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January 2017

Five Things I Learned from 31 Days of Blogging

By | blog, mindfulness, self-analysis, vision | No Comments

I made a commitment to myself sometime in November that I was going to start my blog on December 1st. I’d been thinking about it for months. I knew what it was going to be about and I knew what the URL was going to be and I was ready. I just needed to get everything set up to pull the trigger on December one.

As November creeped along I kept thinking about what I needed to do in order to launch and I kept not doing it. It’s not that I didn’t want to, it’s just that I found other priorities that were “more important”. Were they really? Probably not, but the mind is a devious trickster.

And then it was December 1st and I wasn’t ready. I didn’t have WordPress set up, and now felt unsure about the topic and the URL, but I said I was going to launch, and so launch I did. I spent the first few hours of the morning trying to convince myself that the original URL and name I had was right even though I felt like it wasn’t.  Finally I settled on in order to let the blog grow and be whatever it was going to be, which in the past month it has.  

This brings me to the first thing I learned (or rather re-learned).

Learning #1: Start.

I’ve said it multiple times over the first 31 posts, but it’s crucial, so I’m repeating it again. If I hadn’t started I wouldn’t be writing this post right now. I’d probably be playing Clash Royale or scrolling through Instagram.

By starting the ball rolling it created momentum just as I predicted it would. And by committing in writing to posting every day in December it jedi-mind-tricked me into feeling obligated to fulfill that promise.  In the book Influence, Robert Cialdini talks about an addicted smoker handing out cards to the people she respected most in order to give herself the push she needed to quit. This was my way of committing to the task.

Learning #2 – It was harder than I thought it was going to be.

It was hard to post every day. Or rather, it was hard to post something I felt good about every day. I care about what I’m putting out into the world. 

At the beginning I had planned to write a few posts a day and have a backlog ready so I could take a day off here or there. That didn’t happen. I had other work come in which became a priority and on the days I did have extra time I would perfect one post rather than write several.

I got sick twice and I had to create “filler” posts. From Boxy To Curvy and Rapid Prototyping were those posts. Not bad, but short and sweet. I had Rapid Prototyping in my back pocket from day 1, but From Boxy To Curvy was something I had read the day before and in my feverish haze threw it onto the page in order to get back into bed.

There were days where I didn’t know what I was going to write, I had worked all day, put the kids in bed, worked some more, and then it was 10 or 11 at night. “I don’t want to post today.” I would say to my wife and she would nod knowingly without a word. It’s the kind of torture I like to put myself through, the only person marking the scorecard was myself but fulfilling that promise of a post a day mattered and so I sat down and wrote.

Learning #3 – There are different types of posts.

My expectation at the onset was that I would write a lot of posts on building products, setting vision, strategizing, ideation, roadmaps, etc. And I wrote a few good posts on those topics and would reference back to them whenever fitting, but the majority of the posts ended up being about the process of writing the blog itself and personal challenges I was having on a given day or reflecting on a challenge of the past.

I also created three of my favorite posts from the month in a three day period: What Makes a Good Culture, Amazon Go, and Product Lessons from Mark Zukerberg’s Home AI Challenge. Two of them were unexpected pieces about technology that I felt compelled to write after they came up in my news feed. Moving forward I intend to do more of these types of posts. 

Learning #4 – I failed at promotion.

My goal was to get 100 subscribers in December. I got 10. I know I could have gotten more and applied more tactics in order to try to get them but I didn’t. I focused on the writing and I avoided promotion. I promoted 3 posts the entire month and I even forgot to include Google Analytics until about day 10. Moving into January I’ll start experimenting with different promotion techniques and include traffic goals as well as pushing my subscription of 100 users.  What I did learn here is that direct email outreach worked better than any other form thus far and sometimes I need to ask in person, “Hey, can I add you to my list?” and then just do it myself.

Learning #5 – Spillover.

Committing to working on this blog has engaged me in ways that I wasn’t expecting. I dug into articles that I would only skim before and stopped audiobooks to take notes in order to reference it in a post. As hard as it was to post every day I’m very glad that I did.

An unexpected result was something I’ve called spillover. My commitment to doing the blog has triggered other positive habits to rise to the surface of my life. I’m getting up earlier, exercising more often, eating better and finding that I’m more focused. In The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg talks about keystone habits which when triggered create a domino effect towards other good habits. I believe the act of working on this, achieving something daily and stepping towards my larger goals have has made this a keystone habit in my life.

Minor Learnings

Along the way I discovered how to set up an Amazon Affiliates account, got MailChimp set up, posted on LinkedIn, posted on Twitter, created a content calendar, dug around in WordPress and more in order to get this all up and running. These are all things which took time and will pay dividends moving forward into January.

Bonus Learning

I did make progress on figuring out what this whole thing is all about and what I want to put out into the world. I’m not ready to lay it out in all it’s glory just yet, but I’m jazzed about where it’s going. It was always my intention to use this as a jumping off point to writing a book called “Reduce User Friction” so there will be posts centered around this concept from time to time, but there’s a bigger overarching theme as well which I’ve just started to outline. 

As promised on day 1, the site improved throughout the month, there’s an about page and a contact page now, the theme is a little less obnoxious than the first one I used, there’s some custom colors. It still has a long way to go to fulfill my vision, but the writing has (and will continue to) take priority.

On December 1 I wrote, “The only thing I know for sure is that I’ll be further than I am today.” It’s very true. 

For January I’ve set another goal, but given myself a little bit of leeway: 20 posts  // 100 subscribers.  That gives me 10 days off, which I have already eaten through 4 of.

Upcoming Posts in January:

  • Understanding the Finish Line for Your Product
  • Sleep Part 2
  • Elon Musk Implemented a Product Suggestion in 6 Days
  • The simple thing I do at the start and end of the day with my kids
  • Tracking your learnings
  • Breakdown of a usability study
  • Ordering Pizza Online

There’s a bunch more, but that’s a taste for you. What would you like to see me write about? Leave me a comment below.

A Smattering of New Year Advice

By | self-improvement, suggested-reading, vision | No Comments

Happy New Year! It’s been a few days since my last post and the challenge of posting every day in December. I took a few days off because quite honestly it was harder than I thought it was going to be. On top of that, I took time to connect with my family and then had to catch up on all the work from the downtime.

But I’m back…and it’s a new year!

With a new year comes a lot of people telling us how you should reinvent yourself or “make it your year!”  There’s a lot of chatter out there on the old interwebs. Here’s some of the articles I enjoyed:

5 New Year’s Resolutions for Busy Entrepreneurs in 2017
This is good advice for everyone, not just entrepreneurs.

Take care of your physical health. Practice empathy. Take a vacation. Set firm time limits. Disconnect from work when away from the office.

These are valuable pieces of advice and will ultimately make you happier. Taking care of yourself first and making time for life outside of work are two big things that make for better employees. As I shared in the post on making solid teams, psychological safety and empathy are keys to being successful in the work place.

Why You Should be Planning for 2018, Not 2017
“Everything you do is positioning.” This mirrors what I wrote in my blog post Your Future Life. You want to set up for what’s next. This article does an excellent job of going deeper and focuses on your responsibility for the choices you make and how you react to events that happen in your life.  

10 Expert Tips To Make 2017 Your Most Productive Year Yet
They aren’t all home run suggestions but a few spoke to me.

Pick your most important thing and make a one item to do list every day. The book The One Thing was one of my favorite books of 2015 so in your day as well as in your products you should be focusing on one metric for success at a time.

Action triggers have helped me to get work done at times when I would normally be wasting time and or lounging about, like when I get the kids in bed I’m going to finish this blog post…yes this one that I’m writing right now.

And finally, and most importantly, say no to more things, what things are you not going to NOT do this year? Set hard fast rules about what you won’t do and it will add amazing clarity to what you will do.

And not a 2017 article, but it was sent to my email this week: 

Why You Need a Word for Your Year
I like this concept. I don’t agree with doing it before you set your annual goals, as I believe the word should be informed by your direction, but to each his/her own. I like the way that Mark Zuckerberg set every yearly challenge to a theme, 2016’s being invention. Treat the word as your theme for the year. My word for the year will be creation.

Tomorrow’s post will be a retrospective on December and the plan for January moving forward with a sneak peek at some of the topics I’m going to be writing about.  I’ve been working on the content calendar for the past few days and have a clear direction moving into the first six months of the year that I’m going to build upon. Stay tuned.

Got any articles from the first week of the year that you think I should read? Let me know in the comments.