If this is your first time reading, I recommend you start with a new B2B SaaS venture and table of contents of biweekly posts for the past four weeks.
tl;dr I ask myself a set of questions to review and reflect on this first month’s work and progress as well as talk about this past month’s goals vs. reality.
For Cusoy last year, I mainly wrote about what I was struggling with — this time around, I want to follow a template of questions to “standardize” these monthly reviews. So, I cherry-picked questions from various monthly review templates I found online and am excited to answer these questions and look back on them later on.
I strongly believe in the power of personal reflection and really looking back and seeing things I did that could be improved — the idea being that each month I will learn from previous mistakes.
I. February 2014 monthly review
II. Overall month’s goals vs. reality
Simplicity boils down to two steps: Identify the essential. Eliminate the rest.
― Leo Babauta
I. FEBRUARY 2014 MONTHLY REVIEW
1. What was your peak experience or accomplishment this last month?
My peak experience was transferring my entire lead generation process and workflow from a jumbled mess and headache of Google Doc spreadsheets into a more streamlined, much better organized and more automated workflow with Base CRM. My inner, anal OCD self feels much more at peace now.
My peak accomplishment was getting 10 idea extraction (IE) calls done (30-60+ min each) and 2 in-person meetings (60+ min each) with construction professionals. Also, getting 10+ software ideas collectively, though none of them are panning out so far (right now it’s very preliminary).
2. What was your main challenge?
My main challenge… wow, I had MULTIPLE challenges going on —
(1) my hesitation to get on the phone and call warm leads who gave me their phone numbers to call them (what is wrong with me?)
(2) my hesitation to cold call (though I don’t really need to, at this point, and believe there are better prospecting strategies)
(3) my inconsistent workflow and productivity — some weeks are ultra slow, others are ultra productive and stellar
(4) the tedium of collecting new leads and 20 mile march of emailing them every day (or lack thereof)
(5) a lot of mental hangups and doubt, fears circling around — why am I so slow? why am I not moving faster?
(6) not reflecting on calls I already made because of silly excuses (like how I dislike hearing my own voice on recorded calls…)
3. Make a list of your fears. What fears are you ready to work through?
Oh boy. Where should I begin?
In no particular order:
(1) I’m scared of all the things I have to do vs. looking at my calendar and how much time has passed already, quickly get overwhelmed and instantly lose motivation some days to even work.
(2) I’m scared that because I don’t have set systems in place, I will always be inconsistent in my productivity.
(3) I’m scared I won’t succeed because I don’t have a technical cofounder and thus am moving at a snail’s pace.
(4) I’m scared (and angry and frustrated with myself) that I am not making enough calls, fast enough.
(5) I’m scared that I am not emailing enough new leads, more frequently enough — see not having set systems in place.
(6) I’m scared of cold calling.
(7) I’m scared of failing and not reaching ambitious goals that I publicly set for myself this year.
(8) I’m scared that I need domain expertise, such as getting a job in the industry, or need to partner with someone in order for my venture to succeed.
(9) I’m scared of getting together with friends, catching up with acquaintances, answering Mom and Dad’s skeptical phone calls — and facing that question: “How are things going? Any progress?” and not having much to say and feeling very embarrassed and guilty. Sometimes so much that I don’t want to go out until I have something tangible to show.
(10) I’m scared of not being taken seriously in a heavily male-dominated industry like construction. OK, this one’s kind of irrational and I haven’t faced any negativity — everyone has been super helpful and polite and friendly (minus one bad phone call, but hey, it happens), but it’s something weighing on my mind for scenarios where I do have a working product and will have to sell a ton down the road.
(11) I’m scared I don’t know how to ask the right questions or probe deeper and navigate my phone calls and meetings to get the most value out of each conversation.
(12) I’m scared I don’t know what the hell I’m doing and I’m wasting my time.
4. What do you want less of and more of to balance your life?
I want more good habits in place — things I will actually do on a daily, consistent basis (cooking all my meals, walking 10,000+ steps, reading 30 min, writing 1,000 words etc) rather than periodic streaks.
I want a stable, consistent system in place in terms of my work 20 mile march — ex. sending 50 emails/day, making 2-5+ calls/day, etc.
I want less distractions. More focus.
More process-oriented, but still results-oriented at the same time. Not relying on sheer motivation or willpower (because we all know both are extremely limited) — but rather, habits and systems.
It’s like, my mind rationally KNOWS what I should be doing, but irrationally just cannot do it unless I force behavior first (as attitude will come second). Again, habits and systems. I’m a broken record, I know.
5. What bad habits, limited thinking and dislikes are you inspired to shift?
Bad habits – sleeping late and getting up late. Ugh. I swear, I’m wired to be a night owl. I’m most productive at nights. Oh my goodness, can someone please help me turn into a morning person? Is it because I don’t have to get up to show up at an office at 9am that I am a night owl? Ha, maybe.
Limited thinking – that I don’t need a virtual assistant to help automate the lead generation process. I hired one last December and initially thought she was good but found out I had to micromanage and it was just not worth it. Plus, I now have a CRM and think my process is a bit complicated to explain (read: I don’t want to spend the time to write out the instructions). I’m thinking I might hire one again. Maybe.
Dislikes – I don’t like getting on the phone (all these irrational fears, like I’m bothering people, like they don’t want to talk to me, etc), but have been gradually getting more comfortable.
6. What situations have you learned most from? What do you want to learn more about?
Hm, not so much situations per se, but just that from making phone calls, I’m learning a lot more about the construction industry than I ever knew before. The different roles in the chain of command, their functions, typical processes and tasks that people have to do and an overlapping list of common pain points and problems as well as a general feel for the industry and the kind of technology they use, or lack thereof.
What I want to learn more about is the best kind of role I could serve, the best kind of well-defined problem they face that I could potentially solve and the best well-defined software solution I could design for them. I don’t want to design an all-in-one one-size-fits-all kind of software app — I want to wholly narrow down and focus on one specific (but considerable) pain point for one kind of well-defined customer and solve that problem really well.
7. What areas of your finances need more attention? How can you increase your overall abundance?
So, actually — I found a small side job which has greatly helped bring in some additional cash on the side and has allowed me to lengthen my runway from 7+ months to 10+ months. I’m not hurting terribly for money at the moment, but taking it day by day. I started getting more conscious of my cash flow and am trying to eat all my meals at home (though occasionally I splurge on bubble tea).
I am currently trying to find additional web design gigs that could greatly help my runway as well. I have some ideas around that but still haven’t had the chance to implement them.
8. What is not working that you need to let go of or restructure or surrender to?
My daily routine and habits (or lack thereof).
I need to really focus on 3 most important tasks a day, not oversubscribe myself of 5-7 or even 10 different things — the thing is, some of them are daily things I want to get done (ex. sending out 50 emails) vs. daily habits I want to get done (10,000+ steps walked), and so it’s somewhat difficult to prioritize.
Perhaps need to hire a virtual assistant to generate new leads, but we’ll see.
9. What bigger picture strategic goals need clarification and more planning? What are your critical miles – your most important medium to long-term goals?
I want to really lock down a software idea in the next 4 weeks — so, as of this date, April 9, 2014.
That’s the most critical goal right now, and my hypothesis is that it will take 50+ calls/meetings to get to that point. So far, I’m at 22 calls/meetings, so almost halfway till that point.
50+ calls/meetings is by no means a scientific number; it’s completely arbitrary. It’s just a guideline to help me focus on reaching that goal; it may end up not having to take 50 calls or even many more beyond that. Or… gasp, I may even switch to another industry and have to reset this process (very unlikely, but who knows?).
Digging deeper into the why and how
10. What went really well this past month?
I got more IE calls/meetings done!
11. Why did it go well?
I kept making excuses, like oh, I need to go through all my material first, I need to go through my cold calling scripts, etc — in the end, I got so agitated and frustrated with myself that I said, screw it, I’m just going to email my warm, existing leads and just pick up the damn phone. Another hour or two of studying content material isn’t going to move me forward in my business goals, but emailing new leads, calling them, etc. will!
One of my traits, for better or for worse, is that I like to study and analyze everything, figure out the best practices, figure out the 80/20 way of doing things — before I do it. I like to stay organized and be comprehensive, and don’t like the prospect of failure.
I was able to get more IE calls done this month because I stopped “reading” my content and just finally took action.
12. How can you do more of it?
Establish a 20 mile march (and not change your mind what that 20 mile march is on a daily or semi-daily basis) and just get shit done everyday. No matter what happens, just get those 3 most important tasks done each day.
Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize. Focus, focus, focus. Be relentless. Be merciless. Tune everything else out. Bare essentials.
13. What could have gone better?
Some weeks were really slow, like this week and two weeks ago. Again, being inconsistent in my productivity and workflow was hurting me a lot.
14. What will you do differently this next month?
Establishing systems and habits. Not overloading myself every day. Staying focused and not distracted by email and social media.
15. What would make this coming month a “total 10 month”?
My goal is getting 50+ additional calls (on top of the calls/meetings I’ve already done) and above all: a well-defined software problem so I can start wireframing and mocking up a well-defined software solution for that problem. For validation, I want at least 7-10+ customers to want this software solution.
I also need to restrain myself from doing too many “social” activities — as I am quite frustrated with my progress so far — but will definitely keep in touch with friends, just to stay sane.
16. What could make “a 10 month” for you faster and easier?
Sticking to my 20 mile march. Getting over my mental hangups, limiting beliefs and ego and pride. If I fail, then fail fast. If people reject me on the phone, don’t take it personally and keep moving on. Ain’t nobody got time to waste.
At least 2 hours of action every day, no excuses.
17. A report on my progress for the one habit I focused on last month
Oh boy. I’ve been trying to keep up 3 different habits at the same time — writing 1,000 words/day, walking 10,000+ steps/day and reading 30 min/day. I’ve been semi-consistent walking 10,000+ steps, rarely consistent with writing 1,000 words/day and only just yesterday was reading a book for 30 minutes (last time I read that book, according to my records, was a little over a month ago — yikes!).
More recently, I’ve been taking vitamin B and fish oil supplements first thing in the morning and have been pretty consistent on this habit. It’s effectively served as my “wake up” trigger (for others, this might be coffee, tea, etc). I’ve been feeling noticeably better since taking these supplements and I highly recommend others to do the same. Vitamin B supplements especially help alleviate stress.
I’ve also been trying to lift weights 2-3x/week. Only succeeded in this once or twice, other times only did weights once a week (embarrassing, I know). But I managed to progress from 80 lbs to 90 lbs in dumb bell bench press (only 2 sets of 2 reps each, so far). Yay!
18. Notes on any experiments I tried
Um, I don’t really think I’ve tried any experiments, per se — but that a lot of my workflow was jumbled across various platforms: Asana, Workflowy, Google Calendar, my notebook and my large stash of 3” x 5” notecards.
Next month I am committing to focusing simply on Workflowy/my notebook for daily schedule, Google Calendar for weekly schedule, Asana for weekly reviews and my 3” x 5” notecards to jot down any quick notes. I really want to focus on having a time-block oriented workflow.
Hm, I think I’ve tried going to the gym earlier in the day, but didn’t like it because it was kind of crowded. I usually go mid-late at night and usually have the gym to myself then. I probably won’t change this.
19. Goals for the following month, including one habit I want to focus on regularly
I really want to lock down my 20 mile march. I want to lock down committing to my 3 habits each day.
One habit I want to focus on regularly is walking 10,000+ steps/day. I see that as more important than writing or reading (though writing and reading are my next two favorite things).
20. Notes on long-term goals and personal changes I’m working towards
For now, I just want to get into a set routine. I’m tired of being inconsistent. I’m tired of building habits for short streaks before inevitably I break them again — it’s very demoralizing.
II. OVERALL MONTH’S GOALS VS. REALITY
My initial goals this month:
- Calls/meetings: 40
- Emails sent: 1500
The actual reality this month:
- Calls/meetings: 12 (30% of my goal)
- Emails sent: 50 (I decided to continue working on my warm existing leads…)
Those reality numbers are pretty ugly, but I’m going to work hard to meet those goals next month.
Treat this as a process — I strongly believe that once I get 40-50+ additional calls/meetings and send a ton of emails, I will quickly reach a conclusion of a software idea to move forward.
Here’s to a productive March 2014! 🙂
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