The past month was mediocre. If anything, I regressed slightly.
I met some of my goals, but fell short on most.
I faced many of the same problems - screen addiction, revenge bedtime procrastination and post-lunch sluggishness.
On top of that, it was a chaotic month. I had a barrage of issues unexpectedly crop up across my home, investments and personal life.
This killed any momentum I was building.
On many days, I had to drop everything and deal with the task at hand. When I wasn’t actively handling the situation, it was occupying mental real estate. As a result, I couldn’t focus on work.
At first, I was quite upset. The month didn’t go anything like I planned.
But upon further reflection, I caught a glimpse of the silver lining: I have a greater awareness of what’s holding me back.
I wasn’t fully convinced, though. I say that every time. Am I truly making progress or am I just rationalizing my failure?
As I went back and forth on it, I was reminded of a visual that my mentor showed me.
Success isn’t a linear journey. There are surprising twists and turns along the way.
Some days, you’ll be crushing it. On other days, it’ll be crushing you.
So how do you know you’re on the right path? You don’t.
You just need to keep fighting until you make it through.
That’s the purpose of these monthly reflections - to check in and re-evaluate my plan of attack.
If I don’t have good news, that’s fine. It’s actually working as intended.
The point is to catch mistakes early and recalibrate. As long as I’m honest with myself and willing to stick to the process, it’ll work out.
Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow. But… eventually.
Until then, here are the details from last month.
Health and Happiness
These were my foundational goals for the month.
- Maintain good exercise and health habits. Don’t regress.
- Improve sleep hygiene. Sleep at a consistent time every night. Implement a no-screen bedtime routine and don’t use my phone in bed (morning or night).
- Build a journaling habit. Write at least one sentence every day.
Here’s how it went.
Nutrition and fitness
I maintained my nutrition and fitness habits. I continued to eat well and work out regularly. However, my energy levels were still quite low.
I attribute it to two factors: poor sleep hygiene and high stress. I realized that while diet and exercise help, they’re not a cure-all.
In more demanding situations, you need to supplement it with other solutions. For example, I should have restarted my meditation practice to manage the stress.
Lesson: Exercise and a healthy diet are necessary, but not always sufficient for managing energy levels.
Thanks to a regular morning meeting, I woke up at a consistent time every day.
I was shocked by how effective this was. It solidified my morning routine overnight.
It turns out I had been neglecting the value of accountability this whole time.
Ever since I quit my job, I avoided external accountability at all costs. This wasn’t out of a lack of commitment, but the desire to learn how to motivate myself.
My theory was that you can’t rely on extrinsic factors to push you; only intrinsic motivation lasts.
In hindsight, I drew the wrong lesson here. It doesn’t mean that external motivators are useless. It just means that in order to be sustainable, they has to align with your goals. Otherwise, you’ll burn out.
I experienced this first-hand while I was working.
I was held accountable to my job’s expectations, whether or not I agreed with them. Every company has its own version of this, e.g attending pointless meetings, showing up for “facetime” or navigating arbitrary bureaucracy.
Since I was never bought in, I resented it. It felt more like a chore than a growth opportunity. Over time, it became suffocating and I needed to break free.
When you’re on your own, things are different. You have more control. You can set your own priorities. You aren’t answerable to anyone.
At that point, accountability is simply a tool to help you achieve your goals. It’s a powerful nudge towards the direction you already want to go in. Unlike at a job, this doesn’t feel constraining. If anything, it’s a force multiplier.
Lesson: Accountability is a powerful tool when it’s aligned with your goals. Leverage it to give you an extra push.
While the newfound accountability helped me wake up earlier, I still struggled with going to bed on schedule.
I continued to engage in revenge bedtime procrastination. I didn’t have the willpower to stick to a screen-free nightly routine.
Since I spent the whole day working (or trying to), I wanted to use the evening to relax. I deserved some leisure time, I told myself.
But no amount was enough. I was insatiable. Once that screen turned on, it was an uphill battle to turn it off. My screen time inevitably spilled over into bedtime and I’d get less rest than I needed.
Having to wake up at a fixed time didn’t help. In fact, it led to a vicious cycle. Due to the sleep deprivation, my post-lunch slump hit especially hard and I’d have to take a nap. This kept me up until late. “Since I’m wide awake, let me check my phone real quick.” Before I knew it, I was past my bedtime again. Rinse and repeat.
This was a double whammy. I was less productive in the morning from the lack of sleep and had fewer working hours in the afternoon due to the nap. That’s when I truly internalized the heavy opportunity cost of bedtime procrastination - I’m stealing time from my next day.
If I don’t fix this bad habit soon, things aren’t looking good for me.
Lessons: Time is zero-sum. It has to come from somewhere. Spend it wisely.
I journaled every day. Even if it was only for a sentence, it helped solidify the habit. Now I’m confident that I can commit even more time to it.
I learned that the two-minute rule works. It makes the habit more approachable and, as a result, easier to stick to.
I’m going to use this same lesson to start reading and meditating regularly again. I’ll begin with 5 minutes a day and try to grow from there.
Same for my screen-free routine: I’ll start with disconnecting right before I brush. As time passes, I’ll try to do it earlier and earlier.
Lesson: Keep it simple when picking up a new habit. Don’t get too ambitious. Start slow and build up from there.
These were my effectiveness goals:
- Eliminate unproductive distractions during work hours. Keep phone away and don’t aimlessly browse the internet - use app timers and feed blockers to facilitate this.
- Build and maintain momentum: give every day my 100%. Put in the effort (no time-wasting), prioritize tasks (first things first) and don’t succumb to perfectionism (maximize launches/week). Don’t let complacency get the best of you.
Here’s how it went.
I had a bumpy road with unproductive distractions. Some days, I contained them. Other days, I gave in.
I did observe a pattern, though. The most problematic times were context switches, when I was transitioning from one activity to another.
If I was browsing my phone during breakfast, I would linger on the dining table long after I finished eating.
Or if I decided to “quickly” check my notifications before working, 15 minutes would pass before I even noticed.
Though it doesn’t sound like much, this adds up when it repeats throughout the day - between two work sessions, after coming back from lunch or even during a water break.
Plus, I noticed it would get worse as the day progressed. My resolve weakened and I would resort to distractions more frequently in the afternoon.
Every time, the inner monologue was the same: “it’s only a few minutes.”
Of course, we all know that’s a lie. It’s never just a small break. Once you get sucked into your screens, it’s hard to put them away.
At the same time, you can’t even fully enjoy it because of the nagging guilt of procrastination.
The solution? Get straight to work. Once I got moving, it was easy to continue. But the moment I gave into a distraction, it snowballed out of control.
Lesson: Avoid distractions altogether. They’re never “only a few minutes”. It’s easier to resist it before you start than after.
I didn’t give every day my 100%. I wasn’t even close.
I fell into every trap possible: wasted time, didn’t prioritize and succumbed to perfectionism. I have a lot of work to do on this front.
But I haven’t lost hope yet. As painful as it is, confronting the truth every day was a useful exercise.
Every night, I tracked my level of effort. More importantly, I listed out the reasons why I fell short.
One culprit stood out: my post-lunch lull.
Since I get sluggish after lunch, I’m not in the mood to start working immediately. Using my brain feels too taxing.
So I resort to distractions or taking a nap. When I finally get back in the zone, there isn’t much time left to work.
It wasn’t always this way. My afternoon walks would usually do the trick. But this time, they weren’t cutting it.
I suspect a few factors are playing into this. It’s summer here, which makes me more lethargic. I’ve been eating more carby meals, which also slows me down. Plus, the late nights certainly don’t help.
Though it’s embarrassing to publicly admit that I take midday naps, it’s the truth.
The bright side: it’s only uphill from here.
I view this as an opportunity. I know what needs to be fixed now. Accept, then adapt.
To counteract the post-lunch slump, I’m going to do a standing work session, have a cup of tea and take on easier tasks for the first hour.
If I absolutely have to take a nap, I’ll limit it to 15 minutes. In the grand scheme of things, that’s a worthwhile tradeoff for feeling refreshed.
Lesson: You can’t always eliminate the problem. Sometimes, you have to work around it, e.g doing easier tasks after lunch or taking a 15-minute nap.
A common undercurrent through the past month was stress. It compounded all the challenges I faced above.
I experienced a series of issues across several aspects of my life.
Though no individual situation was catastrophic, it was the steady stream that paralyzed me.
With all this turbulence, it was hard to stay focused. I couldn’t compartmentalize effectively. As a result, the anxiety from one part of my life bled into the others.
This multiplied the stress.
In hindsight, it would’ve been a good time to restart my meditation practice.
I paused it earlier this year because things were relatively fine. Now that I had so much on my mind, I felt its absence.
All the uncertainty had thrown me off balance. Picking the meditation back up would allow me to regain my composure and get back to normal.
Lesson: Make time to deal with your current situation. Life has ups and downs and you have to respond according to the season you’re in. What works one day may not work on another.
These were my goals for my projects.
- Habit Gym
- Launch mobile app. It’s clear this is where the users are. Whenever I tell people about it, they immediately check the app store. Plus, it will increase program compliance since it’s more seamless.
- Integrate AI throughout the experience to delight users, surface valuable insights and provide tailored accountability.
- Evaluate time cost of status quo maintenance. This will inform my diversification strategy.
- Define time allocation across all projects - blog, podcast, Habit Gym and new opportunities.
- Brainstorm + MVP 3 new ideas. This is in line with the anti-perfectionism ethos: launch fast.
- Rebrand blog + podcast. I do a poor job communicating their respective themes. I suspect they’re relevant to more people than currently consume it, so I want to make the visions abundantly clear. Plus, I think there’s an opportunity to tie all three together.
- Set up 1 consistent marketing channel for the podcast and reach out to 10 potential guests.
- Improve my storytelling abilities and reduce time taken to write.
Here’s how it went.
Complacency and prioritization
Due to everything I mentioned above, my projects greatly suffered.
I also had an important realization: I’m stretching myself thin. I have too many things cooking in the oven.
At its core, this is a symptom of complacency. I’m spending too much time on the fun projects and neglecting the harder, more important ones.
If I want to succeed, I have to ruthlessly prioritize.
I actually arrived at a weaker form of this realization at the start of the year. I chose to deprioritize relationships and experiences to make room for my projects.
This past month convinced me that I need to take it further. I have to pare down my projects too.
Above all else, my focus needs to be on building a sustainable business. Though I envisioned more balance when I quit, the harsh reality is that it hasn’t worked out so far.
Without a successful company, my entire lifestyle is at threat. I won’t be able to maintain my freedom in the long run.
Once I “make it”, I can reintroduce more balance.
I understand that I’m walking a fine line. I’m forgoing living today for a better life tomorrow.
What if that time never comes? I’m willing to take a contained risk and revisit this decision at the end of the year.
But while I’m at it, why don’t I give it everything?
I got much less done on Habit Gym than I wanted.
I didn’t do any value-add releases. A significant portion of time was spent on security upgrades and managing my intern’s project: building an app.
Still, we made some headway. The mobile app is almost complete. We have a prototype which is going through final testing. I’m excited to see it launch and have usage.
I didn’t improve personalization at all. Though I believe it’s extremely valuable, I’m holding off until I determine the future of Habit Gym.
Fork in the road
As I mentioned last month, I’m evaluating my path forward with Habit Gym because it’s stagnating. It came down to three options: shut it down entirely, put it in maintenance mode or double down.
The first kills my revenue stream, but frees up bandwidth to work on a new project. A fresh start could be just what I need.
The second is the middle path - it keeps it alive in exchange for a small amount of time and attention on a regular basis. Why throw away something that’s generating income?
That being said, I acknowledge that it’s unlikely to grow any faster in this state. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.
The third requires all my focus, but has the chance to grow exponentially. That’s the tantalizing part about building a business. It always feels like success is around the corner.
After many conversations, I decided that it’s worth one last shot.
But this time around, I’m going to be disciplined. Before I start, I’ll define explicit targets and a deadline.
If I hit my target, I’ll continue. If not, I’ll move on to another venture and decide between shutting Habit Gym down entirely or putting it in maintenance mode.
This won’t be easy. I’m already wincing at the idea of letting my precious idea go. But it may just be the right thing to do.
It’s a tough lesson I learned from other entrepreneurs: we cling on to our ideas. Every product feels like our precious little baby. We get so attached that we can’t think objectively about when to move on.
It’s a funny paradox - businesses reward you for the conviction to fight through challenging times, but punish you for overstaying on an unsuccessful idea. The thing is, you never know which one of those you’re doing until the end.
That’s why I’m grateful for starting an entrepreneurship mastermind recently. We’re a small group of builders who meet regularly to support each other.
Building a business is an isolating journey. We often find ourselves in unique predicaments that no one else understands, except for fellow entrepreneurs. It’s a huge advantage to be able to openly share our challenges and bounce ideas off each other.
For example, they were invaluable in helping me navigate this dilemma and getting out of my own head. Without them sharing their experience of moving on, I would’ve floundered for much longer.
Lesson: You have to let things go to make room for something better.
I love writing and flexing my storytelling muscles, but it often takes up a large chunk of my week. Instead, I need to focus on building a sustainable business.
This doesn’t mean that I’m going to stop writing. It still provides a lot of value to me, especially these monthly reflections. Plus, other people also enjoy reading it.
Going forward, I’m going to timebox it to 20% of my work hours so it doesn’t spill over into my other priorities. If I can’t publish every week, that’s ok.
My only commitment will be these monthly reflections. They pay for themselves many times over, helping me course correct along the way.
The podcast will be now be a “weekend” project. As much as I hate shelving it, Neel and I both felt it was taking up valuable time from our businesses.
Though I would like to start publishing regularly again, I’ll only do so if I can meet my other commitments. At the moment, I’ll be pausing it to determine next steps.
Given my decision to lower the priority on the blog and podcast, I didn’t get to rebranding. I’ll do them on a best-effort basis.
Unfortunately, I didn’t brainstorm or MVP any new ideas. I won’t be doing that this month either.
The only exception is my intern’s second project - a niche variation of Habit Gym. Since managing him doesn’t require significant bandwidth, the potential benefit outweighs the cost.
Otherwise, the bulk of my time will be spent on validating whether I’ll be continuing Habit Gym or not.
Next month, I want to focus on resetting my foundation: improving my sleep and increasing resilience to external stressors while maintaining the habits that are serving me well.
I also intend to exercise more disciplined focus, i.e only working on a single priority at a time. My aim is to get greater clarity on the future of Habit Gym by the end.
These are my goals:
- Health and Happiness
- Maintain good exercise and health habits.
- Sleep at a consistent time every night. Adopt a no-screen bedtime and wakeup routine.
- Journal, meditate and read for 5 minutes every day.
- Eliminate unproductive distractions, especially during work hours.
- No naps. Do a standing work session after lunch and have tea.
- Build and maintain momentum: give every day my 100%.
- Stick to time allocation - 80% to Habit Gym, 20% to blog (max).
- Habit Gym
- Launch mobile app.
- Define success criteria, scope and deadline for “one last shot”.
- Complete the intern project and pitch it to a distribution partner.
- Blog - rebrand and publish regularly on best effort.
- Habit Gym
This post took redacted minutes to write.
P.S: You can find more of my thoughts on Twitter @_suketk.