Founders often struggle with choosing their battles. While making their to-do list for the day, they get the feel of standing in front of a buffet and choosing what to put on the small size of their plate.
Very often they put too much on their plate (to-do list) and then suffer over-eating (over-working) and hence indigestion (burnout).
If you're like Chris Brownridge, Co-founder of Pickaxe, someone who works on multiple projects simultaneously, the problem of picking your battles is even more grave.
But Chris seems to have found a way around it.
The solution —
"One thing per project per day"
He splits his workday between his different projects, then he decides 1 important task/per project that he needs to accomplish for the day. After this exercise, he has 3-4 important tasks (see screenshot below) that he'll need to get done before the day ends. If he does them all, it's a successful day. If not, he'll move the task to the next day with a tinge of frustration for not having completed it that day itself.
This way he manages to keep the needle moving on all his projects, without getting overwhelmed by the 'buffet' he has in front of him every day while he prepares his to-do list.
Remember the mantra- "One thing per project per day".
I loved this technique so much that I decided to try it out for myself. I'll share my experience with it towards the end of this blog post. Stay tuned!
In this episode, Chris shares his beginnings, a story of how one of his earlier companies failed and he had to lay off 20 people, building a no-code product called Silver Lining to help laid-off employees and get them back to work, fast-forward to today he's working on his company Pickaxe that supercharges Google Sheets. You're in for a treat in this episode.
Let's dive in!
Chris introduces himself
Hi, I'm Chris, Co-founder of Pickaxe, a tool that adds superpowers to your Google sheets. I'm from the UK originally but live in Seattle, US right now. I came across to the United States 9 or 10 years ago to a very early stage startup called Vungle. Spent 4 years in San Francisco, then moved to Seattle and started a new company called GawkBox, which was a venture-funded company. Unfortunately, that company didn't work out, so after 3 and a half years and raising 4.5 million, I ended up shutting the company and having to lay off 20 people. It was a rough experience. I took a break after that to recover.
After a few months, I started building again. I ventured into the no-code space and the 1st thing I built was a product called Silver Lining. It was a product built to help people who were laid off, so I had laid off 20 people in the summer, and it was a terrible experience. I saw that the support available for laid-off employees was woefully inadequate. This was actually pre-covid. So I never imagined this to be a product with thousands of users. But then Covid hit, layoffs were happening left right, and center, and suddenly I was managing a product with thousands of users on it.
It grew really fast. It was hard for me to manage as I also had kids and family. So I tied up with an outplacement company in Chicago to manage it. That was essentially the close of that chapter for me, I still work with them but in a limited capacity.
Then I started Pickaxe. A tool to give superpowers to Google sheets. I spend a lot of time on Google sheets and I believe a lot of people do too. But there's great potential to what can be done on a Google sheet and most people don't leverage it properly. So we built a smart app that sits on top of Google sheets and helps you use it in a myriad of interesting and useful ways.
How did Pickaxe start?
We actually did a post on the "My First Million Podcast" community, and that post got a crazy response. There were like 1000 comments on that post wanting early access. We built a good waitlist that way.
The first iteration of the product was more focused on sales and building lead lists. But since different salespersons have different processes to build out lead lists, we saw a big churn for the 1st iteration.
Then we went back to making tweaks to the product based on feedback and launched it again recently. So far the feedback has been good for this one, but it's still early to say much.
Power of Sheets
A lot of people spend a lot of time in sheets but they don't realize what a sheet can really do. I'm really passionate about this space. A sheet can be made to work in so many ways for so many different kinds of business functions.
At Pickaxe, we're just trying to make people familiar with the power of Google sheets and what it can really do for them. It can single-handedly replace a ton of SaaS subscriptions for a business.
A typical day
My days are usually pretty busy. We've got 2 kids, a 3-year-old and a 1-year-old, they're up pretty early in the morning. Unfortunately, we didn't win the sleep lottery with our 2 children. We tend to get them off to daycare by 8 AM, my wife drops them off usually. That's when I get my day started.
I'm actually a list builder. I have all my to-dos listed out in the Todoist app. Either I'll make the list the previous evening or the 1st thing in the morning. I tend to keep them pretty focused on the different projects I have. If I make my to-do list too broad, it's very likely that I'll abandon the list and not do things. So keeping the list focused is very important. Generally, I have 1 important task per project listed in my list for a day.
Besides, I take notes in my reMarkable notebook. I write everything there. A normal paper notebook won't work for me as my 3-year-old starts scribbling in that.
My day is split based on projects. Pickaxe gets more time than other projects. But I make sure to start my day at 8 and end by around 5 in the evening, that's when the kids get back home from daycare. After that, I spend time with my family for dinner and bedtime.
1 thing per project per day
As I am currently working on ~3-4 projects, I make sure to accomplish 1 important task per project per day. I just put these tasks down in my notes the previous evening and then split my workday between these tasks.
This "1 thing per project per day", is important for me to make progress in all the projects I'm involved in. If I don't accomplish 1 thing per project per day, I feel a little frustrated. I move it over to the next day, but it's not a good feeling for me.
It does get hectic, and I wish I was working on just 1 project so I just had to do 1 task per day. I'm confident I'll get to that with Pickaxe, but it's not at that level at this point. But it'll get there in due time I'm sure.
Meeting with the Gym
I have a 1-hour meeting with my gym slotted on my calendar. We're lucky to have built a gym at our place. I just go there to work out for 1 hour every day. Besides, if at any time I feel I'm not being productive and find it hard to focus, I'll again hit the gym, get a workout in, and that helps me focus and get creative again.
One extra hour
If I get one extra hour in my day, I would spend it with my family. Being an entrepreneur gives me the flexibility to choose how I allocate my time, and that helps me give adequate time to my family. Which is very important for me. In that extra hour, I'll do more of that.
My experience with one task per project per day
Hey! Mohit (your host) this side. Like I promised, here's my experience with the one thing per project technique-
Unlike Chris, I have 1 main project, that's Mailman. So instead of making it 1 task per project. I made it 1 task per business function. Everyday I'd pick 1 task for working on product and 1 task for marketing. The best part was that Chris himself was my accountability partner. I shared my daily to-do list with him, and he shared his with me. (see screenshot below)
Honestly, I loved it! I was finally able to pick the most important thing for the business on every front. Plus, the added accountability with the man himself being my partner, ah it can't get better. Highly recommend anyone to try out the "one task per project per day" and having an accountability partner. It worked wonders for me, and so it can for you. Do try!