Quick note: This post is long, so here’s a ToC to help.
Well, getting back on the work wagon on Sunday night has not proved easy, at all. Knowing that I made my goal - even though I still have the lion’s share of the work to actually do - has taken an unexpected hit on my ability to focus. Back in my Patreon post, I mentioned that I’ve been struggling with focusing on one task in between the two extremes of excitement and tiredness. Put another way, discipline is a muscle I need to practice a bit more.
Given that I know that, and now that I am sitting down, what can I reasonably due before 1:00am? There’s a few possibilities. I can work on Jekyll Scheduler, or make some more art for cafes, or start enacting any of the contracts I landed as part of this project. But I think that the most important thing I can do would be to make a post mortem of this entire experience - what did I do well, what did I do poorly? How did I feel about the process? When did I flag in productivity, and why? Where did I fail to market this well? What did I leave undone?
I think that’s the most productive thing to do at this juncture. So, let’s do that. First, I am going to give my overall impressions, right now; then, I’ll read through all of the posts again and identify interesting points; then I’ll make a list of what I have left to do, and how and when I am going to do that.
This was an exceptional few days. I started three days ago with nothing but a bet with a friend, which I doubt he seriously considered I would actually fulfil. What I wanted at the time was clarity on a few things. First, could I actionably focus on a task if it involved actively improving my life? Paying off my student loans are arguably the most important thing I could be doing with my time right now, given that they affect my decisions around work (arguably, because there are other things - physical rehabilitation for my broken foot, learning French and the fiddle, focusing on Maintainer.io, or writing my thesis all might contend for the most important spot, too). This challenge was custom made to stretch what I thought I could do, and how I could do it.
I did not plan it very well. For instance, I didn’t initially think to myself: “OK, I am going to start a blog, and talk about it.” Instead, I figured initially that it would make a lot of sense for me to keep a log of what I do and how I do it. I figured I might as well put this in a GitHub repository, because I like writing in Markdown anyway, I didn’t plan on having people seriously read this, and that way I could use GitHub Issues to plan stuff. I picked the name randomly based on the loan size, without thinking about how it would look to talk about debt so openly. I made the repo public because I didn’t see a reason to make it private. It would be more accurate to write I default to public, than that I intentionally put my journal out there as a statement.
That was an exceptionally good idea. It turned out that I did not get far in terms of providing new services. For instance, Jekyll Scheduler wasn’t finished; I never made the National Geographic cover website; I didn’t launch a expedition social media company; I didn’t do anything involving machine learning. Instead, I mostly talked about what I was working on, and why, and that was all I needed to do. Almost immediately, from one of the first people I shared it with, I started to get offers for work. Within an hour I had $250 promised that wouldn’t have existed if I hadn’t started talking about what I was doing.
I failed at some aspects. I should have made the Jekyll blog, sooner - dropping the GitHub repo into various social media channels and slacks didn’t turn up a lot of results, mostly because non-coders didn’t know what to make of Markdown files in a GitHub repository. That was my fault. I corrected it as soon as I got some honest feedback from a stranger - all of the Friday night session was spent editing a basic GitHub theme to make this blog look nicer.
I could have focused more on the value, and not the money. This entire project I was fighting the feeling that I was begging for money, even when I said explicitly that I wasn’t. It’s the catalyst, and it’s hard being honest about hardships in today’s society without sounding like you’re complaining. I don’t know a way around this, and I haven’t had enough time (three days is not enough) to fully grasp whether this issue may be intractable from this effort.
Another issue I had was staying up late on Saturday night. I was up until 2:30 in the morning. At some point, my brain, unused to being awake after 10:00pm (really), decided that I was staying up and if that’s the case it would stop telling me to go to sleep. I didn’t do much after 1:00. I should have just gone to bed. Today, Sunday, I was absolutely wrecked. I got in a couple of hours of poor work in the morning, and I tried to force work all afternoon, to my actual detriment (psychologically and physically). It was only after I had a nap that I was able to realise I wasn’t functioning well, and to tell myself to chill out and relax before I made the situation worse. I’m unhappy with my posts, and I’m not happy that I got angry at Photos. I didn’t need to; it was a completely unnecessary emotion that would have been avoided if I had simply gone to sleep earlier on Saturday night. This is a really good thing to notice, for me, for the future.
My lack of a proper working Sunday ruined the chance for me to get Jekyll Scheduler launched, which made me sad, because that was the thing I put the most heart into over this whole sprint. I am going to get it up at some point this week, anyway, but I wish it was sooner. Of course, I also made my goal by 10:00am. I decided early on that I didn’t need to physically get all of the money by Sunday to complete; I just needed to have contracts out that I would then fulfil after. (And, actually, my goal was really to be done by a second call with Felipe, at 1:00pm. I managed, but the call was postponed due to his being in Church anyway).
Which means this was, in effect, a two day sprint. That’s something I can try in the future.
One thing I did exceptionally well in this sprint was talking about it, and asking other people for help. Because of that, this was not a solitary endeavour. And what it was couldn’t have happened without support.
It turns out that writing as I go, publicly, is an incredibly useful tool for me to think and hack. I did more in the past two days than I am used to do, and learned much more. I am going to keep this style of writing up, I think, even if it does take some time. What I lose on the swings, I make on the roundabouts.
The ultimate judge, for me, is that I made the money I wanted to, and that I had a great deal of fun doing it. Do I wish I had been more productive? Of course. Do I wish I had done things differently? Sure. Do I wish I had marketed this better? Yep. Would I do it the same way again? Likely, with some edits. But overall, the experience itself was wonderful. I don’t say that about most weekends.
Where did it come from?
I probably spent more than $30 on coffee, food, and art supplies, but who is counting?
This project could not have been done alone.
Shout out to Bruno in the cafe for his advice and validity; to Ricardo for hacking with me on Saturday and for being an inspiration for hard work himself; to Thomas for letting me natter on about profiteering when you just want to do canvas ML stuff; to Vernon for helping me debug Mongoose; to Dean for coming out late on Saturday night to a weird chess cafe to work next to me; to Jacqueline for holding my hand when I felt attached on Twitter and wanted a second opinion; to Heather for all sorts of things, including dealing with my lack of sleep and helping me take breaks; to Andrew for getting on an early morning Sunday call; to Danesh for reaching out about help; to Felipe for the original encouragement; to Kirsty for the feedback about the blog; and I’m sure I’m forgetting someone.
And, of course, thank you to Dean, Zach, Jacqueline, Andrew, and Kristof for taking a bet on me being able to work hard for you!
To everyone, I’m grateful!
Well, there’s the next tasks section, which I’ll keep following up on until they are all is done. But otherwise, I have my thesis to (attempt to) finish this coming week, and some work to do on Maintainer Mountaineer. I also have other projects to get to, like Open Source Cities and Word Hoard Press, In Development and The Travel Shelf, The Litt Review and marathon training, among other things. I’m rarely bored.
Or, you could join my Patreon and follow along there when I post things, or on my weekly newsletter or on my semi-regularly non-weekly should-be-daily newsletter. Or just follow me on Twitter @richlitt.
My next loan is $49,555.09 as of this writing, at 7.9% APR. I’m heavily considering starting a blog similar to this one, and seeing if I can remove that debt in a month. Would you be interested in following along with that? If so, email me and let me know!