Heading into September, I had a sense it would be a pivotal month.
From my last reflection:
This month was even worse than the last. I regressed further.
Strangely though, it felt like a step in the right direction.
It led to an important realization: I was on track to fail unless I made major changes.
This was the breaking point that I needed. Sometimes, everything has to burn down before you can rebuild.
Now, I have a renewed sense of optimism. It feels like the start of a new chapter: a phoenix rising from the ashes.
My intuition was right. It was an inflection point.
September imbued me with a sense of purpose and urgency.
After months of aimlessly drifting without even realizing, I finally have direction again.
All it took was a hard reset of my priorities.
This tweet is a good analogy.
See, I also accumulated a lot of cruft over the years. When something didn’t work, I responded by setting a new goal or habit. I never eliminated; I only added.
This built up over time. Slowly, my attention became divided. It was death by a thousand cuts. Eventually, I couldn’t focus properly on any one thing. “When you have too many priorities, you have none.”
September was the perfect opportunity to recalibrate.
Since I already decided to pause Habit Gym and the rest of my projects, I had a blank slate. Instead of blindly carrying over my obligations from the previous month, I could now be deliberate about what I wanted to take on.
This was a huge unlock. It allowed me to shed all the dead weight and refocus my attention.
I set my sight on one priority: validating my two new business ideas.
Having a singular focus worked unreasonably well. It was almost a cheat code. I moved with greater speed and conviction, since there were no competing priorities to distract or weigh me down.
It also helped that my goal was well-defined and time-boxed. This created a sense of urgency and clarity.
Before every decision, I asked myself a simple question. “Will this help me hit my target on time?” It instantly short-circuited many moments of procrastination, perfectionism or misprioritization.
This is something I was missing in the past. I used to set goals without strict deadlines. When I didn’t hit them, they would just spill over to the following month. Since there was no real consequence for failing, this kept happening.
Now, I feel more pressure to hit my goal or move on. It’s a subtle, but powerful shift. Instead of deferring it by default, every month I have to justify whether it makes sense to continue down the same path.
This forces me to pivot faster in the absence of results. The biggest mistake I made earlier was sticking to Habit Gym for too long. And I don’t want to repeat it.
The unexpected benefit of this mistake is that I feel the clock ticking now. I’m closing in on 3 years since quitting with little to show for it. My back is finally against the wall.
Knowing my complacent nature, that’s exactly what I need to win. I can already feel the tide starting to turn.
Health and Happiness
These were my foundational goals for the month:
- Eat a daily serving of vegetables and stay hydrated.
- Sleep at a consistent time with a no-screen bedtime routine. Ideally read, journal or meditate then.
The core motivation behind this was to increase my energy levels during the day, in addition to restarting other healthy habits along the way.
Interestingly, I rarely felt a lack of energy despite skipping these habits often. I attribute this to having a time-sensitive goal. When you’re working against a deadline, like I was, it’s easy to power through.
So maybe the solution isn’t to add more habits, but just to create urgency?
Nutrition + Hydration
I was much better about eating daily salads and staying hydrated. It’s still not 100%, but as I mentioned above I didn’t notice a drastic impact on my energy levels.
While my sleep schedule isn’t consistent yet, my mindset has improved significantly. Since this is usually a leading indicator for results, I’m optimistic.
The biggest contributor was a “sunrise challenge” that I started. After witnessing a beautiful sunrise on my latest vacation, I decided I want more of them in my life. So, I set out to watch the sun rise once a week for a month.
I figured it would pave the way to me being an early riser. Though we didn’t get fully there, it certainly planted the seed.
The challenge gave me the confidence to overcome my revenge bedtime procrastination. I learned that I can put my devices away and sleep early when I have something to get up for.
Plus, it taught me that waking up early isn’t that painful. In fact, it’s actually quite enjoyable. That morning-time calm is truly special.
Lesson: Sleeping and waking up early is not only doable, but worth it. You just need a forcing function.
I didn’t journal or meditate, but I picked up a reading habit again. I realized that I find books more fulfilling than the typical internet distractions I resort to.
I just need to be more consistent. The past month was streaky. When I was on, I read for many days at a stretch. When I was off, I didn’t for a while.
This reminded me of the value of momentum: habits have inertia. What’s on, stays on. What’s off, stays off.
Lessons: Habits have inertia. Maintain the momentum.
These were my effectiveness goals for the month:
- No unproductive distractions, especially Twitter.
- No naps above 15 minutes. After lunch, do a standing work session and have tea.
- Give every day my 100%.
Here’s how it went.
Though I had my lapses, I was pretty good at minimizing distractions.
There were two contributing factors: a week-long digital fast and laser-sharp focus on my goal.
Paryushana is an annual 8-day Jain religious festival meant to deepen your spiritual awareness. While people usually observe by fasting or sticking to a specific diet, I put my own twist on it and commit to a digital fast.
During this period, I give up all online distractions: Reddit, Twitter, YouTube, etc. The fundamental principle is the same: detach yourself from worldly pleasures and reconnect with your soul.
It’s always a refreshing cleanse. Like every year, the fast reminded me that it’s possible to give these habits up without it affecting your life. In fact, they don’t add much value at all.
Even outside of those 8 days, I remained fairly disciplined. Having a goal with a deadline sharpened my focus. I viewed everything through the same lens: “is this in service of my ultimate goal?” That simple question helped me cut short many breaks that would have devolved into hours of doomscrolling.
- Cut out the “junk”. Online distractions are the digital equivalent of junk food. They feel good in the moment, but they don’t satiate you. You’re better off without them.
- Set deadlines. When you’re working against the clock, you’re automatically more productive. There’s no time to consider distractions.
I mostly didn’t nap or kept it under 20 minutes. Some days, I went significantly over. Many of them, though, were due to sickness.
But I’m not concerned. My ability to fight through the slump has improved. Compared to the same situation last month, I’m more likely to skip the nap.
As I mentioned above, mindset is a leading indicator for results. I’m optimistic that I can exercise greater self-control going forward.
What’s nagging me is that I don’t understand why I improved. It’s possible that having a sense of urgency played a role, but it could also be a red herring.
There’s a chance it’s just due to the weather cooling down - the problem is always worse in the summer. It’s hard to tell, so I’m going to keep an eye on this. The last thing I want is to have the same problem crop up again because I got too comfortable.
Give it my 100%
I didn’t give every day my 100%.
Interestingly, I don’t feel that disappointed because I still moved the needle.
That’s an important lesson: you get outsized results from moving the big levers.
I can always do more, but the priority should always be to work on the right things first. After that, you can focus on optimizing execution.
Lesson: Move the big levers. That’s how you do more with less.
These were my goals for the month:
- Validate two business ideas (details below).
- Work best effort on “weekend” projects.
- Rebrand the blog
- Restart a variation of the podcast
- Improve Habit Gym
Here’s how it went.
Context: I’m validating a physical goods business where we can compete with an existing product on price.
Goal: acquire one customer with high purchase intent.
We got serious inquiries from several companies, but no commitment yet.
Still, it’s incredibly promising. The prospects who expressed interest are all big players.
The cherry on top: they are eagerly following up with us. This indicates strong demand. They’re open to switching providers if the price is right.
This was an interesting experience compared to Habit Gym, where I had to chase customers. It goes to show that when you’re meeting a need, people will come to you.
This is especially true in B2B: if you help people make or save money, it’s an easy sell.
Despite not hitting our goal, we have strong enough signal to continue. Next month, we want to fulfill an order. That will force us to evaluate the lifecycle of a sale and prove out our business model.
Lesson: Sell painkillers, not vitamins.
Context: I’m validating a software marketplace for a high-ticket service. We believe we can onboard the supply side once we have hot leads.
Goal: acquire 5 users on the demand side.
We couldn’t launch on time to acquire users.
Still, we’re even more optimistic than before. We did market research and found established competitors. The old me would have considered this a negative sign. The new (wiser?) me realizes it’s the opposite: proof that a viable business can be built.
This is much easier than shooting in the dark, like Habit Gym. There, I had to validate if a problem even existed and then build a solution. Here, the mere presence of competitors proves the former. Now, I just have to beat them on execution.
I’m confident we can do that. Our prototype isn’t even finished and it already looks better than the incumbent.
Sure, we’ll have to do the hard slog of acquiring customers. But even for that, I believe we can improve upon their playbook.
It’s going to be a long haul, but we’re ready for it if we see early results. Next month, my goal is to process one payment. This will not only require acquiring free users from the demand side, but convincing the supply side to pay us for our services.
Lesson: Where there’s competition, there’s a market.
Though I didn’t move any of these projects forward, I made more of a habit to work on weekends.
I never used to do this. Earlier, weekdays were for work and weekends were for fun.
But, I recently realized this wasn’t the right balance for where I am in my journey. I need to be working harder and spend less time on leisure and socializing.
So, this is how I’m going to split my time going forward: 5 days for business, 1 day for miscellaneous work, 1 day for socializing.
My goals for next month:
- Physical goods: Fulfill one order from start to finish.
- Software marketplace: Process a payment through our platform.
- Creator-Led MVP: Launch 1 product. I’m testing out a new model where I build niche white-labeled software products and partner with a creator in that category for distribution under their brand.
- Habit Gym: Release app to users. It’s in the app stores, but back-end changes are necessary to make it usable. (Best effort.)
- Give every day my 100%.
- No naps over 18 minutes.
- No distractions.
- Health + Happiness
- Set a consistent sleep schedule.
- Stay hydrated.
- Read every day.
You’ll notice that the order of goals is reversed this time. That’s intentional - it reflects their order of importance.
With time running out, I’ve decided to prioritize one primary goal: building a sustainable business.
Everything else - effectiveness, health and happiness - is secondary. They’re important to the extent that they serve my business goals. If I break the rules every now and then, I’m not going to beat myself up. They only exist as guidelines to keep me in check and to address my known failure modes.
In a nutshell: I’m going to evaluate myself based on the progress I make in the business.
Without laser-sharp focus, I can’t win. It will certainly involve sacrifices, but the past month has proved that they’re necessary.
Too many priorities means you have none.
This post took redacted minutes to write.
P.S: You can find more of my thoughts on Twitter @_suketk.