Lost and Founder

In episode 9 I share why it's so hard to find and regain focus in a business and how I'm working to address it. I also explain how writing helps me break down complex topics, and revisit some of the habits I've been working on over the last few weeks.

Show Notes

In episode 9 I talk through a bunch of topics on my mind in the last week – finding and regaining focus as a team, how writing helps me break down complex topics, and I check in on some of the habits I've been trying to build.

  • It's really hard to gain once you lose it as a business.
  • Loss aversion can hold you back from making the right decisions.
  • You often lose focus for very good reasons – regaining it can cause people to be short-term frustrated. Difficult transition, but the long term benefits are almost always worthwhile.
  • Not everyone will be happy in the short-term, and that’s OK – as long as you take their feedback onboard, understand it and address it as best you can.
  • Focus is hard!
Writing to learn
  • Writing 200 words a day – Ulysses (a writing app) has helped me achieve this goal.
  • Writing helps me understand topics better.
  • Writing forces me to learn – if I want to teach and share with others I need to understand the subject better.
  • Skipping – not done enough in the last few weeks, despite feeling great when I was doing it. My goal is now to aim to do a shorter time skipping and bake it into my routine.
  • Writing – going well! Writing 200 words a day, thanks to encouragement from Ulysses.
  • Blocking time in my calendar, instead of using a todo list – has changed a lot about my approach to time management.

Actions / take aways

  • Focus is about saying no to really good ideas.
  • Be clear on what you want, and what your priorities are – so spend time on those.
  • Don’t be afraid to take time out to get clear on what is important to you.
  • Challenging topic you're struggling to understand? Try to write it down. Scribble it, type it, and you’ll likely find it helps you clarify your thinking.
  • Habits: try breaking down your habits into the smallest possible activity. Don’t give up!

Links and further reading

Thanks, and see you next time!

P.S. I'm on Twitter https://twitter.com/jamesjgill

Music: Jakarta by Bonsaye
Podcast hosting: Transistor

What is Lost and Founder?

Being a startup founder is not all private jets and parties. Truthfully, being a founder is a lonely, difficult, stressful, yet rewarding way to spend your life. James Gill started GoSquared with two friends from school in 2006, and in this podcast he shares his struggles, excitement, and everything in between with refreshing honesty.

Hi, everyone!

Welcome to another episode of Lost and Founder. We're almost at week 10 of Lost and Founder though it is. Quite surprising. I'm very pleased that we've managed to keep doing this. And I'm very, very grateful to everyone who's been cheering in each step of the way. So thank you everyone for this thing so far.

Episode nine. We're going to be talking about a couple of topics. Firstly, I wanted to touch on. Focus and how hard it is to find focus and regained focus. As an individual, but also as a, as a team. I wanted to talk about writing and how I've been trying to write more and how that's been helping me develop my thoughts and think more clearly.

And then thirdly, and finally, I wanted to talk about habits and how how my habits have been going and the importance of habits, what I've been learning about habits a little check-in on some of the habits that I've talked about in previous episodes.

Hopefully, that sounds like an interesting show. So let's dive right in!

I wanted to talk about focus this week because it's really popular and common advice that I hear a lot. And I hear other people giving a lot. And that is to focus in a business to focus, focus, focus, focus. Obviously. The more we focus, the more we can channel our energy as individuals.

And collectively as a team into fewer things. And by doing that, you usually end up doing better work. You do you spread yourself less than less? The near cross lots of things. And you can usually do fewer things better.

I truly believe in focus and focus, being a really beneficial thing and a really positive thing to end for. I feel that we're focused. You often can simplify things too, and I've written quite a bit in the past about how. Naturally as a, as a business, as you grow, you lose. You lose the simplicity that you had in the early days.

And naturally. Losing simplicity happens over time and you have to, you have to fight for it each step of the way you have to actively fight against complexity. And I think focus and simplicity are quite, quite related in many ways. So at least they are to me. And. I think not only is it hard to find focus.

Perhaps the harder thing is once you've already lost, focused. And you have to try and regain that focus. Because once you lose that focus or you start letting complexity creep in. It's even harder to regain that focus and regain that, that simplicity, because you have to start taking things away and we're moving things and.

When you start losing things and. Reducing and deleting and. Erasing stuff. You then start to come across other challenges. And it's not just. What if we don't do that thing, or if we don't do this thing. You start to bring in. Sort of loss, aversion, like the fear of losing things. And you start to assign value to a lot of the things you have already done.

And. Often that can be really difficult to overcome because. You haven't done a lot of these things stupidly or with the wrong intentions necessarily. But you've now got to undo work. That's already been done. You've got to step backwards and, and, and revisit things that previously had been decided and, and a team that can often be really challenging because.

That often means telling people that stuff they've worked on is how we're going to get. Deleted or that there. Work has is no longer required and that's incredibly demotivating. But. It's so, and this is why trying to regain focuses is so hard and why. Ideally the best thing is to not lose that focus in the first place.

But that's, that's really, really hard and trying to find focus ultimately helps everyone. And that's a good reminder that even in the short term, when people are frustrated, That something they've worked on is going to either be shut down or. Or eliminated. That. The future is brighter. Not because their work was necessarily bad, but for the collective, as of the whole team and the whole, the whole company.

It's better for everyone that the company does less. And. That there's tremendous value in doing fewer things better.

Very realistically and practically speaking, at GoSquared, we've built a lot of things in our history and over time. And. We are now in a position where we have a very large software platform that has a lot of surface area, a lot of interface, a lot of underlying technical considerations, a lot of code.

And. A lot of use cases. You can talk to your customers and. All of those things have their benefits. You know, having lots of customers is great. Having a diverse range of customers is also makes us very resilient. Having a large product means we can cater to lots of use cases. And make lots of people quite happy.

But where it becomes challenging is that. Having all of these different use cases, different customers, large amounts of code. Large surface area in terms of interfaces and product. Means that as a small team, you end up getting spread very thinly across things. And often you can find that. It becomes a bit like whack-a-mole where.

You're sort of fixing something in one place and something else pops up somewhere else that needs your attention. And then you go and fix that other thing and then something else pops up and. That ultimately it's impossible to please all of the people all of the time, it's impossible to fix every bug and to make every part of the product or the company as great as you want it to be.

And that's a real dynamic because then obviously the solution is to reduce things, to cut things back, to go back to some. Core things to focus on fewer things. But of course the big challenge is which things to focus on. Which parts to make better, which customers to listen to, which use cases to make much, much, much stronger.

And that's where decision making comes in and that's where prioritization comes in. And that's where. Focus becomes this much more challenging thing. It's not this superficial thing that you just delete a few things here and there, and that gives you focus. Focus is about fundamental change. It's about.

Saying no to really, really, really good. Ideas, good concepts, good features and good customers. In the knowledge and the belief that. Increased focus and doing fewer things better. Is going to be dramatically better for the whole company than to do lots of things. In an okay way.

And I think the thing to keep reminding yourself of is how much better things can be when you focus more, how much lighter and freer. Your team can feel when they are focusing on fewer things when they can grasp. A small number of things and really put our heart and soul into those few things. And how much of a benefit that reduced stress and anxiety.

And fair. Of, of all of those complex and additional things is, is lifted from them. That simplicity and that focus has so many knock on effects. To make the team happier. More productive, more optimistic, more focused to themselves and helps them do better work, which makes them feel great.

Which in turn helps the whole team feel great. And a team that feels great tends to perform much better than a team that feels. It feels completely burnt out.

The second topic I wanted to, but this week was writing and. I guess maybe it's slightly ironic that I'm talking about writing on a podcast, but one of the things I find very helpful. When I'm trying to learn something new. Or when I'm trying to get my thoughts together on solving a complex problem.

Is to write down my thoughts. And. I think this is actually an approach that. I really feel can help a lot of teams out. Often when, when we're as a team, we're trying to figure something out. We'll often want to have a meeting. And I know, I know a lot of people will find this, that.

You're trying to get through something. And you often, the first reaction is to. Get everyone together, have a chat through and work it out. Sometimes that approach can be really good, but I think often it can really help When you're trying to figure complex things out to write down. Where the stuff you already are thinking through, and what's already on your mind and often with meetings.

It's a good idea to write down as much as possible ahead of time, because. If you're anything like me, then writing your thoughts down, writing something out. Can really help you clarify your own thinking and. I find that when I've right. About a topic. So for instance, I've recently been writing down the stuff I've learned about habits.

It's made me realize. The things that are very clear and easy to understand for me. And it's made me realize the parts, which are less care and less well understood for me. And by doing that, it's, it's helped me clarify and, and understand the whole subject better.

I've also found that the more I've liked about a subject often. The more, it helps me learn that subject itself. And it's almost like how, if you need to teach someone something.

It will often encourage you to. Learn about the thing more. So for instance, if you want to learn about a complex topic, Trying to. Teach someone else about the topic is going to push you to make sure your level of understanding is up to a certain point that can. Ensure you're actually able to comprehend what you're talking about. So I find that when I'm trying to.

Take my lessons from having read a book or having to understand a new topic. Often I'll set myself the task of writing about it. And that will quickly show me where I'm weak and strong. And hopefully focus my energy on getting those learnings together, getting what I've learned together and, and getting it condensed down to a point where.

I not only understand it myself better, but understand it well enough that I can provide something of value to other people.

A few weeks ago, I spoke about building healthy habits and I'd just been reading the book Atomic Habits by James Clear. And I've since managed to finish that book. We're here. And I feel like I've learnt so much from that book. It's not a difficult read. It's not a long book, but it's so densely packed with valuable advice practical guidance on how to build healthier habits, healthier routines, and how to eliminate some of the bad habits. We all have. And I guess I just wanted to touch base because I think I said it in a few episodes ago that I'd been trying to adopt a few new habits and I kind of wanted to check in with myself.

And and almost share. Well where I'm at so far on some of those habits. And I guess some of the highlights for me have been that. I've really been trying to write more, which has been very helpful. And obviously related to everything we've just been talking about on, on writing, but I've been, I've been using.

A great app that I'll link to in the show notes. Called Ulysses. And essentially it gives you a goal for how many words you write every day or every week. And I've been really trying to write 200 words a day, which. Is why it's a lot more than I'd be writing in the past. But it also feels somewhat achievable. And for, for most of the days since I've set that goal, which was a few weeks ago, I've really been trying to do that.

I haven't always published those words, say on my blog. But I have been finding it very helpful to get into the habit of regularly writing regularly, finding things to write. And I find actually the often days where I don't have anything on my mind. To write about, if I still just tell myself I'm going to write 200 words.

Somehow my mind manages to get 200 words out of me somehow. Sometimes it's total gibberish. But sometimes it's, it's not bad, even if I say so myself, so I'd highly encourage Trying that out. If you want to write more, maybe setting a smaller goal of. I don't know who, 10 words, 50 words or just writing for two minutes and seeing if that helps you build more of a habit of writing. And I guarantee that if you can get into that habit, it's going to help.

Help you write more and write better. I guess another, another couple of habits I've been trying to do my skipping. But I I've really been struggling on that. And that's something I need to work on. I think perhaps setting myself a lower goal there. I was previously trying to skip for at least 15 minutes and.

It's a classic example of maybe overshooting too soon, sir. I I think I'm going to scale that back, but I really want to maintain that habit because while I was doing it, I felt fantastic. I guess also another thing I've been trying for the last week or two has been. Working without a to-do list. And this has felt terrifying for me. I pretty much live my life.

Or have been living my life with it, to do this for years. I haven't totally eliminated my to-do list, but instead of planning my week or my days with two dues at the start of the day, I've started to block the time out in my calendar. And I kind of tried to get it down to sort of half hour increments, maybe even 15 minute increments.

Mostly in the Workday. I haven't really been as strict in my spare time, but I've been finding this. Well, both extremely insightful, but also somewhat alarming because I have. Had a real tendency to over commit my time. And the knock on effect of that has been letting people down because I I'll often want to say yes to a task that I can help people with.

And and then not being able to deliver it and, and it, the other effect it's also hard is often making me feel bad. I feel terrible if I get to the end of the day and. Sometimes I've got more items on my to do lists. And then I started with. So. Working with my calendar instead of my to-do list has really made me much more considerate about what I say yes to. And when I commit what to be done. And so now, instead of saying I'll pop that on my to-do list. I can be more conscious about whether or not I can take on the work today, tomorrow. If it's going to put something else off of my agenda and it makes me more considerate about how valuable the work I've already committed to is versus the work that might be coming in.

So that's been quite valuable for me. And I've done that for a week and a half, two weeks now, and I'm not going to stop yet because it's proving very, very valuable and I'm learning a lot. So that's a little update on some of my habits. Plenty more. That I could share, but I don't want to risk boring you to death. So

Hopefully, those are some useful things. And if you've got questions about habits, if you've got a habit you want to change, start, stop. I'd love to hear from you. So please do get a touch.

So there, we have it. That's another episode of lost and founder that's episode nine in the bag. And I just wanted to recap on some of the, maybe the action items or the takeaways from, from this episode, because I hope that helpful. I guess on the topic of focus. Just if you're trying to find focus individually or as a company, just remind yourself that it's about saying no to really, really good ideas. It's very, very difficult.

Don't be afraid to take time. To yourself to figure this stuff out, because if you're not clear yourself on what your priorities are and what you need to do, and what's important to you, then it's going to make finding focus a lot harder.

And I guess with focus also remind yourself that the likelihood is that not everyone is going to love the decisions you make to focus your business. And that's okay. You don't necessarily need to make everyone happy. That's often a really sure way to make. To lose focus. So try to focus on making the best call for the overall business and the best goal over the medium to long term. And.

Make sure. Don't ignore people's feedback. I've always found that it's best to listen and digest it. Make sure you understand it and use that to feed into your decision making and And make sure it can be addressed as best as possible. Finding focus is really hard. So I wish you the best of luck. And if you are struggling, Get in touch and offered a problem shared is a problem halved.

On the subject of writing. I guess my main advice is just to, if you're struggling with a complex topic. Yeah. Struggling to get your head around something tricky and challenging. Try writing it out scribbling it down typing it up and see if that helps you clarify your thinking i know it does for me and i i hope it does for you too.

And then finally on the topic of habits, if you're struggling to maintain your habits, and you've found that you've fallen off the bandwagon a little bit with some of the habits you've been trying to. Adopt, whether it's getting to the gym going for a run. Eating healthily. Saving money. Just try to.

Bring them back in the smallest way possible. Try not to stop, try to just bring them back and scale them down. Think about how you can. Chip away at that habit with two minutes a day or. A tiny, tiny fraction of what you think is. Is is realistic. Try, try to do an almost laughably small amounts of that habit a day.

And just try to get that into your routine. And if you can do that, then I'm sure. The world will be your oyster.

Thanks again for tuning into Lost and Founder. I massively appreciate all of the kind of feedback I've been receiving on every app site. And I can't wait to bring you episode 10. Next week. It's really been fascinating to just get to know so many people through this podcast and to. To build it into the routine and to to have the opportunity to share some of what I am learning and going through every, every week.

Other people. I hope it's continuing to be valuable and helpful for you all. And i hope you go on to have a lovely day and a lovely week ahead and i'll see you next time bye!