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.

My July 2019 Retrospective

Time distribution

Comments

Spent quite a bit of time writing, but not much new published material. It’s also unclear to me how much I’ve published in the month. This should be an easy to track KPI.

Overview by Project

Pocket Revolutions (Product Agency)

Time spent: 1.5

Comments

  • Spent time reviewing the logo concepts

Axova (Pocket Revolutions Client Work)

Time spent: ~90

Comments

  • Setting up an API to communicate between the app and the client’s in-house system
  • Connecting the app to the API

Rapid Breakup Recovery

Time spent: 6:03

Revenue: $19

Comments

  • Spoke with some veteran members about the idea to set up a support group for recovered men. Three responded positively. I’ll be setting up something shortly.
  • No revenue, mostly due to the lack of an email automation system.

Pingcoin

Time spent: 1:37

Revenue: $0

Comments

  • Just some time spent researching onset detection.

Monthly Goals (did I reach them?)

Finish Axova App — Not quite. Although I do see a sustained focus for every week in the month, I didn’t end up finishing this task. I do believe I made considerable progress though.

Turn pingcoin into a portfolio piece — Wasn’t able to start because I hadn’t finished the axova app

Finish the PR website — Not able to start because I didn’t finish the axova app

I didn’t reach my monthly goals, but I was able to stay true to the monthly theme of keeping focused. I think the focus was beneficial, but it turned out to be more work than I anticipated. I spent 80 hours on Axova, which is an okay amount for the month considering I clock about 40 hours for a week.

Yearly Goals

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

My yearly goals are:

  • 1 month of >10k CHF revenue [Financial]
  • 120 hours of self-study German [German]
  • **Private**
  • The first goal, it’s hard to say. If I find some clients for my agency work and I’m able to charge a decent amount.
  • The second goal feels like it needs to be changed. German hasn’t been a focus for the last several months now. And although I would like be more fluent, it doesn’t seem that important to me anymore right now.

What went well?

  1. Focus on Axova app went fairly well
  2. Switch to wacom tablet went fairly well
  3. Interactions with on Twitter based on my tweets

What dit not go well?

  1. I completed 0 out of 3 outcomes for the month.
    1. I am taking this to mean that I am being overly ambitious and I should scale down my desired outcomes. This seems to be a recurring theme throughout all my planning.
  2. Not publishing enough. It’s not visible to me how much I’m publishing.

What should I do differently?

  1. Underestimate your goals for August. Make sure what you set is what you hit.
  2. Make published articles a KPI that’s visible

Determine Kaizen

From the Could-do-differently backlog, determine your Kaizen for next month. A Kaizen is more process-oriented whereas a goal is more outcome oriented.

  • Underestimate my goals for August

My June 2019 Retrospective

Time Distribution

Comments

It’s interesting to see that I spent so much time reading (16%) without having planned for that. After reading about how Naval reads multiple books in parallel, I gave myself license to do the same. The books I started to read where:

  • Dig your well before you’re thirsty (Finished)
  • The overwhelmed brain (Finished)
  • Manufacturing consent
  • Content everywhere
  • You’re a badass at making money
  • As a man thinketh (Finished)
  • Can’t hurt me
  • Elements of user experience (Finished)
  • Refactoring UI (Finished)
  • Love and addiction
  • The controversy of Zion
  • A new male sexuality

I also spent a good deal of my time (13%) writing. This is because I’ve been consistent with my new writing habit, however, I haven’t been able to design my habit in such a way that it is leading to a consistent publishing schedule as well. This is undoubtedly the next step. I published a blog post going into a bit more detail about this.

Key Accomplishments

Rapid Breakup Recovery

Time spent

12:28

Revenue

Ebook sales: 0

Total: $0

Comments

My time was mostly spent answering questions in the facebook group. This is time consuming and I’m not really seeing any immediate returns for it. It’s interesting to see the revenue dip to 0 now. As I’ve said in a previous monthly retrospective, this is primarily because I no longer have an email sequence set up. Since a convertkit subscription is less than $50 a month, it’s an obvious win. I just need to find the time to implement it. Instead of spending any more time on my current WordPress setup, however, I’ve decided to migrate the blog to GatsbyJS. The remainder of my time has gone to this migration.

Pingcoin

  • Implemented a ping-tracking feature to collect data on incoming pings
  • Added incoming pings to the database
  • Did initial analysis of incoming pings
  • Did a usability test with my dad

Time spent

12:11

Revenue

$0

Comments

After doing a usability test with my dad it became clear that there are still some serious usability issues with the app. Having said that, I’m also seeing continuous usage in the Firebase analytics. Setting up analytics for incoming pings has allowed me to look at the distribution of the resonance frequencies of coins. This is something I need to write a separate blog post about.

Pocket Revolutions

  • Agreed with Axova to implement an API

Time spent

3:27

Revenue

$0

Comments

Our project with Axova will pick up now that we were able to agree to implement an API for them instead of waiting for their contractor to do it in their in-house system. This is good news because the project had been on hold for a while.

Monthly Goals

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

Figuring out how to bring in clients short-term & long-term.

  • One new client signed
  • Pocket Revolutions website up and running
  • Pingcoin as a portfolio piece on the PR website

I did not reach any of the 3 monthly goals.

FAILED: One new client signed

The main reason I didn’t reach this goal is probably that I didn’t spend time on it. I did read two books on the topic of networking (which isn’t counted in the above overview). I also did go to a Toastmasters event and met some people. One of my weekly goals was to get out of the office more and meet people.

FAILED: Pocket Revolutions website up and running

I’ve been researching different technologies that I could use to run the PR website. I’ve landed on Gatsby for Rapid Breakup Recovery and I intend to start using it for my personal blog as well as for the PR website.

I also spent some time researching what webdesign experts say about the process one should follow to design a website. Because I want to position myself as a technology expert I believe it’s important that my website is impeccable. So although I thought this task would be much quicker, it’s taking longer than expected.

Another reason it’s been taking longer is that in wanting to prepare Pingcoin and RBR as portfolio pieces for the website, I’ve dove deeper into them. I published some improvements to Pingcoin and I started migrating my RBR blog to Gatsby. On the one hand I’m splitting my time (as opposed to focusing), on the other hand I am polishing these projects up to serve as good portfolio pieces.

FAILED: Pingcoin as a portfolio piece on the PR website

Again, here I failed to turn Pingcoin into a portfolio piece, but I did spend considerable time on the project. Were these absolutely essential tasks? Probably not. But they are things that sooner or later needed to be done.

Comments

It’s somewhat confusing to see that I set out to find at least one client the past month and to publish my website, and I’ve not managed to do either. Not only that, but it seems that I haven’t spent that much time on these tasks directly. Why is that? What’s going on there?

(Bear with me as I think out loud. What follows is a recollection of how the month evolved for me. Incidentally this type of introspective writing is representative of the type of writing I do in my journal. You can read more about my writing habits here.)

At the beginning of the month I realize that to find clients (the goal of the month) I need to have a strong network. How does one build a network? I wasn’t really sure, so I started reading about it. I read two books on the topic and made some notes.

One of the things I realize is that I need to get out of the office more, so that’s what I do. I attend two networking events and meet some people.

At the same time I feel the pressure to start building my company website so I want to start with that. Then I realize I want to do a very good job at it, so I start reading about this topic.

Then I start looking at the projects I want to showcase as portfolio pieces and I see things that really need improving. So I jump in and start improving them case in point: Pingcoin.

Before you know it, it’s the end of the month and I don’t have any new clients, don’t have a website and haven’t turned Pingcoin into a portfolio piece.

Have I just been doing busy work?

I don’t think so, but I’m not 100% sure. I think what I’ve been doing is low pressure work. I improved several different areas and I did some careful research. I wasn’t sprinting towards the outcome I set. Instead I was carefully laying bricks.

Should I be sprinting instead of laying bricks? I think the answer is no.

Said differently, should I be pushing myself harder to just achieve the goals I set, or should I allow myself to get carried away with inspiration and curiosity?

In thinking about this I’m also reminded of Ray Dalio’s book Principles in which he says that you should distinguish between the “you” that designs your machine (your system to achieve your goals) and the “you” that works in it. I suspect that I’m allowing myself to get emotional and intuitive while I’m inside my machine. I’m then taking those emotions and allowing them to determine my strategy. As a consequence I’m not allowing my machine to behave very machine-like.

I think a better way of looking at the interplay between intuition and rational goal setting is that your intuition is sort of like the output of a finished process that was run by your subconscious. Your subconscious has a lot more processing power, a higher bandwidth for incoming data, access to more resources than your conscious faculties. And in general it has the capacity for coming up with answers that are much higher quality answers for your problems (taking more levels of your being into account). One challenge is that it is not always clear when it’s speaking or what it’s saying. It takes practice to get in tune with it and to dispatch questions to it to be answered.

The weaves of your subconscious also constitute your blind spots, your traumas, your pains, your limiting beliefs and a lot of neurological manifestations that will basically work against you achieving your goals.

It should be obvious that we should definitely be consulting this vastly more powerful processor with more resources, higher bandwidth and direct access to our bodies whenever we’re pondering difficult or impactful questions. But we probably shouldn’t be listening to it all of the time and in any situation. In other words, letting your intuition guide your weekly (or even monthly) strategy in the middle of the week is probably not the right thing to do.

Consult your intuition during the “machine designer” phases. This is where you’re zoomed out and you’re trying to objectively look at you the worker. This is also the perspective you want to have when you are designing the solution. However, I’ve come to believe this is not who you want to be when you’re doing the work. When you’re doing the work itself, have faith in the design. If you doubt it, make a note, and change it the following week. Don’t change it during the week. This will force you to be much more careful with planning, but it will be easier to determine whether or not a given design change produces the desired result.

(The above could be a good start for a new blog post. Agree? Let me know @jessems)

Yearly Goals

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

1 month of >10k CHF revenue [Financial]

It’s hard to say where this money should come from, so it’s hard to say whether or not progress was made. Materially, no, no progress was made. In fact, reaching $0/month on RBR for the first time in a while actually constitutes regression. Having said that, 1 or 2 good clients with Pocket Revolutions would get me to $10k a month. My final verdict would have to be: MORE-OR-LESS

120 hours of self-study German [German]

It’s somewhat strange to see this goal up here. I spent 0 hours studying German this month. Even though I’m also surprised the actual number is 0, in May it was only 4 hours, 11:30 in April and 22 in March. So it seems I’ve slowly been deprioritizing this topic. I’m not too bothered by that. German does feel less important right now and perhaps I should deprioritize it as a yearly goal as well. I will be setting more conservative weekly goals for German and see how I feel next month. Verdict: NO

<Private>

What went well?

  1. Spent a lot of time reading after identifying this as an area where I wanted to spend more time
  2. Spent a lot of time writing
  3. Published a Pingcoin analytics feature

What should I do differently?

  1. Turn more of my writing into published content
  2. Set goals that are more in line with how I truly feel about things (and don’t change them mid-week or mid-month)
  3. Get out at least once a week meeting people [track people met]

Determine Kaizen

  • Turn more of my writing into published content

My May 2019 Retrospective

3 things that went well

  • Spent a lot more time writing
  • Succeeded in creating a mock api with Google Sheets
  • Found a new name for my agency

3 things that I need to improve

  • Do more German
  • Exercise more (did not reach 2 workout sessions per week on average)

What did I not achieve and why?

I set out to find one client last month, but I didn’t find any. To be honest, I didn’t spend much time looking. I spent my time coming up with a new name for my agency, writing a lot and learning some new technologies which I’ll be needing (like Angular and RxJs and Firebase).

I did manage to get all the documents sorted for the founding of the company. We decided to change the name last minute. The name of the agency will now  be: Pocket Revolutions.

Time distribution

The time spent on JesseMS was actually also time spent writing. So in total I spent a little over 20% of my time writing this month!

Pocket Revolutions

  • Changed the name of the agency (previously Studio Click) to Pocket Revolutions. I’m very happy with the new name. Post about the naming process is upcoming.

Rapid Breakup Recovery

  • Published 1 blog post
  • Started coding my own CMS for RBR

Revenue

Ebook sales: $38

Total: $38

Pingcoin

  • 5 coin recordings were submitted by users and were added to the app
  • First blog post about Pingcoin was published here

Monthly Planning

  • Sign 1 new client
  • Launch the Pocket Revolutions website
  • Publish a portfolio piece on Pingcoin

My March 2019 Retrospective

Introduction

I’ve started a digital product development agency to earn a living, get better at product design & development and to create space to develop my own products. (Working title: “Happy Path Studios”)

As of this writing I have two clients and both are interested in improving existing offline processes through the development of software. German-speakers like to refer to this as “Digitalisation” and it seems this would be a good focus for an agency.

This month I focused most of my time designing and developing the first version of an app for one of my clients, axova.ch, a solar-panel installation service provider.

March Goals

  • Yearly goals set
    • Failed. Did not take the time for this
  • Intercompanion podcast episodes edited and published
    • Failed. Did not take the time for this.
  • RBR podcast episodes edited and published
    • Failed. Did not take the time for this.
  • Accounting ready
    • 90% ready
  • Ionic course ready
    • Completed!
  • Taking part in the startup academy
    • 90% completed.
  • Finish onset detector
    • Failed. Did not spend any time on this
  • Finished Andy’s app
    • 80% ready

Even though I missed quite a few of my goals, I think it’s more a reflection of my difficulties in predicting what I want to be doing in the month to come. I’m very happy with my focus on the Axova app as well as with the progress I’ve made there. I wouldn’t want to sacrifice that for any gains in the above categories. What I’m taking from this is that I need to be more careful when setting my monthly goals. I’ve overestimated in the past, but this month I also set goals I lost interest in.

Kaizen: Account for your tendency to overestimate what you can get done.
Provoking Question: How might I set goals at the beginning of the month I still support at the end of the month?

Time Distribution

Project Distribution
Axova App 39.9%
Learning 19.9%
German 14.1%
General (Business/Productivity/Alignment) 12.5%
Reading / Summarizing 4.7%
Personal (Administration, Bills, Chores, etc.) 2.7%
Language Learning Logistics / Research 1.8%
My Basel Startup 1.6%
RBR 0.9%
Product Discovery 0.8%
Following My Curiosity 0.6%
Pingcoin 0.5%

Total: 155:56:47 (~35 per week)

Most of the Learning was spent learning Ionic using Maximilian Schwarzmueller’s Ionic course on Udemy (which is great). This is the second developer course I’m taking on Udemy and I find myself surprised again how good the quality is. It seems like there’s stronger competition between course authors on Udemy vs. subscription platforms such as Pluralsight which results in higher quality courses. It’s also worth noting that you can find some courses on Pluralsight or on Oreilly’s learning platform that are also avaialble on Udemy. You’re just missing out on the super valuable reviews on Udemy.

I also spent some hours figuring out how to best learn German (Language Learning Logistics / Research) and then 14% of my time (1 hour every morning) learning German. I’m not sure if my approach is worth writing about yet, though.

Updates by indie product

Rapid Breakup Recovery

Spent almost no time on RBR this month, because I wanted to focus on the work for my client. This also means that I still haven’t filled the vacuum left by removing drip. In other words I haven’t had an automatic email sequence for my subscribers in a while.

Key accomplishments

  • None

Revenue

  • Ebooks sales: $38
  • Coaching calls: $0
  • Total March 2019: $38

Pingcoin

Spent almost no time on Pingcoin this month. I fixed one bug that caused the app to crash for users.

Key accomplishments

  • Reached 100 downloads on the Google Play Store.

Revenue

– $0

Total Indie Revenue March

  • $38

What went well

  • Created goals for the month
  • Created a wireframe for the app, got it approved
  • Learnt Ionic
  • Started coding the app

What did not go well?

  • Not following up on my Kaizens
  • Felt a bit less present this month
  • Missed one week of planning / retrospective
  • Came up with the idea to timebox tasks, but never did it
  • Feels like I’m not reading enough
  • Goals w

What should I do differently

  • Make Kaizen review more explicit

Kaizen

  • Make my reviews of Kaizen more explicit
  • Account for your tendency to overestimate what you can get done.

Provoking Questions

  • How might I set goals at the beginning of the month I still support at the end of the month?

My February 2019 Retrospective

You can find a description of the projects mentioned on my Projects page.

Key achievements

  • (Pingcoin) Met with a Swiss coin dealer to speak about a possible collaboration. To be continued.
  • (Learning) Completed the web developer bootcamp Udemy course
  • (My Basel Agency) Got a verbal go-ahead for my second client for my (still nameless) agency

Other/personal

  • I’ve decided I want to reach native level fluency in German. This will help me in running my business here in Basel, Switzerland. This will be reflected in my goals for 2019.

Monthly goals check-in

  • Writing (5/10)
    • Started writing longer pieces in my daily journal
    • No other writing
  • Financial independence (8/10)
    • Found two clients that have agreed to first project together for my Basel Agency
  • Full of love (7/10)
    • Did okay. Daily meditation, gratitude journaling, EFT
  • Seize every day (5/10)
    • No particular achievements here
  • Reading (6/10)
    • Finished the Startup Owner’s Manual
    • Finished Emotional Design
    • Started The Overwhelmed Brain
  • Explore my subconscious and integrate my shadow (7/10)
    • Daily journaling and shadow ritual
  • I am strong (1/10)
    • I broke my routine here after getting sick. Haven’t been to the gym since Feb 7.
  • Travel (N/A)

Time spent

Total: 167:55 hrs

The plurality of my time was spent on Pingcoin, which had been more or less my plan. I’m working on an onset annotator in javascript, but it’s taking me a bit longer than expected.

A considerable amount was spent on the Following my Curiosity category. This is mainly due to the 18 hours I clocked working on the antique map with 3D relief. This was not planned, but I felt such strong curiosity and motivation that I felt I had to work on this. I’ve been trying to make it a policy to trust my subconscious and let it pursue anything that gives me energy. Next step? No idea. I’m really pleased with the end result though.

Revenue

Rapid Breakup Recovery

Ebook sales: $38
Coaching calls: $50
Total: $88
I removed Drip and thereby my 7-day email course. This has impacted my sales as I haven’t taken the time to replace it with anything else yet.

Grand total: $88

Overall

What went well

  • Clocked a lot of hours
  • Finished the web dev course
  • Got my second client

What did not go well

  • I have still not edited the RBR podcast episode and the 4 Intercompanion podcast episodes. I am struggling to balance my desire to focus with keeping existing projects alive. This month I tried to focus on Pingcoin (which you can see by the time that was spent there). However, in order to do so, I neglected other projects. I can’t help but wonder if I’m approaching this correctly
  • I still haven’t laid out my goals for 2019.
  • I’m behind on my personal accounting

What can I do differently

  • Do my accounting at the beginning of the month