Figure Out What Matters

Most of this blog post by Ev Williams is great and might be worth your time if you have a moment to spare but the most impactful thing for me came at the very end as he closes his argument and thoughts around focusing on what matters most:

Numbers are important. Number of users is important. So are lots of other things. Different services create value in different ways. Trust your gut as much (or more) than the numbers. Figure out what matters and build something good.

This couldn’t be more true for the small-time, side project driven indie developer who’s literally counting everything that their doing (e.g. sales, traffic, profit, loss, marketing spend, users, ad nauseum…).

I know even for myself I wake up every morning and review the website traffic (and blog traffic) from the previous day, the # of new users to our growing community forum, and, of course, the number of sales that I made to keep the ship going.

All of that information can be obtained, quite literally in a matter of minutes so it doesn’t take much time in the slightest! But (and this is a very big “but”…) it can account for a ton of lost time as I mull and meditate and grind mentally on those figures.

What happens (and only if I let it happen) is that I may review one particular metric that did poorly and it might ruin my day (or at least side-track me for a few hours). Here’s what happens mentally in my own head and thinking:

Wow… … … 3 sales yesterday… 1 promo code… … … … … … I should never have done this. I should quit. The world hates me and my app. I don’t know what I’m doing and… I suck.

3-salesYou see, my mind can spiral out of control when I allow it to. It can get so negative so quickly!

This isn’t a fictitious example, by the way, it really happened (as you can see by the screenshot).

On November 8th, 2014, Desk App was downloaded 4 times, 3 purchases and 1 use of a promo code.

Mind you, I launched the app barely over a week prior to this record-low sales day and I thought my life was over. After only one week on the market I thought that people had already “gotten over” the app and that no one cared for it and that my hopes for making back my initial marketing investment was completely sunk.

Historically, that didn’t happen and November 8th was (and still is) the lowest selling day ever, but I was reminded, very clearly, that focusing on the wrong things and the wrong numbers can completely side-track and distract me from what I’m really supposed to be doing with my time.

That’s why I love Ev Williams’ quote so much. He isn’t saying that numbers are bad (they are very good and important) but what he is saying that it’s not everything and it’s not most important. What I had to do was remind myself that the sales figures, although important, were not at the top of the list.

What was (and still is) at the top of the metaphorical food chain is a quality product and making sure that version 1.0 isn’t the first and last version to make it to market. The sales have come (thankfully) but my mission still stays the same.

Figure out what matters and build something good.

Thanks for the reminder Ev.