What I Spent My Time On in 2015

Discussion in 'Building Your Business' started by cardine, Jan 25, 2016.

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  1. cardine

    cardine Administrator Staff Member

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    We have a thread that talks about goals, and I think setting goals and keeping yourself accountable to them is very important.

    However the real reason we achieve goals is because we put in the time doing the things that need to be done.

    I very diligently log ever second I spend working with Toggl which allows me to keep myself accountable throughout the week, gamify my productivity, and also look back and see what I spent the most time on.

    So without further ado here are two pie charts, showing what I spent my time on in 2015. The first (and more boring) pie chart, is which projects I spent the most time working on:

    upload_2016-1-25_16-38-19.png

    Cortx is the "parent" company of everything, so things that don't fit one specific project (for instance hiring, bookkeeping, taxes, moving to a new office, etc.) all fall under here - just the general things involved with running a growing company. Almost all of the remaining time was split working on three software as a services - two existing ones (WordAi and Microsite Masters), and one soon to be existing one (Article Forge). The time split between each of these is pretty even, with a slight edge to Article Forge since it was basically built from scratch throughout 2015. Apex Forum is also on there, and almost all of that work came from December, as I scrambled to set everything up as soon as possible.

    The one important thing on here is how small that "Other" category is. "Other" includes things like random SEO sites I have, a couple other smaller products I have (for instance I own an SEO Hosting business that is mostly handled by others), and some work into projects that are currently shelved. Under 3% of my time was spent on these "Other" projects, meaning I did a very good job focusing on the real products and very little time chasing shiny objects.


    upload_2016-1-25_16-38-40.png

    This graph is far more interesting. For every piece of work I did, I tagged the "job" I was doing. The criteria I used was "if I hired someone else to do this task, what would their job title be?" Product Manager is the task that took up most of my time. The tldr for Product Manager is that they are the "CEO of a product" although Wikipedia goes into more detail:
    Another interesting task I spent a lot of time on is Recruiting, and this will likely be the case in the future as well. Last year at around this time there were certain days where all I would do is interview people. For software developers this is incredibly important, and the aftermath of all of that work is a pretty awesome team. I feel somewhat good about all of the time spent doing this, as many other tech CEOs claim to spend that much time or more devoted towards recruitment and hiring.

    So all in all the two things I spent the most time on are things that were critical to this years success and things that are very hard to properly outsource - so I feel very good about how I prioritized what I'm working on.

    Customer Support is the thing that took up the third most amount of my time, and it might seem like an odd inclusion. For the longest time I personally responded to every single support ticket sent to both WordAi and Microsite Masters. It was great because it gave me a very good feel for what customers wanted or were thinking, but eventually it got to the point where it was sucking up way too much of my time - sometimes I would spend half my day responding to customer requests. So @megodon started in May, and I have done very little customer support since then. Considering I stopped doing customer support myself in May that means I spent way way way too much time in the first half of 2015 on Customer Support.

    In total I think this is a pretty good distribution of my time, and the beauty of this tool is I can tell when something is started to eat up way too much of my time (for instance Customer Support) and then I know it is time to hire someone to replace me for that task. If you looked at my Toggl logs a couple years ago you would see Software Development at the very top, and now with a team of awesome developers, it is only my 6th most time spent on task.

    Conclusion: It is still early enough in the year to do something like this, and I would really highly recommend getting Toggl and logging your time. It does wonders keeping yourself accountable to yourself, and showing you what you are actually spending your time on. If I looked at this graph and saw that most of my time was spent on things that weren't making me money it would be a clear indication to me that I should re-prioritize what I'm working on. And if something starts creeping too high that might be an indication that you should hire someone to do that for you to free your time up for something else.
     
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  2. blank_check

    blank_check Member

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    Do you still recruit mostly in the northeast? I remember you saying you were pretty close to the CMU area and other schools. The Duolingo co-founder (iirc you somewhat know him) said they were still based in Pittsburgh which I thought was interesting for hiring as they don't have to deal with too much poaching from other companies other than Google. I looked at your hiring article, and I was wondering if you had trouble getting people to apply/become interested in your company because you guys aren't very well known. I would say it doesn't sound very sexy, but I know you do some fancy AI magic, so I'm sure from a behind-the-scenes programming perspective, it's much more interesting.
     
  3. cardine

    cardine Administrator Staff Member

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    I'm in Baltimore which is pretty centrally located among a lot of very good schools. Carnegie Mellon, MIT, Johns Hopkins, Rutgers, University of Maryland, University of Delaware, Yale, Princeton, University of Virginia, and a host of other very good schools are almost all within a 3-4 hour drive, and we've hired or interviewed people from every single one of those schools.

    Our hiring is all through Cortx, which is the umbrella brand, and one of the things the site is designed to do is to highlight what makes Cortx an exciting place to work at. There are benefits to working at a big company like Google, but there are also a lot of benefits to working at a smaller company, and we try to target people whose values align with that. You get to work on a small team, have direct access to everyone, know you are going to work on interesting things, and perhaps most importantly know that your work is going to be a big part of the success of the company you are working for.

    There are a lot of people who actively want to work at a startup, and among those people Cortx is (in my very biased opinion) one of the more compelling companies. The only challenging part is getting in front of those people, but for the amount of positions we have to fill that hasn't been a problem.
     
  4. cardine

    cardine Administrator Staff Member

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    He was my professor at Carnegie Mellon, and he teaches a fairly infamous class there. So since a lot of CMU students go through his class (which is both incredibly difficult and incredibly well taught) he has a solid pipeline for recruiting students later. For that reason alone (and the fact that he is a professor at CMU) it makes a lot of sense for him to be based in Pittsburgh.

    In my opinion the only valid reason in my opinion to be in Silicon Valley is because you need VC money. Otherwise everything is more expensive, employee retention is much lower, and everything in general is surprisingly very short term focused.
     
  5. hunch

    hunch Member

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    This is amazing. Being able to identify where you spend your time should be the focus of anybody that runs a company, so that you can hire those headaches away. Seems super simple but not many people do a good job of tracking their time and just end up following their gut instinct on filling roles in an organization.
     
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  6. cardine

    cardine Administrator Staff Member

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    Thanks! I started doing this in April 2012 and have been diligently doing this every single day ever since (nearly four years!!) There are so many great applications for doing this... making sure you are spending the most times on the projects that make you the most money, getting an idea for what you are actually worth (what your hourly wage would be for each project), what you are working on and what can be outsourced or made more efficient, and just in general keeping yourself accountable.

    I would seriously recommend anyone reading this to do the same.

    For instance here was my Projects Worked On for 2014:
    upload_2016-2-2_19-35-39.png
    Here way way way too much time was spent on "Other" which was split between an AI research project, a marketplace that was started and then shelved, a JV with a research company regarding text analysis that never got released, and an automated newspaper that never got past the (very lengthy) R&D phase, two different SaaS's that got to the point where they were ready to go to beta but never did, and the beginnings of Article Forge.

    The frustrating thing was that each of these projects were things with a lot of potential, and many of them are things we will later be releasing - for instance one of the shelved SaaS's from all the way back in 2014 will likely be redone and released sometime this year. The problem was that all of these things were all going on at the same time and time was spread way too thin. We had two interns who were working on their own separate projects, and then when they left we realized that we didn't have enough people to continue what they were working on.

    I had talked a lot before about avoiding shiny object syndrome, and I previously had been very good about this. But at the end of 2014 I looked at what I spent my time on and realized how much of my time was spent on things that made me exactly $0. Now we work on one thing at a time and whatever it is we are working on, we make sure we knock it out of the park.
     
  7. cardine

    cardine Administrator Staff Member

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    I decided to do an update for the first half of 2016!

    upload_2016-7-19_17-36-48.png

    For this first half of the year I have been focused almost exclusively on Apex Forum and Article Forge - which should not be surprising if you look at my goals from each monthly goal thread. I am pleased about a couple things on this graph. The first one is how little time was spent on anything in the "Other" category. It is both an extremely small amount of time, and even the time spent on that is extremely focused - namely Arctic Hosting and future planning for an SEO marketplace. So I was able to do a very good job having a very tight focus!

    Something else I'm happy about is the time spent on Microsite Masters. I've started to realize that as the number of products scale up, it is impossible to do everything for each product all by yourself. Since Microsite Masters is one of the easier products to plan for, I've been working to put as much of that in the hands of others as possible. And with the help of @megodon and several others that has been the case. Right now new features get planned out, developed, and released, and I only have to make high level decisions. This is very important because if I am not able to successfully do this, everything will come to a grinding halt once there are 5-6 products all up and running.

    With that being said I do expect both the WordAi and Microsite Master amounts to go up in the second half of 2016 - now that Article Forge is released we will be able to devote even more developer time towards WordAi and Microsite Masters updates.

    Another interesting thing is that I've spent 2/3 of my time on Apex Forum and Article Forge combined, and up until a month ago neither of those products even made any money. I am unbothered by this - the goal all along is to reinvest and this is me reinvesting my time!


    upload_2016-7-19_17-36-38.png

    This one is interesting - especially when comparing this year to last year. One of the cooler things in my opinion is that I spent nearly an identical percentage of my time as a "Product Manager" compared to last year, and I still consider that to be my primary job - to properly guide each product to where it is supposed to be on the technical side.

    I spent a lot less time on Recruiting (although I also split "Recruiting" into "Recruiting" and "Human Resources") - the main reason for this is simply that we hired to what was sustainable last year, and I have been waiting for Article Forge to be released so that the number of people we can sustainably hire increases back again. So now that Article Forge has been released I will probably be spending a lot more time on that, and have already done more interviews in July than in the first six months combined.

    I also spent a lot less time on "Customer Support" which can be owed to the fact that @megodon now does an excellent job taking care of all of that instead! "Customer Service Manager" is the new role I put in for anything that needs to get escalated to me, but clearly my overall time spent in that area has gone down dramatically due to some very successful delegation. I'm now also spending more time on "Marketing" - mostly because last year there weren't two completely new brands that needed to be marketed. However I am finding as I'm doing the Article Forge launch that there is a lot of low hanging fruit for all of our existing products and that might have to be something I hire for again so that we can make sure we cover every marketing channel for every product.

    I also spent a huge amount more time on "Content Creation" which can be owed entirely to Apex Forum - there was really no need for me to ever write this much before!

    As a final conclusion - I think in general things are trending in the right direction. I won't be able to keep up 25% of my time being spent on Content Creation forever, but I still plan to continue doing it and I have some ideas for effectively managing my time spent on that in the long run. At some point I'll need to also look at delegating "Office Admin" type tasks, but I think that will still be a while away and a lot of that time was mostly because we have been moving to a new office.
     
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  8. ...

    ... Established Member

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    So are Microsite Masters and WordAi just running on autopilot now? How did you get it to that point where it could just run passively like that and does that mean that nothing major get done or developed? If it does how do you decide what to do if you aren't spending any time doing it?

    Is this content creation just you writing forum posts?

    Interesting stuff. With how much you talk about I was surprised there wasn't anything on there for programming and that marketing was so low.
     
  9. cardine

    cardine Administrator Staff Member

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    How do you define autopilot? Is Apple running on autopilot now that Steve Jobs isn't actively managing it (or really doing anything)? It is autopilot in the sense that it is not required that I am actively overseeing anything for work to still get done. And a lot of stuff is getting done for both products!
    The answer to this very simple... I hired a lot of people. Setting up systems where everything you do is slowly replaced means you can continue to scale without your time being the primary bottleneck. That's half the point of this thread to begin with is to figure out where my time sinks are and figure out ways to outsource them. See my first post regarding customer support for a great example of that. Sometime later I'll get a graph showing the amount of time I spent each year programming and you'll see that following a similar trend as time went on and I was able to hire more software engineers.

    I generally still do. I spend time mapping things out in broad strokes, and when necessary I fill in the smaller details. For Microsite Masters this is potentially the easiest as the broad strokes are innately easier to turn into small details, but for instance with WordAi Version 4 my time will start to go much more back to WordAi as we take the already established "big picture" goals for what types of things WordAi Version 4 will accomplish and figure out the best engineering ways to accomplish those things, as well as how these things should be done to give output that is extremely useful to each user.

    So depending on the scope of what is being done that can manifest itself in a lot of ways, ranging from a single one hour meeting every week, to a half hour meeting every day, to frequent 2-3 hour meetings where we go deep into a specific idea or architecture and the best way to use that algorithm or concept to achieve our goals.

    That is really a bad name and I think I'll rename it for next time. I would consider that task to "Community Manager" which can include writing content, managing the details of the forum, forum moderation, and just about anything else that goes towards effectively nurturing a community.

    Marketing takes up the third most amount of my time and that is even with the first 3-4 months of this year being almost exclusively centered around product development (there is little marketing you can do for a product that doesn't exist yet). As mentioned before I don't do a huge amount of programming now, although I spend a lot of time deeply involved in planning out ideas and algorithms and even sitting down and looking over someone's code while we discuss the best approach to take to tackle a problem - and that is all included under "Product Manager" which is the task I spend by far the most amount of time on.

    So the two things you mentioned, programming and marketing, are two of the three tasks I spend the largest amount of my time on.
     
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  10. sites

    sites Active Member

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    @cardine How long did it take for you to hire your first employee?
     
  11. cardine

    cardine Administrator Staff Member

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    Over the summer in 2012 I had my first "hire" which was a summer intern. After that next year in June 2013 I hired my first full time employee, and I made a second one shortly after. Last summer was my biggest hiring point where I hired five people in the span of 2-3 months, including my very first non technical hire. I've had (what I consider) fairly profitable businesses since 2009-2010 so it was a very slow ramp up for me.

    The biggest thing that led me to hire when I did was the knowledge that I had consistent revenue. The first intern I hired in 2012 was hired when Microsite Masters was successful and stable with the expectation that WordAi would also be successful and stable. My first real full time hires were after both Microsite Masters and WordAi were very successful and stable. I think it would have been harder to hire before then because my revenue was all short term affiliate stuff, so it was very hard to project future revenue, and I didn't have any real "systems" in place that I could easily scale up by adding more people. That was probably the most important thing, along with the revenue, is figuring out what tasks can be scaled up with additional people that will lead to proportionally additional revenue.
     
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