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.

Reintroducing Yoga Into My Life

By | health, mindfulness, self-improvement | No Comments

I believe in disconnecting. I feel the world we currently live in is too connected and it can bog us down both mentally and physically. I like to take breaks from devices and screens, but it’s hard. A question jumps in my head and I have a super computer in my pocket that I can ask for the answer and get it immediately. In that same vein, I miss the days from high school and early college of sitting at a coffee shop or bar and having lively discussions over the answer to a stupid question and having no way to get the answer at hand. Now those lively discussions are ended before they even start. Who played the other robber in Home Alone, you know, not Joe Pesci? Just Google it.

In February of 2016 I started doing yoga. I got an app on the app store looking for part yoga part meditation and trying it out to unplug. I fell in love with it. I started the beginner sessions doing 30 minutes at a time and after 3 days in a row and showing up to work in a great mood (and a little sore), it dawned on me that it was the yoga. I ramped up to the intermediate hour long courses and at my peak in march completed 21 out of 31 days.  I was fitting it in wherever I could and jumping out of bed in the morning in excited to go through the program.

After March I needed to start training for a 5k obstacle course I had signed up for and so I started splitting time between yoga and running. Slowly I felt more invested in running and yoga was becoming less and less a priority.  I was focused on reaching my 5k time goals I had set for myself and a 1 mile goal time.

Throughout the year it became less about one of the things that had drawn me to it which was disconnecting for a while, letting my mind work through problems while my body struggled to stay in certain positions. It became a chore.

Then I hurt my knee running and I started incorporating kettlebell workouts into my routine (which I also now love), but I was still avoiding doing my yoga. I was doing 30 minute sessions from time to time but wasn’t getting that boost that I had once been drawn to.

Last week, when my stress levels were at a peak while juggling many projects, Christmas prep and prioritizing time with the kids I stopped and took an hour to go through a yoga session. I didn’t have the time, but I knew I needed it. It felt great and the results weren’t immediate, but the world slowed down a little and I felt more centered. By the end of the day I felt great and the next day I was good and sore, which was surprising after the kettlebell workouts I had been doing.

I realized that these sessions are good for body and mind for me and it’s important to have the time away from the connectedness that is so ingrained in us today. I would like to get into meditation as well, but for now this is a good start.

Moving into 2017 I’ve made it a goal to not go more than 3 days between yoga sessions. And no more than 2 days between a workout of any kind.

It’s important to find your way to disconnect even if it’s only for a few minutes a day, being mindful of yourself and your surroundings. Get away from the screens and gadgets and take care of yourself and your mind.

The app I use is called Yoga Studio and is available for iOS. It has 65 pre-made yoga and meditation classes. It tracks when you do it which helped me with motivation for wanting to get the day on the calendar lit up when I completed a session.

That other robber = Daniel Stern, and fun fact number 2, he also starred in C.H.U.D. with the Dad in Home Alone, John Heard.

The Importance of Sleep

By | health, mindfulness | One Comment

This will be my shortest post yet.

Early in my career I wore it as a badge of honor if I pulled an all nighter.  Later in my career it annoyed me. I believe in a do what you need to do to get the job done mentality, but that one all-nighter could usually be avoided through better planning and transparancy.  Not only that but one all-nighter would wreck my team for days. That’s right, days, with an s. Sleep is so important to your health, your mental acuity and your ability to make key decisions that it needs to be a priority in your life.

I’m making this short so you can go take a nap instead of reading.

And when you’re done check out Arianna Huffington’s book on the subject- The Sleep Revolution

Or perhaps Sleep Smarter by Shawn Stevenson.

Want me to write more on the topic? Email me or post in the comments below.