Hi, I'm Frederic.

Web Developer & Entrepreneur
blogging about life and programming in Node.js+React.

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Your tools for progress & success in life: Goal Setting & Focus (Part 2)

This is part two of a two part series:
Part 1: Introduction & Goal Setting
Part 2: Focus & Conclusion

Focus

Focus is your secret weapon for removing a lot of the decisions and emotions from the process of you progressing towards your goals. Focusing on only one thing at the time not only makes your workload appear less intimidating but allows you to give 100% of your attention/concentration to the problem/activity at hand, in terms, leading to a high quality outcome than if you tried juggling with few things at the same tame, or, had that other thing on your mind bothering your.

Focus: On What

When we speak of focus here, we mean it in the sense of focusing on one activity, one work item. Your goal setting time and planning/meetings should do the job of thinking out what is the logical next steps, in what order you need to accomplish tasks. But, when you are sitting at your desk, alone, ready to work, you should focus on the smallest next step to achieving the next item on your to-do list, that’s it.

Focus: As a habit

Many people don’t expect things like success, happiness, health, relationships to be things you have a lot of control on, but, most people that are doing really good in those areas of their life got their voluntarily, got there by working on having good habits so that cultivating all those becomes second nature. So many great books and resources talk about habits and how powerful of an impact they can have on your life if make a concious decision to weed out the bas ones and work on the good ones.

Conclusion

(TL;DR) Set your goal (note the lack of plurial) for the day, week, 90 next days, 5 next years, adjust them continusly as you progress, don’t forget it’s normal to have a set of goal for your work than for your personnal life than for… It’s essential that when you sit down to work you have already planned and prepared what is next too be done so you can simply focus on the next small task at hand, it’s a real productivity enabler. Focus can be built as a habbit, as many other healthy habits, it will definitively make a better you if you stick with it long enough

This was part two of a two part series, in the first post I introduce the subject and define what exacly we mean by goal setting:
Part 1: Introduction & Goal Setting
Part 2: Focus & Conclusion

On the importance on you physical health to your virtual world work

Health and more generally less technical subjects are not talked about that much among programmer (and more generally people working in front of a computer daily). Don’t you think this is a bit weird, the people who would get the most benefit out of good ergonomics and healthy habits are the least exposed to it. Although, this is changing slowly.

As you may have came to realize, taking care of your body and health is central to your daily mental performance, focus and tiredness, in terms, impacting your happiness doing your work.

This blog post is a try at putting together a short list of simple habits / things to look out for daily to instantly improve your health.

For most of the items that follow, the very best way to approach implementing one of them in your daily life is to track whether or not you followed them using a spreadsheet.

habits spreadsheet

(I just started doing so not so long ago and it really helps)


Read up on the Bulletproof Diet it’s not so far from the Paleo Diet, only, with a little bigger list of food to avoid and tons more good fats (especially butter). To explain it quickly, it’s a diet that promotes mainly eating raw foods, so, a lot of vegetables and meat in enough quantities so that you aren’t hungry anymore, plus, it add a special concoction called bullet proof coffee and promotes fasting from 8pm to 12-13 the next day, only having that special coffee for breakfast. Benefits range from: easy to stick with as everything is yummy, makes you loose fat with almost no workout and feeds your body all the best. The best part is that it’s built on years of scientific research and bio-hacking not on common sense, grandma’s saying of companies marketing efforts.


Stand up and stretch, move around a little, do jumping jacks, push ups each 30 minutes. Your body will thanks you 100 times in the long run, plus, your focus will be instantly improved.


Next up is a really general “no non-sense”, “the less the merrier”, list of things to avoid as much as possible (here tracking with a spreadsheet really helps staying accountable).

  • No smoking
  • No Alcohol
  • No Sugar
  • No dairy, soda, carbohydrates (mostly), fruits (in too big quantities or the morning),
  • No porn, masturbation, orgasm (more on that in the next point)

No PMO; In other words stop watching porn, masturbating and orgasming as often as you do at the moment. Again, a lot of research has gone into this and you wont believe the consequences of doing it / benefits of abstaining. You may have heard of the nofap movement on reddit, well it’s not so far from that but applied to anybody. A good source of information on this subject is a website/book called Your Brain On Porn.


Meditate daily, meta-cognition really helps you improve. Here, HeadSpace helps.


Writing or journaling as this meta-cognition moment when you are writing makes you internalize the lessons you had during the day, the new things you learned and realize what progress you did.


Reading, more generally learning constantly.

Prosty.io: Progress Report #1

Ho boy, what a week!

You know what? I did it, I launched it: Prosty.io is live!

Ok, it’s not as grand as I wanted it to be when I started this project 7 days ago, this is only a quickly put together landing page plus email list sign up. But, I said I would launch what I had on Friday and that’s me honoring what I said.

I have a bunch more designed and coded up but it’s still missing a lot of work to be a fully functional application.

The thing is:

1. I had a something pretty serious that approached “chronic fatigue syndrome” symptoms. I wasn’t able to be productive at anything all, I wanted to do was go take a nap or eat, always.

Seeing how serious it was decided to put an end to it and slept for a day and a half straight, waking up only to eat. That got me back on my feet. I begin to think I was simply really exhausted with all this travel, weather change, stress…

2. I also have client work to do and have been catching up after not doing much since I landed in Cracow 1 week ago.

I really believed this 7 day startup launch was possible if I focused on the minimum needed and stayed in a super-productive state, but, that didn’t happen.

So, let’s adjust the schedule and, following Amy Hoy’s ship by September challenge, Prosty.io will launch it’s fully-functional MVP no later than the 31st of August at midnight (EDT).

Where’s the progress report?

Yes, yes, it’s coming, as this title suggests I will start making these progress reports until I launch as I think it’s a really good motivator not to slow down or stop, studies proved it. Shall we start?

What has been accomplished

  • Write a thorough README for the codebase that includes a project description, technology choices, an outline of all endpoints & more
  • Write an initial first part of the text for the marketing (/landing/home) page
  • Design on paper the 50% of the planed for MVP pages
  • Setup up the project’s codebase
  • Setup Heroku (hosting), this was needed for publishing that current version
  • Setup DNS properly in Cloudflare
  • Define the Companies, Users and ComapnyUsers tables
  • Finish the sign in & sign up page design in html & css
  • Finish the backend code for the sign up page
  • Finish the initial marketing/landing/home page design in html & css
  • Start reading up Stripe’s documentation for OAuth integrations and thinking of how Prosty will use it’s api.

What is next

I am concentrating head down on making the initial client’s path work so:

Landing page -> Sign up -> Dashboard (/w on-boarding) -> Connect Stripe -> Dashboard (/w next on-boarding step) -> Create client -> Client page -> Create payment -> …

Like this the project makes progress in a structured way that is motivating as you know how far a potential user can already use your application. Plus, you are not working left and right on different parts not seeing any progress.

Parting notes

Sorry if you read my blog and didn’t find this post deeply interesting, I know fully that this article was mostly for me, don’t worry, I will write other posts that will be more educative/interesting that progress reports.

Launching Quickly: Applying Lessons

I have now been reading startup related books for quite a while, even smaller books about ideation, launching quickly, launching now, this blog post is about applying those lessons, this weekend! Enough putting off, enough being part of the 98% that says tomorrow or not now or not for me.

Book I read related to this:

Even to some extent:

So here I am, jamming on Daft Punk, in a café, just started the Bulletproof Diet, just landed in Krakow, Poland, just came back from vacation, had an idea before bed yesterday and am building it now! Don’t ask me why it took so long, the important thing is I am taking action now.

Idea

I wanted a simple thing to build, and ideally solving some problem I had. That’s when I thought about my recent experience trying out at least 4-5 SaaS application aimed at helping freelancers manage projects, invoice their clients and track their time. My main gripe with most of them was that they all did really well at least one of there things but almost always had poor support for receiving payments from clients (Xero was really good but a bit to big for me at this point). But because they almost all adopt the do-it-all strategy they often have less that well done features in areas that are still important to running your business.

So, I am building an application with two business goals in mind: First, gather payments from clients really well whichever gateway you use. Second, to integrate with you other software that you might be using for invoicing to sync clients and paid/unpaid status.

Goals

My Goal #1 is to solve my own problem of taking payments with something else than PayPal in Freckle.

My Goal #2 is to monetize (read market and get users) this product to a 1000$ MRR (Monthly Recurring Revenue) to help attenuate the consulting ups and downs.

Steps

Step 1: Defining launch date

Too many times I read about people afraid of launching, worrying they don’t have enough, they need X and Y feature more. Also:

If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.

- Reid Hoffman

So, I will launch, whatever I have at that time, on Friday the 14th of August giving me 7 days.

Step 2: Defining core a core feature set

The core feature set should aim to solve one use case, mine, like DHH often stated, he built Ruby on Rails for his use case but is happy to put it on the open for people to adapt it to their needs. Focusing on this not only makes sure one group of clients is satisfied but also make you launch way sooner, obviously.

So, I want the product to have:

  • Support for linking your stripe account using OAuth2
  • Support for manually creating a client
  • Support for manually creating a payment the client owes
  • Support for sending an email to a client containing a payment link
  • Page where the client can see his outstanding total and payments
  • Page with all clients
  • Page with client details and all it’s payments
  • Payment processing sending money to client’s Stripe and taking a 0.5% cut
  • A landing page linking to the sign up page
  • A signup page
  • A login page

Step 3: Building

… goes to work … (continued in following posts)

What a technical co-founder brings to the table (and what he searches for in his partner)

For the past six years I have been mostly focusing on becoming an awesome developer, constantly learning new languages and technologies, working for a few different companies. But, the past month, everything changed, I became a consultant and started working on a per contract basis. And wow does that involve a whole new skill set: marketing, networking, designing my image, accounting, relationships, time tracking and plenty more!

As much as I adore the lifestyle it enables and the time I now have for side projects there is one oblivious truth that surfaces (don’t worry I am coming co-founders): I am far from being as productive, focused and growing of a programmer than before.

You see, those added responsabilities of running a business really occupy my mind, I have more trouble getting “in the zone”. Now this becomes even more prevalent when you add up the additional challenges/responsabilities of running a startup.

That is where, if you start a business with two partners, you have the advantage of the possibility of a clear separation in roles and a clear focused mind when at work. This especially important as a startups most valuable resource is time.

With that in mind,

The technical co-founder brings:

  • Knowledge of best technologies to tackle X or Y problem
  • Experience building products from scratch
  • Estimation of feasability of different features/projects
  • Estimation of time it would take to build X feature/project
  • Initial workforce to build the startup’s application
  • Knowledge of what is a good hire when it comes time to subcontract/employ someone
  • Often he will also be somewhat of a designer, UX guy and project manager.
  • Deals/Talks to technology partners

The other co-founder brings:

  • Domain knowledge related to the business you are starting
  • Domain experience and knowledge of clients needs
  • Takes on the initial marketing role
  • Attend to networking events and generally gets the word out
  • Constantly gathers client feedback and thinks of adjustments that can be made to the product to delight them
  • Tries different acquisition channels
  • Handles client relationships

And, together they both:

  • Define the goals of the startup
  • Define features that are musts and other that are nice idea for the future
  • Talk about design decisions and how to delight users more generally
  • Go found-raising when it’s time and if it’s right for them
  • Moral support!

TL; DR; For any startup time is their most valuable resource, it’s their life blood at the beginning, they need to optimize it’s usage. So, two partners starting a business should aim to maximize the time spent by the technical co-founder, head down, building their product. While, the other co-founder, aims to constantly readjust trajectory/features to fit client needs from feedback gathered and, more generally, build up traction, acquire new users.