What’s stopping you from getting what you want? You probably never practiced the skill of defining work.
In school and at work people tell you what to do. All you have to do is work- defining the work is done by someone else.
You can use the skills taught in this book to do anything. Amy uses the example of hosting a fancy thanksgiving dinner party as illustration, but it applies equally to writing a book, making a web app, or creating a marketing plan.
Making stuff is hard. If you’re wishy-washy about your goal, or merely think you should want something instead of really truly wanting it, you’re going to lose interest in even the best laid plan.
Wish ardently for an outcome and the rest of this book will flow easily. Lie to yourself about what you want and you’ll spin your wheels forever. Good reasons to JFs: Help make people’s lives better. Create joy. Make something useful.
Putting on a fancy dinner party is a lot like making a product- it comprises an audience, a work environment, specialized tools, raw materials, a process to turn raw materials into something useful for the audience, and a deadline- but a dinner party feels easier because it’s more familiar.
What does your audience need? Want? Hate? What do they think is funny? what do they buy? What words do they use? What specific problems do they have? What are they trying to get done? Do they prefer video or text? DIY or move-in-ready? Bargains or quality?
Your product will live and die by your understanding of who it’s for.
If set correctly, deadlines are a fun challenge that help you get what you want.
If you have trouble hitting deadlines, you’re probably working inefficiently and setting overly ambitious goals without knowing what the work entails. The rest of this book will outline skills to fix that.
If you want to ever be done, you have to know what done looks like.
What exactly will your project look like when it’s done? What’s absolutely required versus just nice to have?
When you know exactly where you need to go, it’s easy to take a step back from the end state until you’re at the present. Reverse it and you’ve got a clear path to the finish line.
Tiny, discrete next actions are easier to work on than big vague goals. Break your backwards plan into separate components you can work on one at a time.
Specific, vivid, and detailed goals with hard edges are easier to hit than vague soggy general ambitions, and they’re easier to sell.
“Log time with 4 key strokes” beats “user friendly,” and “Double your freelancing” beats “Learn about consulting”.
Learn more about “crispy” from BJ Fogg. Cris.py, well defined habits like ‘pushups every time I pee” are much easier to form than soggy generic “I want to get fit” general ambitions.
Don’t start with version infinity. Build the smallest useful thing you can for the highest chance of success.
Don’t start writing a 500 page book; write some blog posts first. You can always go bigger later, and smaller means less risk and quicker wins.
To choose what work to do next, prioritize work that will make future necessary work easier.
Be careful to filter out unnecessary work. You don’t need to code a blogging platform from scratch if your users can’t tell the difference from WordPress.
If you feel decision paralysis, just pick something that will move you forward and do it.
Track Progress in a big project by making it visible, like with Trello.
You’ll feel way more motivated when you can see the milestones you’re crushed.
Don’t waste time doing work that your customer won’t appreciate.
Don’t build a custom billing system from scratch if you can just buy one and ship faster. You can build one late if you really want to.
Good enough, shipped, is for better than perfect, not shipped.
Apple didn’t start by building the iPhone X, and they weren’t satisfied with their first shipped iPod. Keep shipping improvements and you’ll feel fine with shipping a product you know isn’t perfect (the next one will be better).
When starting out, copy as much as you can from experts (with your own aesthetic style).
You’ll develop an innate sense for how to the work of your type of project only by doing it a lot.
Define your crispy version of project success so it’s not too easy (you’ll get bored) and not too hard (you’ll quit).
Taking on extra risk means potentially higher upside, but greater chance of failure.
Batch similar tasks together.
Prepare the defined work to be done so you always know the next actions to push a project forward.
Distinguish between tasks that are vital to your project launching, and tasks that are just polish.
When you have to decide between shipping an incomplete product or not shipping, you’ll know exactly what can be dropped.
Nobody knows (or cares) what you version infinity with all the nicities was supposed to look like. If you can cut frills to ship, do it.
Deal with fear, decision paralysis, and uncertainty by getting specific. What, exactly, are you worried about happening? What could you do if that happened?
Can you do it? Will people like it? Will you fail? Fucking try and find out!
Deal with problems directly. Don’t let the dragon grow unnoticed.
Specify the worst that could happen and what you could do about it. If nothing, why worry? If something, now you have a plan.
Some money now is better than potentially more money in the future. Making ten pots this week is better than planning the perfect pot you never make.
Here’s Amy’s recipe for launching:
A good launch is the difference between $40,000 and nothing. Don’t throw a dinner party and forget to invite your guests! A good launch is a product itself. Set a crispy goal, like 10 new customers, start small, plan backwards, improve it over time, and shop the shelf.
Also, you can re-launch whenever you want!
Those 3- 5 emails could look like:
Most of your behavior is automatic, so in a very real sense you are your habits, plus a thin conscious layer capable of changing habits.
Changing habits is hard. Put work into thinking through what you want to change ahead of time so you aren’t solving problems as You encounter them- you’ll just do the automatic thing.
To run a product business, you’ve got to learn to be comfortable at 80% of Done, forever.
Your habit-happy subconscious loves routine and predictability. The more aspects of your environment that you’re pre-thought through to be constant and beneficial to productivity (like the same clean desk, the same soundtrack on comfortable noise- canceling headphones, and the same food), the easier you’ll snap into productive mode.
Invest in finding the right tools for your productivity (monitors, Bose headphones, mice, keyboards, whiteboards, time trackers), but don’t let these decisions eat too much of the time you could be spending making direct progress.
Take your feelings seriously-they’re the top predictor of failure.
Do you avoid goals after you set them? Does you attention and motivation seem to slowly slide away? That’s probably your ego feeling uncertain about you succeeding, so it wants to play it safe by not trying at all. If you don’t try, you can’t fail, right?
The best therapy for this pathology is to ship mo-e and more often. Teach you fragile ego that the damage of failure isn’t so bad, and it feels good to take more shots at success. The process will eventually feel more certain.
Do you self sabotage and get explosively angry at yourself when you make mistakes? Nobody deserves to be treated like that. Learn to be kind to yourself with mindfulness meditation and the “When Things Fall Apart” audiobook.