day 23

missed out on the $1,000 prize, which went to those in the top 10. my update was warmly received, but wasn’t exceptional. didn’t get much constructive feedback in terms of what to improve on. not too sure how i can improve it that much. i haven’t lost much ground from the top 10 since the first week with the poor initial report. wondering if this will continue to affect the ranking. probably not.

i’ve got to most flat this week which makes things difficult, but i still want to put myself in contention. i think i need to stop focusing on polish and ship an app with users. for ballpark i can drill this down to core features:

  • list current running pre-game events.
  • win ballpark points for these
  • some games have cash prizes
  • leaderboards
  • profile history page

got an investor event on friday. if i can somehow get an app ready for then it could also progress fundraising talks.

not sure what a dream update could look like as i do think i’m constrained by being one person working on a pre-launch app.

let’s just play the hand well.

day 20

woke up early and managed to add a few defensive features to the site, mainly proper session management. spoke to several users to solicit product feedback and in general it aligns with what i’m working on: mainly leaderboards and some form of progression system. for now i feel like i’m quite in-synch with the user and what they want.

pitched someone the vision and that went well. they were very curious about the idea, how it could work form a monetary perspective, the challenges faced and why it hasn’t been done before - all of which i can give very confident answers towards. they want to move the conversation forwards, which is a great sign.

i’m not too sure on issues like valuation and haven’t even incorporated yet, but it’s great getting external feedback and helps more the project forwards.

i’ll submit my weekly update tomorrow - feel like it’s been a good week even though i’ve missed some goals which were lofty. that said, i’ve expanded in areas i didn’t fully expect, such as fundraising. next week i really want to focus a lot more on the project and building out proper features.

day 19

writing the strategy document. it’s fun, but i haven’t written in a while. it’s hard, and while i usually relish something difficult, i’ve been finding it hard to motivate myself for it.

i find coding a lot easier, as you’re presented with novel problems and you know when you’ve solved them. the feedback and progress is obvious. with writing it’s hard to know if you’re making progress, as for me at least, i’m constantly judging what i’ve written against a very vague criteria.

it’s easy to question whether i’m doing the most productive thing i can, and even what that should be, but it’ll be nice to have something to point to that justifies what i’m working on, beyond coding an app for people to use.

day 18

reached out to a member of my pioneer board. they have a history of marketing consumer startups, and my question concerned strategic positioning for ballpark, in terms of how it’s branded/communicated to users.

the default is big and broad: it’s an app to make predictions on live events, whether that’s formula 1 or love island. doesn’t matter, same app.

another option is to focus on a niche community and conquer that. say, formula 1. just run it for them, make them love it, and then expand. this follows the popular advice of ‘get 100 users who love you then expand’, and monopolising a smaller demographic and expanding.

the community to target could be varied - underrepresented sports is another one, as this would also promote some social good, and there does also seem to be a rising demand for the consumption of minority sports, and this could benefit.

it just seems weird leaving a massive chunk off the table. would love some thoughts on this as the strategies seem mutually exclusive.

day 17

css styling. boring. tedious. not making much visible progress. i think i need to more precisely define what i want the launched mvp to look like. i already have my validation, but then considering pioneer, you can’t just keep providing updates like ‘coded more…’. i wouldn’t necessarily say that it promotes short-term thinking, but an element of it is pandering to the crowd.

i said in my update i wanted to lauch an app in the week, which was definitely ambitious, but i considered that i was only really competing against myself, and that it’s okay to fail goals. i haven’t made any technical progress towards this and i’m unlikely to achieve it. 1 week for an app port with other commitments does seem like a big ask. i don’t think i should take too much of a punishment for it, but definitely want to debrief how i picked that goal and what i could have done differently on either side.

finding concentration a little harder to achieve. i kind of like it because when everything is going well, you don’t learn as much. i have to learn to focus when i don’t want to, and believe i can make good gains in this area.

day 16

results from the voting came in and it was good: I moved up from ~100th to ~30th globally, so definite improvement. still around the same gap to 1st place though. not sure where you have to place to be awarded the prize, but all i can do is keep making progress and going forwards.

it’s good for accountability, and those leaderboards really do work. it’s also promising as ballpark uses a similar mechanic.

something i’ve tried to do is reach out more to other pioneers, especially those in my village, but there doesn’t seem to be that willingness, which is understandable. i feel like i’m taking it a little more serious than most…

practising my pitch every now and then as have a meeting in a couple of days that could turn out to be an investment opportunity. i feel confident about the vision of ballpark and where it’s going, and i’m not desperate (at the moment), which works in my favour.

day 15

did the voting, and seems like several others have made very good progress. it’s motivating to see.

on the other side, it does seem hard to fairly judge from an ambiguous metric such as ‘progress’. some projects have pitched multiple VCs and given talks at conferences, but then have ten people working on them and have been launched for years. it’s hard to compare to pre-launch projects with a single person working on it.

worked on the automatic emailing system for ballpark, including the styling of the email template. when in circles for a few hours but drilled through and got a finished result, which i’m happy with. sent a deck out to a few investors and we’ll see what happens.

day 13 and 14

weekend, birthdays, socialising.

submitted an update and made it more presentable this time. bullet pointed with emojis, used more figures and mentioned more discrete achievements.

happy with my work this week and happy with the update.

day 12

spent most of the day drafting a version of a pitch deck i want to show to investors.

haven’t thought too much about fundraising strategy at the moment and have been focusing on building. considering how much of a full time job fundraising can be, i’m apprehensive to start down that path before having the product in a presentable state.

there’s always a trade-off though and it’s a common, re-occuring problem: that in a vacuum, it’s often hard to work out what the most effective job you can be doing right now. naturally i consider that to be building the product, as that’s ultimately what grows the project and helps accomplishes the long term goal, but by working with others and raising capital, it obviously allows the productivity levels of the project to increase.

there could also be the case where i’m avoiding fundraising because it’s hard, whereas sitting in a chair and coding all day is easier.

day 11

still just working on moving the site from statically generated to dynamically. changed the database architecture, and basically rewriting a lot of the styling and functionality to remove technical debt.

progress is good and it’s a necessary task, but it’s not as exciting as it has been before. similarly, as i’m working as a team of one, it’s easy to think that progress isn’t being made. just got to keep my head down.

day ten

got access to the board builder for being in the top 100. chose people who had experience with consumer startups. the idea is to ask questions and get feedback, but i definitely want to use this as an opportunity to stand out. have held back on the introduction as want to get to a launch asap.

been deep in css styling for ballpark. it’s not fun and the progress is minor, but it’s a one time job. hard to stick with it as it’s tedious and often illogical work. seeing this as a hard stage to stay motivated for, which makes it easier to stay motivated.

day nine

today started well. implemented the design for the post-game on boarding. spent a while playing with animation styles, which were tricky to integrate in the way i wanted to. eventually left these as there’s a lot of other, more essential jobs to be done for the MVP launch on friday. it won’t make or break the product.

think i need to pull back on the mid-day jiu jitsu, as I find it difficult to get back into work. it’s a shame as i really enjoy it. it’s something i’ll look to improve.

generally pretty happy with my pioneer strategy. i’m putting in effort into the game, in terms of feedback and messaging other players. it’s fun.

first round scoring is in, and i took an absolute beating on the weekly updates. dropped from 1st to 95th. my ignorance of the voting format played a little part. i know what i need to do now. time to cover that ground.

so i’m going to reverse engineer the perfect weekly update, as these have a huge role in determining your score. quite simply it’s 280 characters of the progress you made in the week, and 280 about what you want to do next week.

i said i wanted to have shipped the MVP: meaning admin dashboard and initial product.

this is what i want to put as my progress:

  • launched MVP: front-end, back-end, emailing, stats
  • 500+ signups
  • pitch deck developed and sent

to accomplish next week:

  • mobile app launch in app store
  • have two investor meetings
  • instagram & SEO strategy
  • get a paid sponsor for a game
  • prototype new features and games (achievements)

day eight

week two. submitted my update and review others’. it was a fun process and my feedback mainly fell into three categories

voting was a good exercise purely for the reflexive aspect: by judging others’ projects, it helped to see how mine compared and where it could improve. ballpark itself is going well, but i’ll improve the way i communicate this in the updates. bullets not sentences.

day six and seven

did a tiny bit of styling work on the saturday, but in total it was about an hour’s worth of work. sunday was a complete zero.

i’m considering these days as rest days, which irks me a tiny bit but i think falls comfortably in the category of work-life balance. it’s something i struggle with as i have a tendency to feel guilty enjoying myself, but i’m in my 20s in a great city with great friends and it’s summer. being able to spend time with them is not only valuable and something i can’t see myself regretting, but probably beneficial for my productivity.

working alone isn’t ideal, and so balancing this out with a social release creates greater gains in my emotional wellbeing which seep through into my work. i also think it’s a good opportunity to re-frame and re-motivate for the coming week.

day five

good sleep, good eating, good working.

i’m at a state now where i have an effective system: i know how much i need to sleep and how to do it, and i have a structured productivity scheme that i can measure my performance against. execution of this protocol is the easy part.

i’m still feeling confident about the ballpark project. feedback is consistently good - what questionmarks there are at the moment all lie with me and in things i can control, which is a state of affairs i’m comfortable with.

for next week, i plan to make these updates more specific regarding the technical work i’m doing. i feel like the scope of the first week was to find productivity habits, and now i want to increase the granularity of these entries. i think this’ll help me clarify my vision and integrate smaller parts into a wider vision. excited for this switch-up.

day four

sleep was poor due to personal reasons. used it as an opportunity to be more conscious of my mental processes when i knew i wasn’t fully rested. found it hard to drill into a task, and after an hour or so of trying resigned myself to less cognitively-intense tasks, such as market research and user interviews.

didn’t have the ‘drive’ to start a pomodoro, which i guess is both good and bad. i like it because it’s an identifiable sticking point, and it also means i’m ‘respecting’ the protocol.

day three

used the pomodoro technique today. 25 mins in, 5 mins break - strictly no distractions for that time. it worked very well. did 14 ‘pomodoros’ for just under six hours of constant work.

what i specifically like about it is that it translates work into a grammar i understand: sets and reps. it’s an easy target to increase the amount of ‘sets’ (25 min blocks) per day, which is something i’ll track.

many times i got to the end of 25 mins and was prompted to take a break, but didn’t want to. i feel for writing and reading, this may be fine, but did feel like it dragged me out of a state of deep work, and that i could have continued. i’m interested in experimenting with the format: longer reps (e.g. 40 minutes) but for now would rather not complicate things.

ballpark is still at a stage where i’m coding everything up. got stuck wrapping my head around react-spring and cohesively integrating that animation package - it’s important i do it right as UX is a fundamental component of the project. whenever i get stuck i’m tempted to fuck it, drive on, and put out a viable product, but remind myself that i’ve already got the validation, and now we’re playing for keeps.

considering it’s just coding, the only thing i’m optimizing for right now is distraction-free work. pomodoro seems good for now.

tomorrow’s goals:

  • 15+ sets of 25mins

ballpark is the project i’m working on for the tournament. it’s currently a website where you can make free predictions about live events, and win real prizes. i tried it out for a few events, posting it to reddit, and got thousands of signups and very positive user interest.

managing games was rather arduous, and so with some form of market validation, i’m taking a step back and recoding the site in NextJS and developing a proper API. i will then create a mobile app for it.

a video for posterity

day one

woke up rested, did jiu jitsu and went to the office. felt very positive and motivated.

asked in the village discord about productivity systems and how to track progress. got a range of responses from picking a metric to ‘just do it’. the latter being the approach i usually adopt.

a couple villagers spoke highly of the simple idea of breaking down a larger task into its component parts, and ticking them off. someone mentioned the tracking software toggl to monitor hours, which i’ll start using tomorrow and see how i get on.

project specifics:

  • implemented a functioning dashboard with a GUI for adding games
  • created API functions to handle the game creation requests, and to serve games to the front end

tomorrow i want to style the front end that i’m coding in nextJS, and ideally port all of the static site over. every layout just entered the zeitgeist and skimmed that. feels like i’ve already ingratiated most of the concepts, but should serve as a good guide to allow for a solid design system that’ll be easy to expand on.

playing to win the pioneer tournament starting today. this will be a log of my progress and to help me actively reflect on the strategy i’m using to play.

my project for the tournament is ballpark - an app that allows users to win real prizes by making free predictions on their favourite events.

the tournament at a glance:

  • outline and define a project you want to work on
  • develop your project and help others develop theirs
  • you log your weekly contributions and others vote on the value of these
  • these factors form a points score and you’re ranked in a leaderboard
  • place at the top of the leaderboard and win $7,000, a round-trip to silicon valley, and access to world-class mentorship.

my goals:

  • develop a greater understanding of what behvaiours contribute to my productivity
  • form valuable mutually beneficial relationships with impressive people
  • develop a writing habit / increase my accountability
  • win the money & the plane ticket

my initial playing strategy:

  • sleep well - no alarms
  • be helpful - offer feedback for other players in your village
  • physical exercise every day - mainly bjj and weightlifting
  • eat well
  • nine hours of ass-in-chair work, six days a week