Starting a microISV or startup, putting bread on the table and having a life of some sort is definitely a tall order, but it can be done. The biggest step is dumping the habits, patterns and assumptions that may have served your cause when you’re a corporate drone but spell instant failure as a rock and roll Internet entrepreneur.
As an alternative, here’s my 8 top lifehacks for getting things done for my clients, my editors and my startup:
- Fire and Motion. Unabashedly taken from this post by Joel Spolsky, it’s a simple idea: Do something, move ahead. Do something, keep moving. One of the hardest parts of “bootstrapping” is stacking each small accomplishment on top of the one before, of building momentum. But that is what you have to do above all else if your business is going to succeed. You are in the defining reality business now; that means it’s up to you to take charge, and keep moving.
- You make your future, an hour at a time. It’s up to you and no one else to decide what you are going to do for the next hour. Maybe that means turning on your connections with the outside world: email, IM, twitter, mobile. Maybe that means turning all those things off – and your music – so you can hammer out some worthwhile code. You decide.
- Like with Like. Clump the things you do. Errands with Errands, Marketing with Marketing, Tech Support with Tech Support and so on. It takes you a hell of a lot longer to switch types of tasks than you PC, so group what you can group and flow from discrete task to discrete task.
- Time Shift. Be it shopping at the store or returning email or watching TV or just about anything else, you can pick up significant yardage by doing it on your schedule and not when everyone else is.
- Move your body, focus your mind. Unless you happen to be an AI on the Internet, that means treating your body as something more than a pudgy container for your overworked brain. Moving your body – commonly called exercise – focuses your mind. The biggest timesaver in the world is thinking better. It is not coincidence that David Allen of Getting Things Done fame comes from a martial arts background.
- Get your To Do List out of your head. There are plenty of good desktop, web and plain old paper-based ways of doing the same thing. Simply put, you have got to get your To Do List out of your mind and out of your way so you can think and work.
- 1440 is the Law, get over it. You have 1,440 minutes a day and that’s it. What you get out of that time most depends on how you spend it, so start treating the commitments you make, the deadlines you agree to and the way you do things like you were paying cold hard cash for each and every thing, because you are. That means, you are not going to get everything done everyday, or perhaps most days. What matters is did you get the more valuable things done or not?
- Persevere. I’m not the smartest guy in room, and I’m definitely not the best programmer in the world. But I’m the most persevering son of a bitch on this planet and I do not give in or give up. Nor should you. So don’t waste time trying to do everything all the time, every time, because there’s no way that is going to happen. On the other hand, if you preserve, if you keep coming at what you need to get done, there’s no way you can’t succeed.
Make no mistake: doing your day job, starting your microISV and not ending up estranged or just plain strange makes the product development and marketing stuff look easy, but it is doable.
(A version of this post ran here on Jan. 26, 2006.)