this retrospective in January of 2020. Although I conducted a retrospective for the month of November in 2019, I felt so demotivated about my progress that I decided against writing it up for public consumption. I’m revisiting this month to retroactively correct for that decision.)

Results

Goals and grades

Yearly goals

Goal: 1 month of >10k CHF revenue [Financial]

Unfortunately, I’m not on track to achieve my yearly goal. The main reason, I still believe is that, given the path I’ve chosen, it’s going to take longer to get to $10’000 in monthly revenue.

Time

I spent 19 hours learning Gatsby. Wow! That sounds like a lot. While doing it I didn’t realize it was adding up to so much time. What I do remember is that it felt much more difficult to learn than I had anticipated.

I’m really happy with my 11:25 hours reading. My Kaizen for this month was that I should focus again on tracking my reading time and I’m happy I was successful!

I spent 9 hours working on my positioning and strategy for Pocket Revolutions.

I spent nearly 10 hours on Pingcoin, mostly adding coins and coming up with a design for next steps.

Side projects

Rapid Breakup Recovery
Time spent: 6%
Revenue: $0
– Facebook group moderation

Pingcoin
Time spent: 10%
Revenue: $0
– Laying the groundwork for onset detection

Commentary

Positioning

I’ve been thinking a lot about how to position myself with my agency, Pocket Revolutions. Working on the website this month has forced me to make certain decisions about what header to display and what copy to use. It’s been surprisingly hard to make a decision.

Initially I was planning on positioning myself as an app development agency. But then I came to realize that it would be better to differentiate myself from the other app development agencies out there. Lately, two things have been going through my mind:

  1. Position myself as a digitalisation agency
  2. Position myself as a digital product strategy agency

Towards the end of the month that which resonated the most was positioning myself as product strategist. This is what I would do if money wasn’t an issue. The challenge is: I don’t know if it’s feasible.

Found a new mastermind!

I’m currently in a small accountability group, but I’ve always wanted to be in a proper mastermind. I got lucky this month as someone I had reached out to in the past for coaching reached out to me with the offer for me to join a mastermind he was setting up. My answer was “Yes, of course!”

We’ve started meeting and will continue to do so every week. There’s 5 of us (3 USA based, 1 India and myself). Our businesses vary widely, but the atmosphere so far has been great.

Clothes make the man?

While reading Million Dollar Consulting the author stresses the importance of owning and wearing professional looking clothes. The lesson is that you need to treat yourself as a million dollar consultant to be a million dollar consultant.

I remember hearing the same lesson in the context of Benjamin Franklin (or perhaps some other historical figure) who decided to buy new clothes before making any sales in his new business.

Somehow hearing that lesson again, and having my girlfriend reiterate it, has now convinced me to buy a new wardrobe, even though I didn’t want to spend money before bringing in new clients.

Wardley mapping and Ben

I dug into Wardley mapping again, an incredibly insightful way to map out a strategic challenge and I came across the work of Ben Mosior (hiredthought.com). I decided to reach out and we had a very fun Zoom call talking about product strategy, Wardley mapping and other things.

What I learnt

I consistently overestimate how much I can do and how much I am able to focus.
This is the 3rd month that I’ve set as a goal to finish the Pocket Revolutions website. On the one hand I’m underestimating the time it takes me to figure out the technical implementation. On the other hand I suspect I’m being overly perfectionistic. This is why for January I want to focus more on a bias towards action.

Reaching out to people that inspire you is feasible and fun!
I really, really enjoyed the conversation I had with Ben.

Goals for next month

My November 2019 Retrospective

Summary

(I’m posting this retrospective in January of 2020. Although I conducted a retrospective for the month of November in 2019, I felt so demotivated about my progress that I decided against writing it up for public consumption. I’m revisiting this month (and December) to retroactively correct that decision.)

Although I planned on focusing on the Pocket Revolutions Website, I spent a significant portion of my time setting up a forum for Rapid Breakup Recovery alumni (with mixed success) and binge consuming Seanwes’ material.

Results

Goals and grades

Two F’s this month. Although I made some progress with the PR website, I wasn’t as focused on it as I could have been. This contributed to my not being able to finish this task this month.

The second objective I had set for November was to implement tests for the Axova app. I didn’t get to this objective as I didn’t finish the first.

Yearly goals

Goal: 1 month of >10k CHF revenue [Financial]

Unfortunately, I’m not on track to achieve my yearly goal. The main reason, I still believe is that, given the path I’ve chosen, it’s going to take longer to get to $10’000 in monthly revenue.

Time

My total productive time this month is a bit low compared to other months, but I went on a short vacation which accounts for most the discrepancy. The main surprise was the lack of focus on the PR Website. Instead of achieving a 50% on this topic, I only achieved 30%.

Something else worth noting is that I have no logged reading time in November. Although I did read less in November than usual, the lack of logged time is due to me forgetting to log my time reading. I find time tracking while reading to be the most difficult activity to time track. Next month I plan to do better.

Side projects

Rapid Breakup Recovery
Time spent: 15%
Revenue: $0
– Set up a forum for RBR alumni

Pingcoin
Time spent: 5%
Revenue: $0
– Set up a Google collab notebook for onset detection

Commentary

A forum for recovered men

For Rapid Breakup Recovery I run an Facebook support group where I, and a few others, help guys that are looking for support after breaking up with their partners. One of the challenges I’ve perceived is that members will join the group, benefit from the advice given, and then leave and never return. It’s a breakup recovery support group after all, and once you’ve recovered there’s little appeal to sticking around.

To address this, and to reward those few guys that *have* stuck around I thought of creating a forum for recovered guys. On this forum, I imagined, we would have the same principles of openness and honesty, but we could discuss a wider range of topics.

I had been playing around with this idea for a while, consistently agitated by the poor experience that Facebook groups provides. I was going back and forth in my mind whether to attempt to build the solution myself or to go with an off the shelf solution such as Discourse. I ended up doing the latter.

In the span of a few hours I spun up a Digital Ocean droplet and installed Discourse. I invited a handful of guys from my Facebook group, told them about the idea and encouraged them to participate on the forum. The response has (understandably) been luke warm. I’m happy I was able to set it all up that quickly however. In any case, that’s where some of my time went this month.

Binge consuming Seanwes

This month I discovered Seanwes’ content and decided to become a member of his site. I devoured his most recent book and 2 or 3 of his courses. I made copious notes doing so. I thought this was justified because a big part of what he teaches is being prolific online (which I want to do) and his style of teaching really resonates with me.

A meeting with a potential client with just an idea

I got put in touch with a woman that was interested in making an investment, or starting some kind of venture in the online clothing space. As my positioning is still evolving I agreed to meet and facilitate a strategy session. The session itself went quite well. We narrowed down what she wanted to achieve.

More writing without publishing

Another month where I was able to spend quite a bit of time writing (12:48), but alas, nothing got published again. Writing for myself is not the hard part. It is writing for other people that seems to be the challenge.

Goals for next month

Next month there is only one goal: Getting the Pocket Revolutions website online!

My September 2019 Retrospective

Summary

September was a month where I truly tried to focus on one thing: Finishing the first version of my first client’s (Axova’s) app. This was reflected in the main goal of the month (Finish Axova v1) as well as in the values I was targeting for September (Focus, Emotional control and Long-term thinking). The result is a [B] grade. I spent nearly 50% of my time on the Axova project, 50% being the highest measure of focus I’ve been able to achieve. (This figure is much higher when compared only to time spent on other side projects). The resulting grade is not an [A] because I didn’t end of finishing v1 (which admittedly has more to do with my estimation abilities).

September was another month where I spent a lot of time (20+ hours) doing generative writing in the mornings. Unfortunately this has again not resulted in published writing. As of this writing (mid-October) I’ve reduced my daily writing to 500 words and have included a 30 minute daily editing habit. I suspect the lack of an editing habit has prevented me from turning my writing into publishable content. With this in mind I’ve graded my goal of coming up with a plan for sticking with a publishing schedule as a [B], because although I did not come up with a plan, I did carefully consider the topic throughout the month.

Lastly, the Pocket Revolutions website, I need to refrain from giving this task a rating. Because my primary focus was on the Axova app and because this task was not finished, I did not get to the PR website. As of this writing I’ve released v1 Android with the client, and v1 iOS is in the works. This will free up the time I need in October to make a v1 for the PR website.

Having said all that, the logical corollary to focus is a lack of attention to other things. As such I’ve successfully neglected (I like that term! “successful neglect”) my other projects. I had 1 coaching call for Rapid Breakup Recovery and I added some submitted coins for Pingcoin.

Yearly goals
Reflecting on my yearly goal of raking in $10k/month in income, I am essentially at $0/month. Having said that, I have yet to send out Pocket Revolution’s first invoice and of all projects PR is the most likely to yield such an income in the short-term. So although I will probably not hit my target, I don’t feel like I should change course right now. A primary focus on Product Revolutions AG seems warranted.

Next month
Even though I was being mindful of my tendency to overestimate my monthly goals, I managed to overestimate my ability once again in September. In October I will try again to underestimate what I will get done.

Goals and Time Distribution

Comments

  • 45% time on Axova, is so-so. Wanted to focus.
  • Surprised still 6 hours on RBR (mostly FB group)
  • Spent 20 hours writing, that seems like a lot. I need to translate that into something.

Key Accomplishments by Project

Pocket Revolutions

Time spent: 1:45

Revenue: $0

Comments

Did not spend much time on this.

Axova App

Time spent: 69:33

Revenue: N/A

Comments

Spent most of my time on this client project

Rapid Breakup Recovery

Time spent: 6:39

Revenue: $100

Comments

Had 1 coaching call. Increased my rate to $100 / hour. Most of my time was spent on the facebook group.

Pingcoin

Time spent: 6:20

Revenue: $0

Comments

Spent some time adding coins, which is okay. Spent some time working on an Angular admin interface for Pingcoin, which can be seen as a distraction.

Yearly Goals

Am I on track to achieve my yearly goals? If not, why not?

[F] — 10k / month revenue by December 2019 — Not really. I’m still at essentially 0 revenue. I haven’t found any new clients because I haven’t finished the first project with the first client yet.

What went well?

  1. Strong focus on the Axova app
  2. Themed days
  3. Charged $100 for a coaching session

What did not go well?

  1. Didn’t finish the Axova app
  2. Overestimated how much I can do in a month — again
  3. Building Android release

What should I do differently?

  1. Publish 1 article

Determine Kaizen

  • Underestimate your goals for October

My August 2019 Retrospective

Goals & Time Distributions

Did I achieve my goals? If not, why not?

Axova API (Backend for a Pocket Revolutions client) — Pretty much done. I’m mostly making smaller cosmetic tweaks now. One analogy that comes to mind is this idea of a painting where you start with the rough broader strokes, and quite quickly it starts to look like a mountain. But then you need to start filling in the details, which takes much longer. The problem is that with the painting you see the details — with an app, you often don’t.

Improved UI Implementation — Not done. Not really started because the other stuff was more important and not done.

Pocket Revolutions website is online — Not started. Did not finish the Axova app yet!

Even though I deliberately under-estimated my goals for August, I still didn’t reach them

This month I spent 32% of my productive time on my main focus: The Axova App (the app for my first client). In my experience with time tracking so far 50% is a good target to have for my main focus. If I fall below 50% I know I wasn’t truly focused on it. 50% may sound low, but it takes into account that I spend 14% on General tasks such as writing up this retrospective and 10% on writing.

The lack of focus on the Axova App this month is due to mainly 2 unplanned initiatives: Storehackers & My Timetracker. These are both side-projects that I felt compelled to work on.

I have had an ongoing difficulty in dealing with waves of motivation for working on ideas that are not part of my main focus. On the one hand I feel like I shouldn’t work on them. On the other hand I feel completely justified working on them, because:

  1. They’re not whimsical. These are product ideas that have occurred and re-occurred to me over a longer period of time.
  2. They scratch my own itch
  3. They are excuses for me to code more (which is what I want)

Project-Based Results

Yearly Goals

Am I on track to achieve my yearly goals? If not, why not?

1 month of >10k CHF revenue — Hard to say. Revenue was $0 in August. But at the same time there is revenue that will come in from the Axova project.

120 hours of self-study German — This goal does not seem relevant anymore and I should probably change it formally for next month.

What went well?

  1. 5-star review for Pingcoin on the Play Store
  2. Meeting with Axova went well showcasing the app so-far
  3. Refactoring the Axova app went well

What did not go well?

  1. Sticking to my publishing schedule of 2 posts per week
  2. No revenue across all projects
  3. Overestimated how much I could do this month

What should I do differently next month?

  1. Figure out how to stick to a publishing schedule for RBR and Pocket Revolutions

Determine Kaizen

Figure out how to stick to a publishing schedule

Discussion

On the one hand things look a bit bleak when I take my goal into account of having a $10k+ month this year. On the other hand, if I sign one client with my agency, I’ve achieved that goal.

Also, the $0 revenue for RBR seems like a negative result, but a lot of my time writing the last months has been for RBR. I have many draft articles and many snippets of usable content. Producing content has not been the problem — turning it into publishable content has. Simply saying: “I will publish an article on Thursday” has not worked for me. This is why next month’s Kaizen is to figure out how to come up with a publishing system that works for me.

That there’s no revenue for Pingcoin is not surprising. Here the goal is not to generate revenue but to iterate on the app until I have something that people are really, really happy with. There’s a big update which is overdue, which is to improve on the onset detection system. That is, to make sure the app doesn’t pick up random sounds as if they are coin “pings”. This requires me to build an onset annotator first — in order to generate reference data which I can use to optimize my detection algorithm.

Since writing the previous paragraph I’ve come to believe that I’m actually over-engineering my approach and I can probably get away with doing manual onset detection. This would mean opening up every coin ping recording, find the onset location and save those locations to a .txt file. One for each recording. This is tedious, and not sexy, but it’s not that big of a deal.

This touches on a general theme I’m noticing in my work: I get bogged down in non-essential tasks that seem relatively useful, but not greatly useful to my main goals. This is something that I’m digesting currently: How can I become more focused on only the few important tasks that need to get done. I believe it’s Warren Buffet that’s known for warning you about your good ideas because they are at the highest risk of distracting you from your great ideas.