March 9, 2019

As a solo founder, How do you manage where to focus your time??

I'm a newbie founder and I feel like always I have to much to do. That is not a problem, I like it but sometimes I stuck deciding what should be my next move.

For example:

Right now, in my project, I must do product related things like coding new features. Marketing related things like generating some content that gives us new users and business related things like studying competitors and market players in order to identify best moves that we can do.

Fellow makers, any recipe to prioritize???

  1. 6

    Similar to the comments on sprints. I use a divide and conquer approach but in a more micro level.

    I split out tasks by days. If you have two "buckets" of focus as you mentioned product and marketing, split them out across the week.

    Monday - Product

    Tuesday - Marketing

    Wednesday - Product

    Thursday - Marketing

    Friday - Free day for whatever you didn't finish and plan goals for each area for the next week.

    I feel like it gives you enough run time to be effective and get into the deep work of a task in that area but also helps you make progress on a week to week basis.

    And yes, urgent customer issues and what not are always first, but don't let them RUN you. Allocate time periods across the day (i.e. 8am-9am and 4pm-5pm) to respond to customer issues. Block these out in your calendar and if there is nothing to do, then go back to your deep work tasks on product or marketing (depending on the day of course)

    As a solo founder you need to be both the manager and the contributor, so recognizing who you should be that day or even hour is extremely important. It's mostly pulling yourself out as the manager that is the tough part.

    1. 1

      How about four days a week marketing? Cash flow is king.

    2. 0

      Just replying so I can save your answer for later haha. Thanks for the comment!

  2. 2

    I first group tasks into two buckets: urgent tasks and non-urgent tasks.

    Urgent tasks are things like responding to customers or like fixing high priority bugs (ex. payments are not working). I drop everything else to get these tasks out of the way.

    Non-urgent tasks are harder to prioritize. Before prioritizing these tasks, I think it is super important to define your KPIs, the fewer the better. Then I rank the tasks based on some combination of their effect on these KPIs in the next 3 months and based on the effort involved. I use 3 months because my lack of resources does not give me the luxury of thinking very long term.

    Then I work my way down from there, tackling low-effort high-KPI-moving tasks first.

    Sometimes a high-effort high-KPI-moving task makes it into the mix (ex. a big feature) if I think it will move the KPI significantly enough. With these tasks, it is wise to do some low-effort experiments beforehand (ex. send out a feeler to some users) to validate whether it is worth further effort.

    Btw, as a natural consequence of the above, I rarely spend time researching the competition as that never helps me move the KPIs in the short term.

    1. 1

      Very interesting, thanks for sharing. I'll give a try to your framework. I'll sahre the results.

  3. 2

    I will focusing on important and critical task first until it solved, like bug fixing and customer support. Then I will pick task which contribute to your business growth, like sales,marketing and research.

    Don't do too much on new feature, focus on your core feature.

    Hope that helps

  4. 2

    Get your priority straight.

    Of course everything is needed to be done at some point, but what is the absolute priority that must be done now? Weigh out the option of your task, find out which must be done now and what can be put on hold till a later date.

    As a solo founder at Howuku, my personal tasks distribution is,

    1. Fix bug and enhancing existing flow and process (60%)

    2. Marketing & Design related (20%)

    3. New features & RND (20%)

    1. 1

      Thanks for sharing. Your effort distribution seems logical. In my situation is a little different because I'm still building the core of my business. We launch an MVP with some traction (120 MAUs) so now we should do at the same time task number 1, 2 and 3.

  5. 2

    I work one goal at a time. I pick a thing to finish, then focus on it until it is finished. Once it’s done, I poke my head up and evaluate the landscape; pick my next goal, and focus on it.

    I will admit, this sometimes makes me nervous, ignoring all the other things. But the alternative, for me, is trying to accomplish everything simultaneously and being crazy all the time.

    Ultimately, very few things are so critical they can’t wait a week or two. It might feel like an emergency; it rarely is.

    1. 1

      "I will admit, this sometimes makes me nervous"

      I totally feel you. I think that I'm in your alternative: accomplish everything simultaneously and going crazy hahaha

      Thanks for sharing.

  6. 2

    I totally feel you. I work in sprints of approximately 2 weeks, where I mostly focus on one area. For example, I focus 2 weeks mostly on adding features and do marketing and user engagement on the side. Then, the next 2 weeks I focus on marketing. That way, I feel I get more focus and deep work on a topic and can understand the area more. I do not have fixed pattern like marketing, sales, coding... it’s rather what i feel is needed at a certain time. so it could be that there are two weeks marketing followed by another 10 days sales and marketing...

    1. 1

      I tried a similar approach in the past but in the end, it didn't work. My problem was that as a result of a focused sprint, I sometimes generate a recurrent task that needs my attention in the next sprints and over time I lost my focus again.

  7. 1

    I wrote a blog post about exactly this question in my own situation: "how can I focus on product & marketing instead of ignoring one?"

    The most important step is one you've essentially already taken, of separating the two out. The key now is to keep them separated and track your progress towards them separately.

    Oh and the other key is to decide what your focus is for a given period, whether that's "today" or just "the next half-hour" (aka a pomodoro). My business is a productivity app that helps people do exactly that: https://complice.co/?r=indiehackers

    Here's the full article:

    http://blog.complice.co/post/141528302742/try-thinking-of-your-goals-as-dimensions

  8. 1

    Few suggestions that work well for me:

    1. Allocate big enough chunks of non-distraction time to code, work on a product. I use 3 hours as a minimal block. It is hard (for me at least) to achieve something meaningful in a smaller window of time.

    2. Have a good note app with you everywhere (e.g. evernote). If any idea comes to your head, note it down and leave it for the future. It is easy to chase ideas and don't achieve anything. Stay focused!

    3. At the end of the day/week reflect on what you achieved and make a plan for next week. Helps you calibrate.

    4. In the early stages, prioritize your scariest tasks. Whatever can kill your business, solve that first. For example, skip authorization at first and work on your core promise, you can always add "must" features later or even outsource that. Most likely, you'll have to throw away v1 anyways, so don't be afraid of "bad" code or data model.

    Best of luck,

    Sergey

  9. 1

    Small world - I'm working on a project to help people with this exact issue.

    Think carefully and identify where you want to go in the medium and long terms, and then what specific steps need to be taken this week (and tomorrow in particular) to make needed progress.

    Write them down as bite-sized steps to be taken tomorrow. Check each off as you do them (VERY satisfying).

    Also, identify what things you need to avoid, that cause you to waste time or simply aren't important (for example, I write "zero FB/Twitter 8am - 6pm" every day).

    Good luck!

  10. 1

    Hey Marcos, you may wish to strategise 1 to 2 years ahead. Set the long term goals and break them down to 6 months, 3 months, then 1 month.

    Next populate your calendar with the plans based on your goals that have been chunked down so that you have tasks scheduled.

    Lastly, don't let day to day technical work eat into the scheduled plans.

    Remember you have that long term goal to meet.

    One way to keep on track is to spend 10 minutes writing out your plans daily. It can be boring to write the same thing everyday, but without this repetition, it's easy to lose focus due to the recurrent task you mentioned.

    Hope this helps! I've made the mistake of randomly choosing things to do only on that day itself. After using this method, the needle moved further in a shorter time.

    Looking forward to more posts from you on your progress!