The Insightful Optimist - Nº3

· Posted on
February 5, 2021

Welcome to the 3rd issue of The Insightful Optimist. What a few weeks it’s been! From Kobe’s death anniversary to the rise of retail investors and Reddit’s impact on the fight against Wall Street through the Gamestop’s stock manipulation shitstorm 🤯

However, that’s been covered enough, so what I’d like to focus on in this issue is:

  • Tools that helped tremendously in managing my startup business.
  • How I went from being nutritionally deprived, always injured and having allergies to essentially everything that exists to being healthy, energised and with no illnesses whatsoever.
  • My tribute to Kobe.

If you’ve liked the previous issues and know someone that would enjoy and benefit from these, it would mean a lot if you would forward this email for them to subscribe. ❤️

So, without further ado.

Let’s get to it.

Startups

When I started my first business back in 2015, there was no management. No project, people or asset management, these things simply didn’t exist in my world. Everything was an absolute mess. My emails, notes, marketing material, wireframes and designs were all over the place. I did most of my tasks ad-hoc and had no clear plan in place. And this was still OK in the beginning, when it was just me and my co-founder, but when we started getting people on board, doing sales and involving other partners, that’s when shit hit the fan and all of the flaws were brought to light.

So, after quite a bit of test and trial throughout the years, I have eventually found tools and processes that work best for me and the company, so I’d like to share those with you.

NOTE: this is for a tech startup, so these tools are tailored for that.

Team communications

What failed: Email

What worked: Slack

From previously working in an office and at university, everything was done through email. I never liked email, struggled to track conversations and files/feedback would get lost and miscommunication was a normal occurance. Luckily, not too long ago Slack came along. It was strange…there didn’t seem to be anything special about the platform, it was simply a chat. With channels. But we just decided that we’re going to replace our emails with Slack and see how it goes. It’s been 4 years and we’re still using it and loving it. I guess we weren’t the only one’s seeing that Slack recently were aqcuired by a whopping $27.7 billion.


Project management

What failed: Excel, Monday.com, Jira, Asana

What worked: Trello

This was a biggie and took me a long time to crack. We started with what we knew at the start, which was Excel Sheets and of course, once tasks started piling up it completely failed. Next was Monday.com. I will say that there is a caveat on this one: we joined the platform when it was in Beta so it was quite limited to what you can do and it has come a long way since then. However, at that point, it simply wasn’t good enough as we needed more than just 3 states of Pending, In Progress and Completed.

Jira was the platform that I have used before and that was already well established, but the UI/UX of it always bothered me so it was a short lived trial on that one.

Finally it was a showdown between Asana and Trello. I love both platforms, but in the end it seemed that they had 2 different purposes: one was more suited for long-term, in-depth projects (e.g. if your'e a marketing agency and each client has a separate project) and the other, Trello, was more suited for small, immediate tasks that change states quickly. The latter was us, so Trello fit us perfectly and we fell in love with it immediately. Today, I can’t see my day without it, both for business and personal tasks.

Here’s an example of how we use it on a daily basis, splitting tasks into Active, Next Up, Waitlist, For Review, Accessibles and Done/Archive.

How our Trello board looks nowadays
How our Trello board looks nowadays


App development progress and tracking

What failed: Google Docs, Excel, Trello

What worked: GitHub

We have used Excel for our product development progress tracking and issue reporting for a while and it worked to an extent. We had 2 different Excel sheets, one for feature requests and the other for bug reports.

Some examples of our previous reporting
Some examples of our previous reporting

However, as you can tell from the screenshots above, it can get quite noisy. When we discovered Trello, we thought it would work for app development tracking as well, but it didn’t. It could only support the high-level stuff, but when it came to assigning tasks to developers, attaching documents, tracking progress of issues etc. everything got lost in the end.

Luckily for us, GitHub made a huge update at just the right time, which allowed us do everything we needed and more. Now, everything is assigned to monthly milestones, each milestone having assigned tasks and new tasks are added after we find bugs after testing. Once issues are resolved and tasks finished, the issues are closed and the milestone is marked as complete, but the great thing is that each of the task/issue report always holds the conversation trail, code updates and timeline, so whenever there’s miscommunication or unforseen issue with the app, we always have access to our historical progress data. Win.

Oh, and now that Atlassian acquired Trello, they introduced the same Kanban layout for projects. So essentially, we are using Trello, but simply on Github with development-related functionality only. Even bigger win.


Company/team management

What failed: N/A

What worked: GSuite (now Workspace)

This one is short and sweet. We didn’t have anything in place, only a Google account. Then we discovered Gsuite.

It provides us with our company emails, Gdrive holds our crucial files as backup, we use Google Calendar for all our meetings, holiday bookings etc. and Google Docs for collaborating on blog posts, articles, scripts and anything else written.

It was a no-brainer from the get-go. Just Google being Google.


Product design and feedback

What failed: Marvel App, Invision, Sketch

What worked: Adobe XD

When we first started designing our app, UI-specific platforms didn’t yet exist, so we used Photoshop. Yikes.

Then came along Sketch, a revolutionary design platform created solely for User Interface design. The only downside? The app was forever going to be available only on MacOS and for us, that was a deal-breaker (not every startup has enough funding to provide everyone with Macbook Pro’s!)

So we continued using Photoshop and used both Invision and Marvel App to create prototypes and get collaborative feedback after exporting EVERY SCREEN as a PNG image and uploading to those platforms. Needless to say, it was a ballache.

Then came along Adobe XD, a direct competitor to Sketch which we were anticipating coming after Sketch’s success. Adobe XD was all we needed. It allows us creating simply UI elements, it allows creating animated prototypes, it can generate a public or private link that then can be sent to anyone to give feedback on each screen design separately and has loads of different plugins available to enhance the design experience.

Honorable mention: Figma

We use Adobe XD mostly due to the fact that it came before Figma and worked great for us and also because we subscribe to a yearly Adobe Creative Suite package to use their other products. If we didn’t, I’d 100% jump on using Figma: a web-based design platform that allows real-time collaboration. It’s easy, can be accessed anywhere without downloading any apps and has all the features, if not more, that Adobe XD has.


So that’s pretty much it, everything you need to manage your team, your projects, your files and assets. It has never been easier to start and run a business thanks to digital innovation, so make sure you use it!

Health

Very similarly to how I’ve discovered and learned how to manage, plan and have better control over my startup business, same goes for my internal mechanism: my mind.

I was always a ‘go with the flow’ type of guy, and that helped me tremendously to not overthink things and take action. However, once I started running a business, managing people, projects, family and juggling multiple other things, my mind became all over the place and I couldn’t ‘go with the flow’ anymore as my ‘flow’ was disrupted. I didn’t feel depressed, stressed out or any other negative emotion. However, I knew I could be more focused.

So, around 2018 I have started to meditate. Nothing special, 5min on average 5 times per week using the Headspace app. At first, those 5 minutes were SUPER hard. It was awkward, uncomfortable, my mind was racing and bouncing off walls. I couldn’t focus on just my breathing, just the sounds, parts of my body. There was always some whisper in my head constantly reminding  that there’s something I should do, suggesting solutions to problems at work, thinking of roster changes in my fantasy basketball team…I almost labelled myself as ‘meditation is not for me’. The easy escape. The one which Gary Vaynerchuk essentially uses.

And as much as I love him and what he’s doing, this was the one area I never agreed with him. Making strong statements and having strong opinions like this without ever trying it. How can you say something’s not for you based purely on assumptions? I struggle to see how someone can meditate, be in  ‘flow’ and with heightened sense of awareness being constantly surrounded by a camera crew following your every move, never giving yourself a moment to sit with your feelings, proclaiming that you were born gifted.

So, thanks to my wife keeping me accountable, I stuck with it. Eventually it ‘clicked’ and became an absolute blessing. I went from doing 5min sessions from time to time to doing 20min daily. I thought I was focused and clear, but after the daily meditation sessions I realised that that wasn’t real focus, it was just me thinking I was because I didn’t know the alternative. You don’t know what you don’t know until you know.

And today, I don’t have rules for this anymore, sometimes I do it for a few minutes, sometimes for longer. Sometimes it is a full on meditation practice, sometimes it’s pure visualisation and manifestation practice, and sometimes it’s just being still for a bit and embracing the ‘now’.

There’s no right or wrong way to do meditation, as long as it works for you, makes you feel good and you feel replenished and ready to go afterwards. We keep getting ourselves distracted with TV, music, podcasts, radio…there’s barely any time we are completely with ourselves without someone putting their toughts and opinions into our heads.

So make time to focus on yourself, to reflect, to rediscover things about yourself and get in the ‘flow’. It’s awesome.  

Basketball (Kobe Tribute)

I will keep this short. I’m a Celtics fan. Always was. And by default, Lakers were our rivals and a team I hated. But deep down, every time I watched the Lakers play against the Celtics, I couldn’t help of being in awe and amazement of Kobe’s greatness. He was everything I love about basketb…actually…sport, and to an extent: life.  

Kobe has showed me what is capable of man when he is led by passion, obsession, positivity, intelligence, heart, dedication and work ethic.

They said you can’t win rings without Shaq, you won 3 after he left. Before your very last basketball game, Shaq said you couldn’t score 50 points. You scored 60. People questioned your number change from 8 to 24, you put together one of the best performance in history, dropping 81 on the Raptors. People questioned whether you’d be capable of anything else than basketball and the very first thing you do is become the first basketball player to win an Oscar for Best Animated Short Film titled “Dear Basketball”. This list could go on and on.

You’re an inspiration and always will be. Love you KB.

RIP.


Yours truly,

Celtics fan ☘️


P.S. I cried and laughed when my first child was born last year on 8/24. He will always know how special this birthdate is.

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©2021 Jonas Urbonas