Entrepreneur, Hacker and Future Mad Scientist 🚀☕

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my nerdy productivity system using Airtable and Todoist

My Nerdy Planning System: Airtable + Todoist + Zapier

Recently I was asked how I manage so many projects (started two successful companies, graduated college full-time with a 3.49 GPA, and still have a girlfriend). What I’ve designed is taken from a few different people and put together. I’ll link to each resource that I used while piecing this wonderful system together. 

my personal productivity stack

A high-level overview of my system is that I reverse-engineer what I want to accomplish each year into daily tasks that are easy to execute. 

Let’s Dive Into the Details

The below structure was adopted (read: totally stolen) from the incredible Nat Eliason’s blog post on setting goals using Airtable

Like I mentioned above, I like to reverse-engineer what I want to accomplish for every aspect of my life that I personally find important. By doing so, I’m able to easily see my life as one large picture and how one thing may relate to another. 

First, I start with my Annual Goals, broken down by category (Business, Personal, Health, Class, etc). For each category, I like to have 2-3 massive outcomes planned. Keep in mind that these are not tasks but massive goals that I’ll need to turn into projects or tasks throughout the year. 

To make this concrete, let’s use an annual goal of Aura (my SaaS company) hitting $1.5m in ARR. 

Second, I sit down each quarter and review my Annual goals to determine what would need to be accomplished to achieve them. These new ideas become my Quarterly Goals. 

What should I accomplish this quarter to be on track to hit my annual goal of doing $1.5m in ARR? Based on current bottlenecks I would say hiring a second full-time engineer would have the highest positive impact. 

Third, I’ll sit down each month and do the same for my Monthly Goals as I did with my Quarterly Goals above. 

Now that I have a good idea of what I need to accomplish for the quarter, I can break that down into just what I can do this month; conduct 20+ cultural interviews and at least 10 technical interviews. 

Lastly, I set down each Sunday afternoon to break down my Monthly Goals into Daily Tasks that can be accomplished this week. I try to have 2-3 critical tasks for each day across all of my goals. 

To easily hit my monthly goal, I’ll most likely need to do the following:

Monday – Create job requirements

Tuesday – Post job listing on 5 remote working job boards

Thursday – Filter through initial candidates and schedule 30-minute cultural interviews for the following week

Friday – Ask my network for any potential candidates that would be a great fit and looking for a new role.

What we’ve essentially done is take a very large goal of doing $1.5m in annual revenue and broken it down into actionable tasks that can be done starting Monday. 

In other words: Annual Goals -> Quarterly Goals -> Monthly Goals -> Daily Tasks to complete. 

The point here is that each of the tasks assigned to this week relates to my Monthly Goals and so on. 

It may seem like a lot at once but I’m only looking at my Weekly breakdown throughout each week. When put into practice It’s oddly calming to know that if you just accomplish this week’s tasks everything else will settle into place with ease. 

using Airtable as a productivity tool

Creating a Routine

It’s essential to create a routine of reverse-engineering your goals. Otherwise, how do you know that you’re on track? Just as important, basing your weekly tasks off your Monthly/Quarterly/Annual goals keeps you on track. It’s easy to get “shiny object syndrome” being an entrepreneur. We all know how important focus is in the long-term. Why not make that easier on ourselves? 

For my routine, I’ve developed what I call Maintenance Day, which is a set group of tasks that when completed each Sunday ensure the following week is a massive success. Essentially, I’m “maintaining” my life to stay on track. 

Finding the Nerdy Glue 

Let’s get this out of the way… It’s actually super hard for me to not automate something these days. Being very busy means that I never want to waste a second of my time if I don’t have to. 

Part of my nerdy obsession is connecting my Airtable base with Todoist. Why? Because I work from Todoist in my day-to-day life. That’s right, even the Daily tasks in my Airtable are pushed over to Todoist. The reason for this is that I obviously have more tasks than just the 2-3 critical few that need to be accomplished. Why jump between tools when I’m getting deep work accomplished? 

my amazing Todoist task list set up

To streamline my daily execution, I have a Zapier “Zap” created that triggers every time I “complete’ a task in Todoist. It then searches my Airtable and checks off any found tasks. In doing so, the Airtable becomes “self-updating/correcting”. 

You can copy my Zapier Zap here

To clarify, I use Airtable mainly for planning and Todoist for the actual execution of things. Because Todoist is incredibly fast at adding new tasks throughout the day, I work from there 90% of the time. 

A final change I could make is to have Zapier create new Todoist tasks when a new Weekly Task is added to the Airtable to further streamline my process. Either way, What Nat has put together is fantastic alone. This is simply my nerdy adjustment and how I take such a framework and execute on it daily using Todoist. 

How Anyone Can Go From Nothing to The Top 5%

I believe anyone, from any situation or circumstance can rise to the top of the social class using a framework. We no longer have excuses, but it does take time and it isn’t easy. I know what I’m saying is a bit controversial, but stick with me for a bit and open your mind to new potential. In this post I will detail a few key frameworks and ideas that shows how anyone can join the higher class given time.

 

Knowing The Outcome

 

Before we dive into the “how to” stuff we need to do some simple math. If you don’t understand what your ideal outcome is, how do you know if you’re there?

 

First, think about retirement and what lifestyle you want. For me, I want $100,000 a year after I retire, but for this post we will stick with $400,000. Now we need to calculate how much money we need in a retirement account to yield $400,000 every single year based on interest. We assume a conservative 5% and multiply our yearly income goal by 20 (our 5%) which gives $8,000,000 in total.

 

So we need $8,000,000 to bring in $400,000 every single year and to be considered one of the wealthy elite… This is a great start as it gives us a goal.

 

Side note: I’m utilizing retirement accounts because you don’t want to worry about earning $400,000 every single year. Instead you want to protect your assets and have more freedom.

 

Take your target annual income after retirement and multiply it by 20. This is how much you need in a retirement account to live off the interest and to maintain your wealth.

 

Income Is Based On Value

 

How much you make is directly tied to the value you provide to the market. This is why a CEO of a company makes more than the Intern. Overall the solutions they provide in their roles are more valuable to the company/market through experience, knowledge, action and responsibility versus an intern or someone new to the company. This is not to say that an intern or anyone below the CEO is non valuable or lacks similar work ethics as this is simply not the case.

 

Ever notice how the guy at work who stays late and “kisses ass” gets promoted faster? He’s providing more value than everyone else.

 

From a logical standpoint, if we want to increase our income, we increase our value. This is done through going to college, personal/professional development and many more growth opportunities. The downside to working for someone else is that there is always a ceiling that stops your growth. The only step you can take at this level is to start your own company, which you will be providing more value to the market.

 

For entrepreneurs, skipping the 10+ years it takes to reach this ceiling is commonplace. Why go through all of that when you could start your own company?

 

A business is the single fastest growth vehicle for building income and wealth (there is a vast difference between the two!).

 

Starting A Business Without Money or An Idea

 

No, seriously..

 

Successful entrepreneurs understand how to minimize risk and how to effectively find (NOT create) profitable ideas.

 

You don’t need the next Facebook or Google. You need a solution to a problem that people are willing to pay you to provide. This is done using a framework called Idea Extraction.

 

Here is how it works:

 

Target a specific group of people, for this example I’ll choose Real Estate agents. I talk with 50-100 agents and ask about their most painful tasks each day, week etc… I keep diving deeper, often coming up with multiple problems to solve. I don’t want just any problem, I want their most painful problem, the problem they will beg me to solve.

 

After talking to 50-100 agents I find a common painful problem I can solve. My business idea came from people wanting a solution, NOT from myself.

 

I can solve this problem through the various business models such as; a service, physical product, informational product, software etc…

 

Side Note: I focus on software as people will pay every single month for access to the solution which gives me recurring revenue.

 

So I started with no ideas, picked a market, talked to them and find a painful problem they are willing to pay for? Yes… But the idea isn’t completely validated yet. I want them to actually prove it’s painful enough to pay for. So I ask them to.

 

If a problem is painful enough, a potential customer will pre-pay for a solution. They will actually pay for a product that doesn’t exist yet. I know this seems crazy, but I’ve done this before and it’s how risk in business is practically eliminated.

 

So instead of thinking of an idea, finding investors, wasting my savings and wasting 6+ months of my time building a product like most people do, I’ve gone directly to the market to provide more value and can start a business WITH paying customers. Most companies spend well over a year to find ONE paying customer.

 

I now have an idea (let’s assume it’s software). For some reason we assume it takes money to make money, but that simply isn’t the case. I still need a developer to build the software that solves my customers problem, but I can’t code.

 

Remember how we validated our idea by getting people to actually pay for it? This funds our development costs. This is called pre-sales or pre-selling and is done more than you realize. Just look at Kickstarter for an idea of how common this practice is.

 

So at this point I’ve extracted a painful problem for real estate agents that 50+ agents have in common, validated the idea through them actually paying for it upfront and used that money to fund the building of my product.

 

Do you think everyone has the opportunity to reach out to a group of people and find their most painful problems?

 

Achieving $400,000 and Elite Status

 

Let’s get back to our $8,000,000. This seems like a TON of money and it is, but we can’t expect to knock this out in one blow. This may take 2, 5 or even more companies to achieve and that’s ok.

 

Companies are sold every single day to investors willing to pay a multiple of either its monthly or yearly earnings. For most internet based businesses, the multiple is 20-22 times it’s monthly earnings. So if I have a small business that generates $1,000 a month, It’s value if sold is $20,000.

 

At this point we’ve already started a company WITH paying customers who pay us every single month for access to our solution. What they pay can range from $50-$5,000 a month depending on how painful the problem is, the value of your solution and the marketplace. Pricing is also determined while asking the customers what they would be willing to pay and then asking them to do so.

 

Now obviously you would want to build your business even higher in revenue than when you started and eventually you would get to a point where you would either sell the business, higher a staff (virtual assistants in the Philippines for $5/hour) to run and grow your business while you repeat this whole process talking to a brand new industry and finding more painful problems to solve.

 

Conclusion

 

This is essentially a roadmap or a framework for someone with nothing to determine what they need, find REAL problems to solve, fund their business with paying customers, automate or sell and repeat until they reach their end goal.

 

For some, they may only need $50,000 a year to travel the world and so they would need much less than our elite character needing $400,000 a year in income. I’m not saying this is easy, otherwise I wouldn’t be in this class. I would be spending my time how I saw fit, but I am saying it’s possible and is my life’s passion to accomplish.

 

I hope in this post I’ve opened your eyes to the possibilities of finance, business and being conscious about the world around you and what you can achieve.

Smartcuts Book Review

shortcutsbookshaneI was recommended the book Smartcuts by a few people and when I saw post after post about this book, I knew it would be worth the read. I’ve become more aware of my need to take notes on everything I learn. From books to podcasts. I have a specific notebook dedicated to all of these notes.

Shane Snow, the author, walks us through countless times in history where great men have completely gone against the traditional path to hack their way to the top. From presidents to programmers.

Here are the notes taken from Smartcuts:

Think in 10X terms. NOT a 10% improvement. Break it down and rebuild it for better results.

Think laterally when growing anything in your life.

Use Sinatra Style programming: Using someone else’s credibility to spring your success forward.

Most companies focus on breeding faster horses rather than building automobiles.

Companies whose aim in philanthropically large do much better in all areas than those who don’t.

SpaceX went against old-industry giants to be the first private space company ever. Now, they operate in 100X terms, not 10X terms.

Use productive laziness for success: If you only need a C to graduate a college class, but by doing so increase time to focus on important life tasks or projects, why would you work harder for an A?

Think in layers to improve upon anything in life.

Search for the least wasteful way to learn something or level up. The Effective Dose.

Rapid negative feedback is the single most important thing to ask clients and customers for. Negative is better than positive feedback.

“Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple” -Dr. Seuss

Level up before you are ready for a greater advantage.

DHH used the theory of layers within business and life to quickly level up.

Study and steal from masters for quick improvements and less waste.

Spend the shortest amount of time required to move to the next level up. NEVER take the traditional path.

What is your platform advantage?

Friday Quick Post

This week was fantastic, but not much of an update on things. I’ve been going through Ramit’s Earn1K course and it has been incredibly eye opening. I’ve been focusing on using the two qualifier method to generate very unique client profiles and ideas.

Now we are moving into creating benefits instead of features and how to really find what your potential clients/customers want. A lot of the content is geared towards quality and finding a real idea or problem that people are willing to pay you to solve. This is something I feel that a lot of people are missing lately, including myself.

We want fast results and the 4 Hour Work Week without the 4 hours of work. Instead, we need to focus on building real, high quality products that sell themselves and solve real problems.

Here are some of my notes so far:

1. Finding Your Idea:

  • Pick Your Top 5 Skills
  • Pick Your Top 5 Strengths
  • Pick Your Top 5 Interests
  • Pick Three Ideas Related Your Skills, Strengths and Interests That Have High Priority

2. Define Your Target Market:

  • Use The Two Qualifier Method – [Qualifier 1] + [Qualifier 2] who (Need Your Service)
  • Ex. Bloggers who have 1,000 subscribers who want to (generate revenue with info. products)
  • Ex. Lawn Care Business Owners with At Least 5 Employees who want to (scale their company)

Notice how specific you are being when it comes to who your target audience is. The more specific the better in this case.

3. Create Client/Customer Benefits (NOT Features!):

  • Create at least 10 client benefits or end results.
  • Don’t sell the process, but the end result
  • Ex. Personal Trainer:
    • Look Better
    • Save Time
    • Accountability
    • Lower Risk of Deseases
    • Reliability

 

So far I have focused on a few industries and client profiles while using the two qualifier method and creating client benefits. The next step is unknown as the next module is locked until next week….

My goal with this course is to come out with a framework to be used at any time in my life to extract amazing ideas and profitable businesses without the headache or guessing, but with real paying clients from the start. Not only that, but I obviously hope to come out with a business that generates at least $1,000 per month, but my aim is to generate around $3,000/Month with the idea and learn how to really scale a business and turn it into something huge.

Ramit is an incredibly high quality and legit resource to learn from.

 

What I‘m Reading

  • THE Backlinking Strategy That Works – 2014 and Beyond Edition
    In 2010, while documenting the creation of a niche site publicly here on the blog, I published a massive article called THE Backlinking Strategy that Works, and it did work – extremely well.

 

 

  • Lessons In Manliness from Fight Club – Today we’re gonna break the first rule with aplomb. Hey, everyone else does too. Though it came out a decade and a half ago, the film version of Fight Club continues to be a cultural touchstone, especially in discussions about masculinity.

 

Tool of The Week

  • Trello – Project Management Tool (Free Month of Trello Gold Just For You!)

 

Share some of your small or major wins from this past week with me in the comments!

A Life of Abundance or Scarcity?

I’ve read countless personal improvement books over the last few years and I noticed something very important; your perception of reality dictates your reality. Many authors write about living in a world of abundance.

Living in a world, or perception of the world that is unlimited resources seems grand, but I’m not sure how to feel about the subject.

Abundance can be good, but for most (including myself) this mentality can put us in a state of taking zero action. Because time, money and other valuable resources are unlimited, we tend not to make any progress because the pressure isn’t on.

The only abundant resource we should focus on is our motivation and work ethic. As I get older the more this is moving to the forefront of my mind.

Ask yourself a hard question; Are you truly living up to your potential? This means how hard you work, how bad you really want to achieve your goal etc….

When I really sat down and asked myself this question, I was appalled with the answer. I know I can do better and I need to work harder for the things I want. You need to build a fiery passion for the things you want or want to achieve.

Living in world of scarcity can be greatly beneficial. When you view your time as scarce, you begin taking more action in life.

We are consumers by nature. We spend countless hours watching tv, reading articles and listening to podcasts. The only thing in life that gets us closer towards our goal is action. Consuming content isn’t a bad thing to do. I share what I read each week publically on this site.

The trick with consuming content is to only consume content that relates directly to what you are trying to achieve. I’m not perfect and this is a work in progress for myself.

I want to hear your thoughts on abundance vs. scarcity. Do you agree or disagree and why?

 

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