Worrying

The most challenging thing about running Sifter has been balancing the countless tasks that fall on the shoulders of a solo founder. (Yes, we have other people, but all of the day-to-day tasks are mine.) Over Thanksgiving, I took some time to sit down and re-prioritize all of the responsibilities that I was juggling, and it’s made a dramatic improvement.

I quickly recognized that the common thread on a lot of my time was unnecessary worrying. Worrying about financials. Worrying about performance. Worrying about support request turnaround. Worrying about feature deadlines. Worrying about making customers happy. Worrying about whether we’re growing or shrinking. I looked at everything that actually was worth worrying about, and made some significant changes.

Support. As necessary as it is, answering support emails is interrupt driven. When we receive one, I drop everything and give it my full attention. There’s little that I can do about this, so while I try to be a little more cautious about dropping what I’m working on, this is something that I just learned to embrace. Worrying about taking good care of our customers is worth it. Now, I don’t worry about it so much as I get excited about it. It’s an opportunity to learn something, improve Sifter, or simply talk to our customers.

Financials and numbers. I’m very knowledgeable about our financials. I didn’t need to be. This was the first thing that I cut. Instead of updating daily, I’m only doing this once per week, and only on the weekend. It’s added up to an extra half hour per day of free time. More importantly, it’s one less distraction.

Performance. I regularly login and make sure that everything is running smoothly and performing with reasonable ranges. Instead of keeping up with it, I just decreased the tolerance for alert notifications. Now, if things start to get outside of acceptable ranges, I’ll know right away. So, now I’m no longer giving performance a second thought unless I have a specific reason to think about it.

Growth. We’ve never wanted explosive growth. We really just want to reach a point where we have a couple of people having fun building software that people like. I’ve never been particularly worried about how long it takes us to get there, but whenever it looks like we’re taking more steps backwards than forwards, it would lead to a depressing couple of days. Ultimately, we’ve always recovered from any lost accounts and continued to grow, but I would always let it stress me out. Now I’m taking a much more long-term view. We’re profitable. As long as we can afford to keep making the software better, everything is fine.

Time. Traditionally, I’ve tried to squeeze in every productive minute that I could so that I was on top of things. This led to a very fragmented free time, and it meant that instead of relaxing and having fun, I was always mindful of finding a way to work on Sifter. This time was moderately useful at best. When you’re building software, in order to do anything meaningful, you need hours of time, not minutes. I’ve stopped focusing on being productive every second and started focusing on letting my head stop thinking about it when I’m not working. It’s not easy, but when it works, it’s great. The upside is that I’m that much more energized when I do sit down to work.

These are all little things, but they were distractions that were always rattling around in my head. To make matters worse, they were unnecessary distractions, and they ultimately cut into my productivity. I was keeping myself busy managing the company instead of building a business. I was letting all of these little things control me. By putting them in context, I was finally able to really focus on the one thing that matters and get back to truly improving Sifter.