More on Entrepreneurship/Creators
9 months ago
Looking for a Reliable Micro SaaS Niche
Niches are rich, as the adage goes.
Micro SaaS requires a great micro-niche; otherwise, it's merely plain old SaaS with a large audience.
Instead of targeting broad markets with few identifying qualities, specialise down to a micro-niche. How would you target these users?
Better go tiny. You'll locate and engage new consumers more readily and serve them better with a customized solution.
Imagine you're a real estate lawyer looking for a case management solution. Because it's so specific to you, you'd be lured to this link:
instead of below:
Next, locate mini SaaS niches that could work for you. You're not yet looking at the problems/solutions in these areas, merely shortlisting them.
The market should be growing, not shrinking
We shouldn't design apps for a declining niche. We intend to target stable or growing niches for the next 5 to 10 years.
If it's a developing market, you may be able to claim a stake early. You must balance this strategy with safer, longer-established niches (accountancy, law, health, etc).
First Micro SaaS apps I designed were for Merch By Amazon creators, a burgeoning niche. I found this niche when searching for passive income.
Graphic designers and entrepreneurs post their art to Amazon to sell on clothes. When Amazon sells their design, they get a royalty. Since 2015, this platform and specialty have grown dramatically.
Amazon doesn't publicize the amount of creators on the platform, but it's possible to approximate by looking at Facebook groups, Reddit channels, etc.
I could see the community growing week by week, with new members joining. Merch was an up-and-coming niche, and designers made money when their designs sold. All I had to do was create tools that let designers focus on making bestselling designs.
Look at the Google Trends graph below to see how this niche has evolved and when I released my apps and resigned my job.
Are the users able to afford the tools?
Who's your average user? Consumer or business? Is your solution budgeted?
If they're students, you'll struggle to convince them to subscribe to your study-system app (ahead of video games and beer).
Let's imagine you designed a Shopify plugin that emails customers when a product is restocked. If your plugin just needs 5 product sales a month to justify its cost, everyone wins (just be mindful that one day Shopify could potentially re-create your plugins functionality within its core offering making your app redundant ).
Do specialized users buy tools? If so, that's comforting. If not, you'd better have a compelling value proposition for your end customer if you're the first.
This should include how much time or money your program can save or make the user.
Are you able to understand the Micro SaaS market?
Ideally, you're already familiar about the industry/niche. Maybe you're fixing a challenge from your day job or freelance work.
If not, evaluate how long it would take to learn the niche's users. Health & Fitness is easier to relate to and understand than hedge fund derivatives trading.
Competing in these complex (and profitable) fields might offer you an edge.
B2C, B2M, or B2B?
Consider your user base's demographics. Will you target businesses, consumers, or both? Let's examine the different consumer types:
B2B refers to business-to-business transactions where customers are other businesses. UpVoty, Plutio, Slingshot, Salesforce, Atlassian, and Hubspot are a few examples of SaaS, ranging from Micro SaaS to SaaS.
Business to Consumer (B2C), in which your clients are people who buy things. For instance, Duolingo, Canva, and Nomad List.
For instance, my tool KDP Wizard has a mixed user base of publishing enterprises and also entrepreneurial consumers selling low-content books on Amazon. This is a case of business to many (B2M), where your users are a mixture of businesses and consumers. There is a large SaaS called Dropbox that offers both personal and business plans.
Targeting a B2B vs. B2C niche is very different. The sales cycle differs.
A B2B sales staff must make cold calls to potential clients' companies. Long sales, legal, and contractual conversations are typically required for each business to get the go-ahead. The cost of obtaining a new customer is substantially more than it is for B2C, despite the fact that the recurring fees are significantly higher.
Since there is typically only one individual making the purchasing decision, B2C signups are virtually always self-service with reduced recurring fees. Since there is typically no outbound sales staff in B2C, acquisition costs are significantly lower than in B2B.
User Characteristics for B2B vs. B2C
Consider where your niche's users congregate if you don't already have a presence there.
B2B users frequent LinkedIn and Twitter. B2C users are on Facebook/Instagram/Reddit/Twitter, etc.
Churn is higher in B2C because consumers haven't gone through all the hoops of a B2B sale. Consumers are more unpredictable than businesses since they let their bank cards exceed limitations or don't update them when they expire.
With a B2B solution, there's a contractual arrangement and the firm will pay the subscription as long as they need it.
Depending on how you feel about the above (sales team vs. income vs. churn vs. targeting), you'll know which niches to pursue.
You ought to respect potential customers.
Would you hang out with customers?
You'll connect with users at conferences (in-person or virtual), webinars, seminars, screenshares, Facebook groups, emails, support calls, support tickets, etc.
If talking to a niche's user base makes you shudder, you're in for a tough road. Whether they're demanding or dull, avoid them if possible.
Merch users are mostly graphic designers, side hustlers, and entrepreneurs. These laid-back users embrace technologies that assist develop their Merch business.
I discovered there was only one annual conference for this specialty, held in Seattle, USA. I decided to organize a conference for UK/European Merch designers, despite never having done so before.
Hosting a conference for over 80 people was stressful, and it turned out to be much bigger than expected, with attendees from the US, Europe, and the UK.
I met many specialized users, built relationships, gained trust, and picked their brains in person. Many of the attendees were already Merch Wizard users, so hearing their feedback and ideas for future features was invaluable.
focused and specific
Instead of building for a generic, hard-to-reach market, target a specific group.
I liken it to fishing in a little, hidden pond. This small pond has only one species of fish, so you learn what bait it likes. Contrast that with trawling for hours to catch as many fish as possible, even if some aren't what you want.
In the case management scenario, it's difficult to target leads because several niches could use the app. Where do your potential customers hang out? Your generic solution: No.
It's easier to join a community of Real Estate Lawyers and see if your software can answer their pain points.
My Success with Micro SaaS
In my case, my Micro SaaS apps have been my chrome extensions. Since I launched them, they've earned me an average $10k MRR, allowing me to quit my lousy full-time job years ago.
I sold my apps after scaling them for a life-changing lump amount. Since then, I've helped unfulfilled software developers escape the 9-5 through Micro SaaS.
Whether it's a profitable side hustle or a liferaft to quit their job and become their own Micro SaaS boss.
Having built my apps to the point where I could quit my job, then scaled and sold them, I feel I can share my skills with software developers worldwide.
Read my free guide on self-funded SaaS to discover more about Micro SaaS, or download your own copy. 12 chapters cover everything from Idea to Exit.
Watch my YouTube video to learn how to construct a Micro SaaS app in 10 steps.
6 months ago
Generalists Create Startups; Specialists Scale Them
There’s a funny part of ‘Steve Jobs’ by Walter Isaacson where Jobs says that Bill Gates was more a copier than an innovator:
“Bill is basically unimaginative and has never invented anything, which is why I think he’s more comfortable now in philanthropy than technology. He just shamelessly ripped off other people’s ideas….He’d be a broader guy if he had dropped acid once or gone off to an ashram when he was younger.”
Gates lacked flavor. Nobody ever got excited about a Microsoft launch, despite their good products. Jobs had the world's best product taste. Apple vs. Microsoft.
A CEO's core job functions are all driven by taste: recruiting, vision, and company culture all require good taste. Depending on the type of company you want to build, know where you stand between Microsoft and Apple.
How can you improve your product judgment? How to acquire taste?
Test and refine
Product development follows two parallel paths: the ‘customer obsession’ path and the ‘taste and iterate’ path.
The customer obsession path involves solving customer problems. Lean Startup frameworks show you what to build at each step.
Taste-and-iterate doesn't involve the customer. You iterate internally and rely on product leaders' taste and judgment.
Creative Selection by Ken Kocienda explains this method. In Creative Selection, demos are iterated and presented to product leaders. Your boss presents to their boss, and so on up to Steve Jobs. If you have good product taste, you can be a panelist.
The iPhone follows this path. Before seeing an iPhone, consumers couldn't want one. Customer obsession wouldn't have gotten you far because iPhone buyers didn't know they wanted one.
In The Hard Thing About Hard Things, Ben Horowitz writes:
“It turns out that is exactly what product strategy is all about — figuring out the right product is the innovator’s job, not the customer’s job. The customer only knows what she thinks she wants based on her experience with the current product. The innovator can take into account everything that’s possible, but often must go against what she knows to be true. As a result, innovation requires a combination of knowledge, skill, and courage.“
One path solves a problem the customer knows they have, and the other doesn't. Instead of asking a person what they want, observe them and give them something they didn't know they needed.
It's much harder. Apple is the world's most valuable company because it's more valuable. It changes industries permanently.
If you want to build superior products, use the iPhone of your industry.
How to Improve Your Taste
I. Work for a company that has taste.
People with the best taste in products, markets, and people are rewarded for building great companies. Tasteful people know quality even when they can't describe it. Taste isn't writable. It's feel-based.
Moving into a community that's already doing what you want to do may be the best way to develop entrepreneurial taste. Most company-building knowledge is tacit.
Joining a company you want to emulate allows you to learn its inner workings. It reveals internal patterns intuitively. Many successful founders come from successful companies.
Consumption determines taste. Excellence will refine you. This is why restauranteurs visit the world's best restaurants and serious painters visit Paris or New York. Joining a company with good taste is beneficial.
2. Possess a wide range of interests
“Edwin Land of Polaroid talked about the intersection of the humanities and science. I like that intersection. There’s something magical about that place… The reason Apple resonates with people is that there’s a deep current of humanity in our innovation. I think great artists and great engineers are similar, in that they both have a desire to express themselves.” — Steve Jobs
I recently discovered Edwin Land. Jobs modeled much of his career after Land's. It makes sense that Apple was inspired by Land.
A Triumph of Genius: Edwin Land, Polaroid, and the Kodak Patent War notes:
“Land was introverted in person, but supremely confident when he came to his ideas… Alongside his scientific passions, lay knowledge of art, music, and literature. He was a cultured person growing even more so as he got older, and his interests filtered into the ethos of Polaroid.”
Founders' philosophies shape companies. Jobs and Land were invested. It showed in the products their companies made. Different. His obsession was spreading Microsoft software worldwide. Microsoft's success is why their products are bland and boring.
Experience is important. It's probably why startups are built by generalists and scaled by specialists.
Jobs combined design, typography, storytelling, and product taste at Apple. Some of the best original Mac developers were poets and musicians. Edwin Land liked broad-minded people, according to his biography. Physicist-musicians or physicist-photographers.
Da Vinci was a master of art, engineering, architecture, anatomy, and more. He wrote and drew at the same desk. His genius is remembered centuries after his death. Da Vinci's statue would stand at the intersection of humanities and science.
We find incredibly creative people here. Superhumans. Designers, creators, and world-improvers. These are the people we need to navigate technology and lead world-changing companies. Generalists lead.
9 months ago
I sold my side project for $20,000: 6 lessons I learned
How I monetized and sold an abandoned side project for $20,000
The Origin Story
I've always wanted to be an entrepreneur but never succeeded. I often had business ideas, made a landing page, and told my buddies. Never got customers.
In April 2021, I decided to try again with a new strategy. I noticed that I had trouble acquiring an initial set of customers, so I wanted to start by acquiring a product that had a small user base that I could grow.
I found a SaaS marketplace called MicroAcquire.com where you could buy and sell SaaS products. I liked Shareit.video, an online Loom-like screen recorder.
Shareit.video didn't generate revenue, but 50 people visited daily to record screencasts.
Purchasing a Failed Side Project
I eventually bought Shareit.video for $12,000 from its owner.
$12,000 was probably too much for a website without revenue or registered users.
I thought time was most important. I could have recreated the website, but it would take months. $12,000 would give me an organized code base and a working product with a few users to monetize.
I considered buying a screen recording website and trying to grow it versus buying a new car or investing in crypto with the $12K.
Buying the website would make me a real entrepreneur, which I wanted more than anything.
Putting down so much money would force me to commit to the project and prevent me from quitting too soon.
A Year of Development
I rebranded the website to be called RecordJoy and worked on it with my cousin for about a year. Within a year, we made $5000 and had 3000 users.
We spent $3500 on ads, hosting, and software to run the business.
AppSumo promoted our $120 Life Time Deal in exchange for 30% of the revenue.
We put RecordJoy on maintenance mode after 6 months because we couldn't find a scalable user acquisition channel.
We improved SEO and redesigned our landing page, but nothing worked.
Despite not being able to grow RecordJoy any further, I had already learned so much from working on the project so I was fine with putting it on maintenance mode. RecordJoy still made $500 a month, which was great lunch money.
Getting Taken Over
One of our customers emailed me asking for some feature requests and I replied that we weren’t going to add any more features in the near future. They asked if we'd sell.
We got on a call with the customer and I asked if he would be interested in buying RecordJoy for 15k. The customer wanted around $8k but would consider it.
Since we were negotiating with one buyer, we put RecordJoy on MicroAcquire to see if there were other offers.
We quickly received 10+ offers. We got 18.5k. There was also about $1000 in AppSumo that we could not withdraw, so we agreed to transfer that over for $600 since about 40% of our sales on AppSumo usually end up being refunded.
First, create an acquisition channel
We couldn't discover a scalable acquisition route for RecordJoy. If I had to start another project, I'd develop a robust acquisition channel first. It might be LinkedIn, Medium, or YouTube.
Purchase Power of the Buyer Affects Acquisition Price
Some of the buyers we spoke to were individuals looking to buy side projects, as well as companies looking to launch a new product category. Individual buyers had less budgets than organizations.
Customers of AppSumo vary.
AppSumo customers value lifetime deals and low prices, which may not be a good way to build a business with recurring revenue. Designed for AppSumo users, your product may not connect with other users.
Try to increase acquisition trust
Acquisition often fails. The buyer can go cold feet, cease communicating, or run away with your stuff. Trusting the buyer ensures a smooth asset exchange. First acquisition meeting was unpleasant and price negotiation was tight. In later meetings, we spent the first few minutes trying to get to know the buyer’s motivations and background before jumping into the negotiation, which helped build trust.
Operating expenses can reduce your earnings.
Monitor operating costs. We were really happy when we withdrew the $5000 we made from AppSumo and Stripe until we realized that we had spent $3500 in operating fees. Spend money on software and consultants to help you understand what to build.
Don't overspend on advertising
We invested $1500 on Google Ads but made little money. For a side project, it’s better to focus on organic traffic from SEO rather than paid ads unless you know your ads are going to have a positive ROI.
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10 months ago
Metaverse, Web 3, and NFTs are BS
Most crypto is probably too.
The goals of Web 3 and the metaverse are admirable and attractive. Who doesn't want an internet owned by users? Who wouldn't want a digital realm where anything is possible? A better way to collaborate and visit pals.
Companies pursue profits endlessly. Infinite growth and revenue are expected, and if a corporation needs to sacrifice profits to safeguard users, the CEO, board of directors, and any executives will lose to the system of incentives that (1) retains workers with shares and (2) makes a company answerable to all of its shareholders. Only the government can guarantee user protections, but we know how successful that is. This is nothing new, just a problem with modern capitalism and tech platforms that a user-owned internet might remedy. Moxie, the founder of Signal, has a good articulation of some of these current Web 2 tech platform problems (but I forget the timestamp); thoughts on JRE aside, this episode is worth listening to (it’s about a bunch of other stuff too).
Moxie Marlinspike, founder of Signal, on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast.
Web 3 champions are premature. There was so much spectacular growth during Web 2 that the next wave of founders want to make an even bigger impact, while investors old and new want a chance to get a piece of the moonshot action. Worse, crypto enthusiasts believe — and financially need — the fact of its success to be true, whether or not it is.
I’m doubtful that it will play out like current proponents say. Crypto has been the white-hot focus of SV’s best and brightest for a long time yet still struggles to come up any mainstream use case other than ‘buy, HODL, and believe’: a store of value for your financial goals and wishes. Some kind of the metaverse is likely, but will it be decentralized, mostly in VR, or will Meta (previously FB) play a big role? Unlikely.
The metaverse exists already. Our digital lives span apps, platforms, and games. I can design a 3D house, invite people, use Discord, and hang around in an artificial environment. Millions of gamers do this in Rust, Minecraft, Valheim, and Animal Crossing, among other games. Discord's voice chat and Slack-like servers/channels are the present social anchor, but the interface, integrations, and data portability will improve. Soon you can stream YouTube videos on digital house walls. You can doodle, create art, play Jackbox, and walk through a door to play Apex Legends, Fortnite, etc. Not just gaming. Digital whiteboards and screen sharing enable real-time collaboration. They’ll review code and operate enterprises. Music is played and made. In digital living rooms, they'll watch movies, sports, comedy, and Twitch. They'll tweet, laugh, learn, and shittalk.
The metaverse is the evolution of our digital life at home, the third place. The closest analog would be Discord and the integration of Facebook, Slack, YouTube, etc. into a single, 3D, customizable hangout space.
I'm not certain this experience can be hugely decentralized and smoothly choreographed, managed, and run, or that VR — a luxury, cumbersome, and questionably relevant technology — must be part of it. Eventually, VR will be pragmatic, achievable, and superior to real life in many ways. A total sensory experience like the Matrix or Sword Art Online, where we're physically hooked into the Internet yet in our imaginations we're jumping, flying, and achieving athletic feats we never could in reality; exploring realms far grander than our own (as grand as it is). That VR is different from today's.
Ben Thompson released an episode of Exponent after Facebook changed its name to Meta. Ben was suspicious about many metaverse champion claims, but he made a good analogy between Oculus and the PC. The PC was initially far too pricey for the ordinary family to afford. It began as a business tool. It got so powerful and pervasive that it affected our personal life. Price continues to plummet and so much consumer software was produced that it's impossible to envision life without a home computer (or in our pockets). If Facebook shows product market fit with VR in business, through use cases like remote work and collaboration, maybe VR will become practical in our personal lives at home.
Before PCs, we relied on Blockbuster, the Yellow Pages, cabs to get to the airport, handwritten taxes, landline phones to schedule social events, and other archaic methods. It is impossible for me to conceive what VR, in the form of headsets and hand controllers, stands to give both professional and especially personal digital experiences that is an order of magnitude better than what we have today. Is looking around better than using a mouse to examine a 3D landscape? Do the hand controls make x10 or x100 work or gaming more fun or efficient? Will VR replace scalable Web 2 methods and applications like Web 1 and Web 2 did for analog? I don't know.
My guess is that the metaverse will arrive slowly, initially on displays we presently use, with more app interoperability. I doubt that it will be controlled by the people or by Facebook, a corporation that struggles to properly innovate internally, as practically every large digital company does. Large tech organizations are lousy at hiring product-savvy employees, and if they do, they rarely let them explore new things.
These companies act like business schools when they seek founders' results, with bureaucracy and dependency. Which company launched the last popular consumer software product that wasn't a clone or acquisition? Recent examples are scarce.
Investors and entrepreneurs of Web 3 firms are declaring victory: 'Web 3 is here!' Web 3 is the future! Many profitable Web 2 enterprises existed when Web 2 was defined. The word was created to explain user behavior shifts, not a personal pipe dream.
Origins of Web 2: http://www.oreilly.com/pub/a/web2/archive/what-is-web-20.html
One of these Web 3 startups may provide the connecting tissue to link all these experiences or become one of the major new digital locations. Even so, successful players will likely use centralized power arrangements, as Web 2 businesses do now. Some Web 2 startups integrated our digital lives. Rockmelt (2010–2013) was a customizable browser with bespoke connectors to every program a user wanted; imagine seeing Facebook, Twitter, Discord, Netflix, YouTube, etc. all in one location. Failure. Who knows what Opera's doing?
Silicon Valley and tech Twitter in general have a history of jumping on dumb bandwagons that go nowhere. Dot-com crash in 2000? The huge deployment of capital into bad ideas and businesses is well-documented. And live video. It was the future until it became a niche sector for gamers. Live audio will play out a similar reality as CEOs with little comprehension of audio and no awareness of lasting new user behavior deceive each other into making more and bigger investments on fool's gold. Twitter trying to buy Clubhouse for $4B, Spotify buying Greenroom, Facebook exploring live audio and 'Tiktok for audio,' and now Amazon developing a live audio platform. This live audio frenzy won't be worth their time or energy. Blind guides blind. Instead of learning from prior failures like Twitter buying Periscope for $100M pre-launch and pre-product market fit, they're betting on unproven and uncompelling experiences.
NFTs are also nonsense. Take Loot, a time-limited bag drop of "things" (text on the blockchain) for a game that didn't exist, bought by rich techies too busy to play video games and foolish enough to think they're getting in early on something with a big reward. What gaming studio is incentivized to use these items? Who's encouraged to join? No one cares besides Loot owners who don't have NFTs. Skill, merit, and effort should be rewarded with rare things for gamers. Even if a small minority of gamers can make a living playing, the average game's major appeal has never been to make actual money - that's a profession.
No game stays popular forever, so how is this objective sustainable? Once popularity and usage drop, exclusive crypto or NFTs will fall. And if NFTs are designed to have cross-game appeal, incentives apart, 30 years from now any new game will need millions of pre-existing objects to build around before they start. It doesn’t work.
Many games already feature item economies based on real in-game scarcity, generally for cosmetic things to avoid pay-to-win, which undermines scaled gaming incentives for huge player bases. Counter-Strike, Rust, etc. may be bought and sold on Steam with real money. Since the 1990s, unofficial cross-game marketplaces have sold in-game objects and currencies. NFTs aren't needed. Making a popular, enjoyable, durable game is already difficult.
With NFTs, certain JPEGs on the internet went from useless to selling for $69 million. Why? Crypto, Web 3, early Internet collectibles. NFTs are digital Beanie Babies (unlike NFTs, Beanie Babies were a popular children's toy; their destinies are the same). NFTs are worthless and scarce. They appeal to crypto enthusiasts seeking for a practical use case to support their theory and boost their own fortune. They also attract to SV insiders desperate not to miss the next big thing, not knowing what it will be. NFTs aren't about paying artists and creators who don't get credit for their work.
South Park's Underpants Gnomes
NFTs are a benign, foolish plan to earn money on par with South Park's underpants gnomes. At worst, they're the world of hucksterism and poor performers. Or those with money and enormous followings who, like everyone, don't completely grasp cryptocurrencies but are motivated by greed and status and believe Gary Vee's claim that CryptoPunks are the next Facebook. Gary's watertight logic: if NFT prices dip, they're on the same path as the most successful corporation in human history; buy the dip! NFTs aren't businesses or museum-worthy art. They're bs.
Gary Vee compares NFTs to Amazon.com. vm.tiktok.com/TTPdA9TyH2
We grew up collecting: Magic: The Gathering (MTG) cards printed in the 90s are now worth over $30,000. Imagine buying a digital Magic card with no underlying foundation. No one plays the game because it doesn't exist. An NFT is a contextless image someone conned you into buying a certificate for, but anyone may copy, paste, and use. Replace MTG with Pokemon for younger readers.
When Gary Vee strongarms 30 tech billionaires and YouTube influencers into buying CryptoPunks, they'll talk about it on Twitch, YouTube, podcasts, Twitter, etc. That will convince average folks that the product has value. These guys are smart and/or rich, so I'll get in early like them. Cryptography is similar. No solid, scaled, mainstream use case exists, and no one knows where it's headed, but since the global crypto financial bubble hasn't burst and many people have made insane fortunes, regular people are putting real money into something that is highly speculative and could be nothing because they want a piece of the action. Who doesn’t want free money? Rich techies and influencers won't be affected; normal folks will.
Imagine removing every $1 invested in Bitcoin instantly. What would happen? How far would Bitcoin fall? Over 90%, maybe even 95%, and Bitcoin would be dead. Bitcoin as an investment is the only scalable widespread use case: it's confidence that a better use case will arise and that being early pays handsomely. It's like pouring a trillion dollars into a company with no business strategy or users and a CEO who makes vague future references.
New tech and efforts may provoke a 'get off my lawn' mentality as you approach 40, but I've always prided myself on having a decent bullshit detector, and it's flying off the handle at this foolishness. If we can accomplish a functional, responsible, equitable, and ethical user-owned internet, I'm for it.
I wanted to summarize my opinions because I've been angry about this for a while but just sporadically tweeted about it. A friend handed me a Dan Olson YouTube video just before publication. He's more knowledgeable, articulate, and convincing about crypto. It's worth seeing:
This post is a summary. See the original one here.
1 year ago
Welcome to Integrity's Web3 community!
6 months ago
DWTS: How to Organize Your To-Do List Quickly
Don't overcomplicate to-do lists. DWTS (Done, Waiting, Top 3, Soon) organizes your to-dos.
How Are You Going to Manage Everything?
Modern America is busy. Work involves meetings. Anytime, Slack communications arrive. Many software solutions offer a @-mention notification capability. Emails.
Work obligations continue. At home, there are friends, family, bills, chores, and fun things.
How are you going to keep track of it all? Enter the todo list. It’s been around forever. It’s likely to stay forever in some way, shape, or form.
Everybody has their own system. You probably modified something from middle school. Post-its? Maybe it’s an app? Maybe both, another system, or none.
I suggest a format that has worked for me in 15 years of professional and personal life.
Try it out and see if it works for you. If not, no worries. You do you! Hopefully though you can learn a thing or two, and I from you too.
It is merely a Google Doc, yes.
It's a giant list. One task per line. Indent subtasks on a new line. Add or move new tasks as needed.
I recommend using Google Docs. It's easy to use and flexible for structuring.
Prioritizing these tasks is key. I organize them using DWTS (Done, Waiting, Top 3, Soon). Chronologically is good because it implicitly provides both a priority (high, medium, low) and an ETA (now, soon, later).
Yes, I recognize the similarities to DWTS (Dancing With The Stars) TV Show. Although I'm not a fan, it's entertaining. The acronym is easy to remember and adds fun to something dull.
What each section contains
All tasks' endpoint. Finish here. Don't worry about it again.
You're blocked and can't continue. Blocked tasks usually need someone. Write Person Task so you know who's waiting.
Blocking tasks shouldn't last long. After a while, remind them kindly. If people don't help you out of kindness, they will if you're persistent.
Mental focus areas. These can be short- to mid-term goals or recent accomplishments. 2 to 5 is a good number to stay focused.
Top 3 reminds us to prioritize. If they don't fit your Top 3 goals, delay them.
Every 1:1 at work is a project update. Another chance to list your top 3. You should know your Top 3 well and be able to discuss them confidently.
Here's your short-term to-do list. Rank them from highest to lowest.
I usually subdivide it with empty lines. First is what I have to do today, then week, then month. Subsections can be arranged however you like.
Inventories by Concept
Tasks that aren’t in your short or medium future go into the backlog.
Eventually you’ll complete these tasks, assign them to someone else, or mark them as “wont’ do” (like done but in another sense).
Backlog tasks don't need to be organized chronologically because their timing and priority may change. Theme-organize them. When planning/strategic, you can choose themes to focus on, so future top 3 topics.
More Tips on Todos
Decide Upon a Morning Goal
Morning routines are universal. Coffee and Wordle. My to-do list is next. Two things:
As needed, update the to-do list: based on the events of yesterday and any fresh priorities.
Pick a few jobs to complete today: Pick a few goals that you know you can complete today. Push the remainder below and move them to the top of the Soon section. I typically select a few tasks I am confident I can complete along with one stretch task that might extend into tomorrow.
Finally. By setting and achieving small goals every day, you feel accomplished and make steady progress on medium and long-term goals.
Tech companies call this a daily standup. Everyone shares what they did yesterday, what they're doing today, and any blockers. The name comes from a tradition of holding meetings while standing up to keep them short. Even though it's virtual, everyone still wants a quick meeting.
Your team may or may not need daily standups. Make a daily review a habit with your coffee.
Review Backwards & Forwards on a regular basis
While you're updating your to-do list daily, take time to review it.
Review your Done list. Remember things you're proud of and things that could have gone better. Your Done list can be long. Archive it so your main to-do list isn't overwhelming.
Future-gaze. What you considered important may no longer be. Reorder tasks. Backlog grooming is a workplace term.
Backwards-and-forwards reviews aren't required often. Every 3-6 months is fine. They help you see the forest as often as the trees.
Keep your list simple. Done, Waiting, Top 3, Soon. These are the necessary sections. If you like, add more subsections; otherwise, keep it simple.
I recommend a morning review. By having clear goals and an action-oriented attitude, you'll be successful.