If this is your first time reading, I recommend you start with my 6-month challenge, week #1 choosing an idea and market validation, week #2 talking to others, building an MVP and focusing on value vs. growth and monetization, week #3 narrowing focus further, learning about gluten free, social shopping and eating experiments, week #4 building out my MVP, talking to advisors, learning how to pitch VC’s and pitching Greylock, monthly review #1 introspection and lessons learned, week #5 shipping my MVP, getting out of the building and staying productive, and week #6 MVP assumptions, iterations of MVP version 1 and 2.
tl;dr This past week I’ve just been working on my MVP v2 and flew back to DC to visit my family for Labor Day weekend.
I’ve been trying to use arbitrary deadlines and Parkinson’s Law to guide me forward with my roadmap — looking ahead, there are a lot of things I want to do and learn in spite of limited resources and time.
I. MVP v2 (still in progress)
II. Arbitrary deadlines and Parkinson’s Law
III. Looking ahead
IV. Spending time at home
V. Next week and lessons learned
They don’t realize how independent they can be. When you’re a child, your parents tell you what you’re supposed to do. Then, you’re in school, and you’re part of this institution that tells you what to do. Then, you go work for some company, and the company tells you what to do. So people come in like baby birds in the nest and open their mouths, as if they’re expecting us to drop food in. We have to tell them, “We’re not your bosses. You’re in charge now.” Some of them are freaked out by that. Some people are meant to be employees. Other people discover they have wings and start flapping them. There’s nothing like being thrown off a cliff to make you discover that you have wings.
– Paul Graham on bad habits shared by YC founders
I. MVP v2 (still in progress)
I don’t have much updates — MVP v2 is still a work in progress. This is just one of those weeks where it’s just been me putting my head down to code and figure out how things work. I’m slowly optimizing my coding processes and becoming more “savvy” (I think, I hope) to make things go faster than before.
Some days are good with light bulb moments and sprinkles of joy, while other days are bad with tedious debugging and hours spent searching for answers.
This has also been a lesson in that things always take longer than you’d expect — at least for me, coding wise, this has been true — so budget your roadmap time accordingly. If you think something will take 3 days to implement, give yourself 6 days just to be safe and sure.
…I actually also spent 1.5-2 working days completely revamping my landing page with some interesting A/B experiments, but in the end decided to chuck it out the window because of a variety of reasons which I didn’t realize until later. It’s things like these that you can’t predict will throw a wrench into your precious time.
II. ARBITRARY DEADLINES AND PARKINSON’S LAW
One thing that’s helped me is setting arbitrary deadlines — artificially early deadlines to force yourself to get work completed by a certain date and time.
Parkinson’s Law states that work expands to fill the time available for completion. That is, if you give yourself a week to complete a two hour task, then (psychologically speaking) the task will increase in complexity and become more daunting so as to fill that week. It may not even fill the extra time with more work, but just stress and tension about having to get it done. By assigning the right amount of time to a task, you gain back more time and the task will reduce in complexity to its natural state.
I know I’m roughly now 25% into my six-month challenge, but already I’m starting to feel the pressure and ticking time of the clock. I’ve made September full of “arbitrary deadlines” in an effort to push myself to get the most done. It’s been a self-inflicted very stressful time for me so far.
My six-month challenge itself is somewhat of an arbitrary deadline and exploitation of Parkinson’s law — typically you ought to dedicate 2-3 years to really get a startup off the ground (of course, this is a general guideline) — and I wish to compress it into six months. A friend said I should have at least given myself 8-12 months… at the end of this six months, we’ll see how far I am and perhaps I will do so.
So many things can happen between now and then, and I never really try to plan ahead more than 2-3 weeks at a time.
III. LOOKING AHEAD
I hope to start user testing again next week and will have more interesting things to blog about later. Restaurant outreach is also a work in progress. I want to revamp my landing page as well once I’ve tested MVP v2 with a number of potential users.
Other areas I’ve been looking into lately involve: content marketing, email marketing, growth hacking, SEO and analytics.
Coming from a product background, I haven’t been really exposed to the marketing side of things at all — and honestly, I find it absolutely fascinating, both from a behavioral and psychological standpoint to a more scientific, analytical perspective. I’m entertaining some thoughts about writing an ebook as well.
Analytics also are not a big strong point for me either — I haven’t had any direct experience with A/B testing, funnel optimization, etc. so it’s all a huge learning curve and first hand experience for me. I’ve only had brief, cursory encounters with Google Analytics in the past and other company-generated proprietary data reports, but nothing that I had to personally hand-roll myself and manually set up and track myself.
It’ll be a good experience.
Some days it’s pretty tough, thinking of all the things you want to do and accomplish in a day — accomplish in a week — and having limited energy and resources. So much work, so little time, such high goals, such high risk of failure… but passionate users and considerable pain points… and you get mixed emotions.
It’s quite overwhelming to think about and do all of the above that I want to do — with arbitrary deadlines, Parkinson’s law, and the numerous areas that I want to explore: content marketing, email marketing, growth hacking, SEO and analytics — each of which is its own separate department and specialty of expertise. I mean, each area itself you could spend years learning how to do it well, or even still not know how to do it well… not to mention trying to learn it yourself right now under a deadline while doing a startup. (Oh, and let’s not forget the actual coding and building the product! Eeep.)
Sometimes it’s hard to disentangle my mindset of a very process-oriented and structured frame of learning and instead just jump right into things, albeit dirty and messy, to get things done. Even when they’re not perfect. Even when they’re incomplete. Even when they’re not comprehensive and you still have no idea of whether or not what you’re doing is the “proper” way and/or the most optimized way of doing things.
I tell myself that by the end of this six months, I’ll have a unique unicorn-like experience and education in touching upon all facets of these topics.
IV. SPENDING TIME AT HOME
On the other hand, it’s been great to see my parents — even though I’ve been spending a lot of time still coding while at home — I haven’t seen them since January. Felt good to be back; I also met up with some high school friends and some childhood friends way back from middle school and early high school.
I also got an invite to my 5-year high school reunion… what! Man, does time fly by!
I thought to reach out to DC startups and accelerators during my time here, but unfortunately I arrived right before Labor Day weekend and so everyone is out of the office.
It’s been good coming back home… but I can’t wait to go back to San Francisco tomorrow night. I’ve genuinely missed California.
Hope everyone has had a great Labor Day weekend!
V. NEXT WEEK AND KEY LESSONS LEARNED
Next week (or this week rather, as it’s right after Labor Day) will be spent working on my MVP v2, possibly user testing, and restaurant outreach. I wanted to do restaurant outreach last week, but MVP v2 took up a lot of time (and still is), and for the outreach just timing wise was terrible due to the upcoming holiday weekend. Hopefully this week will be better.
Key lessons learned:
- Employ arbitrary deadlines and Parkinson’s law to your productivity advantage.
- Give yourself double the time you think it will take to implement a certain feature, etc. Things almost always take longer than you’d expect to execute.
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