I quit my job in January 2020 to build a privacy friendly photo organizer.
As a 30 year old whose friends are either getting married or planning off-springs, what I had underestimated was the difficulty involved in finding a co-founder and how that would compound the difficulty involved in finding an investor.
Once I accepted the loneliness and the lack of a financial cushion I had to figure out a way to keep building without burning myself out.
It took me a while, but I have found a rhythm that works, and with it, a steady source of endorphins. Here are some changes that helped me to keep things moving.
Life is no longer as comfortable as it used to be and things are not always going the way I want them to. Preseverance has been key and indirectly patience too. Naval’s take on meditation (60 minutes x 60 days), was an eye opener. I’ve stuck with it since, and I now have an easier time identifying negative thought patterns and sitting out situations that would otherwise overwhelm me.
On some level, spending the last few months locked indoors with my parents, who are not the most rational people in the world has also helped. But I wouldn’t recommend it.
Over time I’ve realized that action precedes motivation and procrastination precedes guilt.
Breaking down tasks into chunks that seem trivial to accomplish has helped reduce the friction in getting started on unexciting grunt work.
Then there are tasks which I loathe from my core, like writing out applications to VCs explaining why what I’m doing will matter. To those I attach reinforcing personal reasons, like, “I need the $50k to hire that college junior who I love working with, and that will give me spare bandwidth to focus on traction channels”.
It is sub-optimal to not have a coworker to bounce ideas off and rant about problems to. A lot of times it’s these conversations that help you gain clarity.
It’s a luxury I do not have so every time I feel stuck, I type/scribble my thoughts out, and then question everything that was written, and then document my realizations.
Task tracking has also helped in clearing the path. I write down unstructured thoughts into a diary, and once I’ve clarity, I promote them to a Notion board (that’s divided into Thinking, Building, Reading, Writing and Adulting) and every Monday within an Excel sheet I track what was done, and what is left to be done.
I’ve reduced my information consumption to free up brain cycles. I’ve disabled all notifications on my phone barring a few contacts, and I’ve more or less stopped browsing on it. As an added bonus, this has reduced the negativity with which I perceived the world.
To minimize the overhead of context switches, I split tasks into a tree of checkpoints. Before taking a break I note down the next simplest checkpoint so that when I get back to work there’s little friction to resume.
To help me zone out I keep lofi beats or github.audio playing in the background. Listening to the latter gives me a strange sense of motivation and makes me feel less alone.
I’m lucky to have some friends who call/text every other week. I look at them as my accountability partners and I talk to them about what I’m doing on a high level. While not all of them genuinely care, some do, and these conversations force me to reflect on how well I’m doing what I’m doing.
While Silicon Valley wisdom suggests that if I’m not sleeping I should be working, failing because of a burn out would be stupid. An advantage of not having a VC onboard so far has been the freedom to dictate my pace. So I spend days thinking, reading, fiddling with my violin or just doing nothing when I feel like writing code is not what I want to do.
It’s been 7 months of building alone, and while this is not how I pictured things to be on my last day at work, this is the happiest I have ever been. There’s a long way to go, and the grind seems inviting.
This list is by no means exhaustive, for I’m still learning. If you’ve anything to share, please join the discussion on HackerNews.
If you’re curious about my journey, you can follow me on Twitter.