One simple thought to keep you motivated on your startup

Working on your side project or business idea takes a lot of motivation. Deep down you know you should be working.

But it’s tough. Tough to get started. Tough to avoid distractions. Even tougher when you’ve just put in a full day at your 9 to 5.

Don’t worry, you’re not alone. I’m in the same boat too.

In January this year I started the web app challenge. My goal was to build software for the property management industry. Initially I worked extremely hard. I knew I needed to make a dent into my new product before I began to second guess myself.

Every time I came up against a difficult problem I would get a bit disheartened. I didn’t want to start work when I got home.

I was tired.

Eventually I’d set aside a weekend and put in the hours to solve my problem. Most of the time the solution was simpler than I thought it would be. So I began to ask myself “Why am I finding it so difficult to sit down and work on something I actually want to work on?

At my job I’d be reminded about how much I really wanted to work for myself. And how much I want to build a business that allowed me freedom. Freedom to travel.

Then it hit me. I kept losing sight of that goal.

My goal is to quit my job within two years and have a business that meets my financial needs. Every day that I don’t work on my goals is a day longer I stay employed.

That’s an empowering thought for me.

Now, my aim is to spend at least one hour each day working towards my goal. This small shift alone has increased my productivity.

I keep a score. 730 (365 days x 2). Each day I don’t work at least an hour on my new business, I add one to the score.

Each day I do work at least an hour, I minus one from the score. Hopefully, by the end of two years I will have spent roughly 730 hours or more on my own business.

That’s about 20 full time working weeks! Time that could be easily wasted watching the latest TV shows in the evening.

So here’s my challenge to myself and to you. What can YOU build with 20 full time working weeks?

Scratch your own itch

When you’re building a product, web app or otherwise, the de facto advice is to “scratch your own itch”. It makes sense. Find a problem which bothers you enough to take some action to solve it. Ideally, you won’t be the only person with the same problem and others will be experiencing enough pain to do something about it i.e. pay you for your solution.

If you’ve been following my posts lately, you’ll know I’m midway through month two of my web app challenge. Going against conventional wisdom I’m not scratching my own itch – I’m scratching someone else’s (that sounds wrong…but you get what I mean).

Now although the itch isn’t mine, it belongs to someone close to me and I feel their pain.

What’s the pain?

90% of their business activities are recurring repetitive tasks that could be automated. Right now they do everything manually – yes, manually.

Is there a solution out there?

Yep, plenty. We could use one of these existing solutions but decided against it. After speaking to several businesses in the same industry the consensus was that existing providers were either too expensive, too hard to use or a combination of the two.

Another thing I noticed was that many of the existing providers didn’t offer an overly “user friendly” web based offering. Instead they required to customer to have on site equipment (severs etc) to run their applications. On top of this most providers (in the UK at least) seemed to have websites that looked dated and didn’t demonstrate their product well.

There were some exceptions to this of course and I made use of free trials where available. I found that whilst many performed the job they were not intuitively easy to use.

What am I building?

I’m building a property management application. The person who’s itch I’m scratching is my Father. Whilst his business is a lot more than just property rentals, this is the area I’m choosing to focus on as it’s where they are experiencing growth and need a solution thats more scalable than spreadsheets and files in filing cabinets.

It’s nice to have access to a “subject matter expert” at home, but I’m also in touch with similar businesses to ensure I build a tool that caters to the majority of needs rather than something bespoke for my Dad.

How much time have I spent?

Keeping in mind I have a day job, I’ve had to make some hard decisions about how to spend my out-of-work hours. I try to make it to the gym 3 times a week and leave Friday/Saturday evenings for socialising. The rest of the week I try to work pretty much immediately after getting in from work until bedtime.

I’ve found staying motivated is hard. It’s even harder to get to work after “relaxing” in front of the TV for an hour. In my head I keep telling myself, I’ll have more time to watch TV after July. It’s been tough and some days I get nothing done, but having limited time is keeping me focused.

I haven’t done any specific time tracking, but my guess is about 10 -15 hours a week.

“The one human quality that must be developed is self discipline for success. The will power to force yourself to do what you know you should do when you should do it, whether you like it or not, whether you feel like it or not. Success is tons of discipline.” — Brian Tracy

Where are the links I promised last post?

In my last post I mentioned I had been in touch with a great bunch of guys working on their own web app challenges. They’ve been a great source of motivation and inspiration so far. Here are links to their blogs/projects:

App Name App Author Target Monthly Income
by July 2013
App Description
Convert Kit Nathan Barry $5000 (USD) An app to help improve the conversion rate of your landing pages and make the set up of auto responder email courses easier. Martyn Garcia 10 paying customers The best conversion optimization platform the world has ever seen. Developer and designer friendly.
The Niche Finder Paul Devlin $5001 (USD) A tool that scans eBay recording product metrics such as how many of each product the seller has sold each month. The products are then displayed in a best seller list so users can find popular products at a glance.
ThankBee Rob Chava $1000 (USD) With ThankBee, Android app developers can:

  • Invite buyers to friend them on Facebook, follow them on Twitter, or to join their mailing list.
  • Invite users to give them valuable comments and feedback (possibly solving issues that would normally end up as negative reviews).
  • Promote their other apps and services.
  • Offer special discounts or trial codes to users who cancelled their purchase.
Procedure Office Will Claxton $500 (USD) Virtual Assistant Management Software

  • Manage any number of Virtual Assistants easily all from one simple to use dashboard
  • Create Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for quick reference to common repeatable tasks
  • Custom Tasks & SOPs have colour coded Priority Levels
  • Set SOPs to Re-occur on the VA’s to-do list
  • Business Owners receive notifications if scheduled SOPs not completed on time
  • Statistics on task completion timing and scheduled SOP completion percentages
  • VA’s can have multiple clients, this makes managing daily workload much simpler as everything is in one location.
Property Management App CD £3000 GBP (~$4700 USD) An easy to use, web-based Property Management Tool for UK based Letting Agents

The Web App Challenge: £0 to £3000/month in six months

It’s a new year. Time to re-focus on those life goals and keep life heading in the desired direction.

I was reading Nathan Barry’s blog today and have decided to join him in the Web App challenge. Unlike Nathan, I have some idea about the web application I want to build, but I’m still researching and planning at the moment. To be honest Nathan’s post couldn’t have come at a better time. I’m hoping to be just as transparent and take inspiration from his aggressive approach and tight timeline (leaving me less time to procrastinate!).

What our challenges have in common

– Extracting ideas in the style of Dane Maxwell

– Building a web application

– Using Ruby on Rails

– Looking for to create a SaaS (software as a service) product.

How our challenges will differ

Unlike Nathan, I’m assigning a budget of ZERO. I plan on doing the design / development / marketing etc by myself, whilst working full time at my job (which is often more than the usual 9 to 5).

I have experience in programming with Ruby and Rails, but have never built a full web app, especially one I intended to sell. I’m hoping the next few months will solidify my knowledge of Rails and allow me to create software that provides real value to my eventual target market.

Join in?

Whilst the Web App Challenge isn’t an official challenge (as far as I know), I encourage you to join in. It would be nice to have some community to share the ups and downs and building a software product with. Besides, what better way to start the new year than to start working on a new project?

To our successes in 2013! Happy new year 🙂

— CD

Project Ideas

Recently I’ve had the urge to make something. I have random ideas about cool things I’d like to have in my life and start researching how to build them.

My problem is I’ve now got several ideas in my head and no clear starting point so my progress has been unimpressive.

Below is a list of ideas I have. If you know how I should tackle any of the below please get in touch. The list is to serve as a reference for myself.

1. Sip door phone
I’ve seen expensive consumer products but reckon I can build one myself using raspberry pi or similar. The idea is someone pushes the button and it calls the phones attached to my asterisk (in my home, in my office and on my mobile). Whilst ringing the person at the door is asked for their name and purpose so this can be played when I answer. (Useful when packages are delivered and I am not in – also when friends visit and I am out.) Extra: add a picture or webcam feed, ability to notify an iOS or android app, and possibly the ability to lock unlock the door from any phone that answers the doorbell.

2. Sip loudspeaker
I don’t know why, but I’d like my house to talk to me. I’d like to know how the underground lines look in the morning while I make my tea. I’d also like to be able to leave messages for family members when they return to the house (use of motion sensor). I’d also like two way calls via the speaker, so I could call the speaker and talk to whomever might be in. This would also be good in my grandfather’s house so we can talk to him without him needing to operate a phone.

3. Home automation (general)
I have lights I can control via iOS or android apps. I’d like to make them smarter e.g. know I was heading upstairs and that no lights are on and either ask if I want them on (can use sip speaker, motion sensor + voice command software) or just turn them on anyway.

4. Money management app
I am planning to build this in Rails. This is for a friends business so I’m not going to say much here.

5. Git server
I’d like to host my own github style site to backup my work

6. Android management Either the ability to remotely manage family members android devices e.g. initiate app updates, backup images etc via a web interface. Also ability to provide remote support I.e. ability to see the screen of a family members device and show them how to perform common tasks. (Vnc style).

7. Follow me music system I would like a sonos style setup whereby I can dictate what is played in each room. If I could tie this in with the sip speaker project that would be great.

8. Android sip client I know many of these exist but I’d like to build one just for fun. That’s it for now.

9. Home security
I’d like to be able to tell what’s going on in my house at a glance (phone/tablet).

10. Media displays
Use “small computers” (e.g. raspberry pi / arduino) to power 4 large TV screens with advertising. Using XiBo or similar.

11. Home Check-in
Use the Raspberry Pi to monitor the MAC addresses connected to my home network. Use these addresses and a few logical conditions such as time etc to determine whether members of the family are at home or not. This can then be extended to tie in with home automation and turn lights on when returning home and nobody else is at home.

Will update when more ideas keep me awake at night.

Get things done

It doesn’t matter how big the task at hand – finish it.
Break it into smaller chunks of you have to and finish those.

I’m reminded of a quote:

The difference between successful and unsuccessful people is that successful people do what they should do, whether they feel like it or not.

Be healthy – 30 day challenge update

The thirty day ‘be healthy’ challenge came and went far quicker than I thought it would. In all, I would say it was a success, as long as I renamed the challenge ‘no alcohol’ rather than ‘be healthy’.

Trips to the gym dwindled from 3 times a week to 1, and my diet, whilst not terrible, included one too many treats for my liking.

Since the challenge I have definitely felt less inclined to drink alcohol whilst socialising, and when I do, I notice I consume far less than before.

So what’s next? I’m not sure. I want to pick up programming again (haven’t coded properly since May 2012 when I built a recommendation system for public displays) so it’s likely my next challenge may be related to that.

Be healthy – 30 day challenge

Early this year I wrote about doing 30 day challenges and promptly forgot all about it. You can insert all the usual excuses here.

My main excuse: I spent some time travelling and have been enjoying life. In recent weeks, I have returned to ‘reality’ and have a more stable routine. I’ve actually started working more normal hours (9 to something) and this has brought with it some new challenges.

A little background. At some point during my travels I lost around 8kgs of weight from 68 to 60, and in the last three weeks I put on around 3 to 4kgs, mainly due to little exercise, poor diet and lots of drinking. About a week ago I revisited my old blog posts and decided it was time to do a thirty day challenge and get back to writing more frequently. And so, my challenge for this month: ‘Be healthy’.

What does that mean?
– Eat well (cut out junk e.g bad carbs, chocolates etc.)
– Exercise at least 3 times a week
– Drink lots of water & green tea (avoid fizzy drinks, sweetened tea and too many juice drinks.)
– Stop drinking alcohol (this is hard given the culture and people I am surrounded by, where drinking is very much ingrained as the default social activity of choice)

How am I doing?
I had meant to write this post sooner but didn’t get round to it. On the bright side, I have some stats for the last 7 days:

– I have been to three separate social drinking occasions / nights out and stayed mainly on tap water.

– I have been eating ‘healthy’ meals where possible, although I have cheated and snuck in the odd chocolate / doughnut.

– I have exercised 3 times for at least an hour.

A few people have asked me why I am doing this challenge, so here’s my reasoning:

– I want to see if I can do it (a lesson in self discipline and willpower)

– I want to save money for other things e.g. Flying lessons and investments (more to come in a future challenge)

– I have a personal goal to reach a certain level of fitness.

– It’s a lot easier (and cheaper) to drive home after a night out than take a cab.

– I wanted to see whether alcohol makes me enjoy a night out more or less. So far I’d say I’m happy sober and can make my own good mood without the need for drinks. Waking up without a hangover or feeling rough is great too and gives me more time to enjoy the weekend.

If you’re thinking of doing a 30 day challenge – do it! Leave a comment and let me know how you’re doing too 🙂

Try something new for 30 days.

They say it takes 21 days to form a new habit (30 days if you want to be sure).

Days in groups of 30 seem to pass me by all the time, and my life seems to change very little between any two days that are a month apart. There’s nothing I can do to stop time passing by, but I can change what I do (and achieve) in that time.

There are lots of things I’ve thought I’d like to do or try at some point but they never seem to happen, or I try for a day and then forget when reality and other obligations present themselves.

So, with inspiration from Matt Cutt’s TED Talk and blog, I’ve decided to take on the 30 day challenge. I only decided less than an hour ago, and already I’ve formulated a list of some things I’d like to try. Initially I thought I’d do one at a time, but some would make sense together.

Here’s the list in no particular order:

– write one blog post a day
– limit television viewing to 1 hour a day
– practise coding for 2 hours a day
– workout at least 30 mins a day
– wake up at 8am (whilst getting 8 hours sleep)
– take one picture a day
– no junk food e.g. chocolate, biscuits, sweets, crisps, donuts and anything with “bad carbs”.
– drink 2 litres of water
– no talking on Wednesdays unless in response to a direct question (an idea from The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari)
– meditate for at least 10 minutes
– write a to-do list with 3 major goals for tomorrow, each evening.

That’s the list for now. I will add to it over time and cross off items as completed.

I think this will be a really good exercise in developing will power and self discipline.

I’m hoping to use this blog for some accountability, please feel free to ask me how its going and if you’re feeling adventurous, suggest new things for me to try or tell me about your own 30 day challenge experiences.

Doing what you love

I’ve read (and been told) time and time again that in order to live a happy/fulfilled life, you need to DO what you LOVE. Or in other words, find your passion.

That’s all very well, but HOW do you find your passion?

No idea.

Perhaps it ties in with travelling more and experiencing the world in order to find out what activities out there in the world could actually be YOUR passion. After all, if you haven’t found your passion yet, maybe it isn’t something that you can do within the 100 mile radius of your home. Heck, maybe your passion is simply travelling…can’t do that sitting at home watching the television. And to end, another cliché:

It’s not about the destination (passion) it’s about the journey  (discovering your passion)

With that in mind, I’m off to try my hand at some fun things, some old, some new in an attempt to find MY passion. Feel free to leave comments about your experiences on finding a passion, and I’ll post soon with an update on my findings.

Taking a break

When it comes to learning or doing something I am overly interested in, I have to throw myself into it completely.

You might have noticed from previous posts that I’ve been looking into spread betting lately – well not lately. I decided to take a break to focus on other things in life and do some reading.

Will write another post outlining what I am working on for the festive season.