As far as I can tell, this is something that everyone experiences. When you first have an idea, you are so excited. You have the motivation and energy to work on it constantly and initially you make rapid progress, but eventually this ‘honeymoon period’ has to come to an end. For me it took about 2 weeks.
In fairness, I have had some personal issues in the last week that kept me from working as much or writing blog posts, but I find that the motivation simply is not there in the way that it was a week ago. Although it is still early and I don’t know what will happen into the future, I wanted to report my findings.
Reasons for the slump:
- Hard work.
If you’ve ever heard someone say that starting a company is a lot of work, they’re right. As a CS major at Princeton University, I came into this with the impression that I understood how to do hard work (20 hour theory problem sets), but a startup isn’t like that. You are never done with your work because there is no right answer and therefore work follows you around constantly. There is also a huge amount of trial and error because you can’t just look up the answer.
- Too much work.
If you’ve never heard this before, investors tend to dismiss startups with only a single founder. I ignored this warning sign and struck out on my own. While I am not going to give up and start again, I promise you that next time I won’t be so naive. There is simply too much at a startup for one person to do. In the past few weeks I have been trying to balance all of these things: planning, market research, social media, product planning, product development, accounting, legal, etc. Its a lot to manage and at this point I don’t have the money to hire people, so you need a co-founder who is invested enough in your vision that they will be happy to work for equity.
- No results.
This shouldn’t be a surprise, but its hard to get any results when you don’t have a product. While this may seem trivially obvious, it does lead to a severe lack of motivation. When you see clearly the fruits of your labor, it is easier to see light on the road ahead.
- Gritty details.
As part of the product development process, there are simply things that are a pain in the ass that suck but you have to do them. While you can avoid these initially by getting other things done, you must face them eventually. If you have any tendency towards procrastination, these are the little things that trip you up and keep you from getting things done. Whether it is making that one phone call or writing content for that one page on your site, this can create a substantial mental block.
The obvious question now is: where do I go from here?
I am in the middle of this now, so there is no way I can give an informed answer, so instead I will look at what steps I am planning to take based on my research, and at some point I hope to do a follow up on this post to see how all of these different techniques worked.
- Surrounding myself by motivated people.
Currently, I am working in a co-working space called Tigerlabs where there are many other startups. This is invaluable because other peoples’ success is helpful at inspiring my own.
- Keeping a strict schedule.
I find that this is extremely important for me to get work done. If I don’t make myself get to the office by a certain time, I’ll never get nearly as much done because it is so easy to procrastinate.
- Setting goals.
When I don’t know what to work on, I get lazy. I’ll do lots of little tasks that aren’t necessarily relevant to my ultimate goal. A couple tools that I find helpful for this are PivotalTracker/Trello (project management) and Producteev (to-do list). This can also involve setting deadlines, which may be helpful.
- Motivational reading.
It may just be me, but I find that other peoples’ success stories are quite motivational and inspire me to keep working. I like startup blogs (I don’t have any favorites) and my two favorite motivational books are The 4 Hour Work Week and The Millionaire Fastlane, both of which are both inspirational and have some useful information.
- Staying healthy.
I know that I feel better and more productive if I stay in shape, so I try to make a routine of going to the gym every day before work.
Hopefully with time and making use of these strategies, I will be able to overcome this slump and move forwards.