Founding a startup with a newborn, 2 year old and in a new city

Today I was talking to one of our advisors for Goodbits and he called me ballsy to be building a startup, I started to wonder perhaps if what I'm doing is actually stupid. What is it that I'm doing? Starting a company when I have two kids, one 2 year old and another that's 1 month old. To add to that I've moved to a new city.

My comment to most people that mention my situation is simply "When is it ever a good time to build a company?". I've found through my career that trying to build projects in my free time never get the time they require, they need day & night 24/7 attention. So here I am building a startup and trying to be the family man that my Dad was with just a day job.

I'm writing this partly as a log of my current situation and to outline some productivity techniques I'm doing to manage my time.

One todo List

I have one todo list, very much a getting things done list. This has at most 6 things and mainly only the most important things I need to do in a day. Currently I'm using Clear on my iPhone for this because of it's simplicity and it's one list, one place. I like that it's one place, I wanted a simple list without tags, multiple lists, areas, projects.

This list contains both personal and business tasks, otherwise my personal tasks never get done. So for example top of my list this morning was to cancel our UK car insurance. Then the second was to chase up a specific investor who was interested in our company.

We still use Pivotal Tracker to manage the user stories that need to be developed on our product and the way I start work on this is to put a high level task in my todo list to understand the theme on what I need to work on. So at the moment it's to work on the stories required to implement capturing twitter favourites, one task in my todo list that encapsulates a bunch of small tasks in Pivotal.

Use less tools

Something I've been doing is trying to use less tools to manage parts of our bussines and as much as possible interact with everything I need from my inbox. This means I don't have to store a task in my head to vist x for CRM, y for Support, z for exceptions on our application, etc.

We are using Intercom and Tender for support at the moment and both come to the inbox and importantly I can reply back to customers striaght away.

Sure Basecamp is great, but I want to have less places where information and discussion is taking place, so I'm happy that Basecamp sends me emails on that I need to engage with. That's how I interact with it, I very rarely visit basecamp.

In fact right now, I'm working on something in which I can interact with media I share with my family via email, including comments. I don't want to visit 'insert popular choice of social network here' all the time.

Good inbox management

J/K the hell out of my inbox. I heavily use keyboard shortcuts in Gmail and in Sparrow, pretty much why I use Sparrow. The process for my email:

  • J down through my email
  • If I need to action it and it can be done with a quick reply, do it.
  • Otherwise label (L on the keyboard) and then archive it (e) if I need to keep it otherwise delete
  • If i need to come back to it leave it in the inbox
  • Work through the longer emails either by putting tasks in my one todo list or leaving it there
  • If a day or two has been passed and I haven't done anything with an email left in the inbox, I just archive it
  • Inbox zero

Having an empty inbox or near enough is good for me so that I procrastinate less and get on with what needs to be done.

Zero bugs

This is something applicable to product development and something that was first told to me by a collegue of mine Ben Griffiths. Simply don't store bugs in a tracker or backlog, put them at the top of your backlog. Your product should not be broken so fix it immediately everything else is not important, you'll always have things to fix and improve. This encourages you to not stack up lots of bugs and force defining 'new feature' requirements rather than bugs which can be better prioritized.

This means that we only worry about what we need to worry about, only until all the big things have been implemented and fixed do we get around to feeling the small things are important enough to work on.

Calendar is key

If I am to meet someone or do something important at a specific time, it's in the calendar, done. This Calendar is sync'd with my mobile so that when I make a meeting on the go, it's in the calendar, so that I meet it.

Family Support

This is quite specific to my situation, but it's something that I have and without it I wouldn't be able to do what I'm doing. We have our Mother-in-Law help out look after the kids a little with my wife and help cook up the meals. This is isn't something you can just sort out or ask for but I'm very lucky to have this and have them support what I'm doing.

That's it for now. Gotta go and spend some time with my kids and my lovely wife, something I do every day, go home, help with baths, play and read books before they sleep. Then back to the desk and computer.