Hard things about startups pt 2: overcoming procrastination

tl;dr: I goof off

courtesy of the genius at: http://style.org/unladenswallow/

One thing that’s surprised me about startupping is how some tasks take a lot longer than I thought — not really because they’re more difficult, but because I don’t want to do them. There are a lot of reasons I won’t want to do a task:

  • It’s difficult (as mentioned)
  • It’s scary (i.e. talking to people, sales)
  • It’s boring (i.e. paperwork)
  • It might contradict other tasks I’ve done in the past (i.e. ignorance is bliss)
  • I may not fully believe in doing them (i.e. someone else told me to do it)
  • I just like, don’t want to do them right now, ok? (i.e. GRRR)

Whatever the reason, it eventually reduces to GRR. Unfortunately, it’s pretty common to have to do tasks that you don’t want to do, especially at a startup.

*What should I do??! (wait, this picture becomes relevant later)

The latest startup dilemma I faced was having to rethink the use cases for a prototype I was super excited about. Rethinking use cases is hard for a lot of reasons, but the two main ones for me were:

  • I might realize we built the wrong thing and the beautiful prototype was a waste
  • I might have to go talk to users and ask their opinions instead of building more beautiful prototypes

The first part of our task was to compile a new survey / list of questions to ask customers. As in… would you do x, y, or z, and please, please say yes, you would do all of them several times a week and pay a fortune to do so. I was having a hard time coming up with questions, so instead of actually working on it, I started to goof off.

I wrote four sections:


I’ll let you guess which sections I filled out first…by the way, the land speed of an unladen European swallow is roughly 24 miles an hour. Then, thinking my document wasn’t replete without a nice headline photo, I found the picture of a cute and quizzical puppy.

He didn’t have data for the African swallows. I suppose we’ll never know.

Now that I had gotten started, it was easier to get started on the rest of the sections. That first step is crucial. Just like it’s easier to exercise once you get your exercise clothes on and go to the gym, it’s easier to write a document once you’ve started working in on it.

My friend @dpaola2 once posted some social media linkbait to Facebook which I happened to like, both literally and figuratively: http://www.lifebuzz.com/10-lessons-from-navy-seal/. You won’t believe what #1 is! Click now!! But anyway, it’s to make your bed, because making your bed gets you started on your day. I agree: just make your bed. Or in this case, try to find a ridiculous GIF. It’s my 2014, non-SEAL equivalent.

be careful though — don’t go and watch a whole episode of Friends instead
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