Make progress faster by cooperating: 4 tips to try with your co-founder or co-worker

For a number of years now, I’ve found that I generally always had a “training partner” for my entrepreneurial goals. A few years ago, this was my great friend Khuram, with whom I consistently had a weekly meeting for over a year. In the meeting, we discussed our achievements and challenges to help each other keep pushing forward.

In the world of weight training, it is well known that having a partner helps with motivation and will mean you can lift more and see gains more quickly. Taking this a step further to the area of personal trainers, research has shown that those who switch from training alone, to using a personal trainer see many improvements.

Similarly, pair programming has become relatively well established and has shown to improve the quality of code, as well as keep both developers in “flow” state for a more sustained period of time.

In the recent months I have been using these techniques in my day to day work on Buffer and my personal projects such as blogging. In essence, my co-founder Leo and I act as personal trainers for each other for our work and life goals. Here are a few examples:

Brainstorm blog posts together, in detail

When I started this blog, every post I wrote completely by myself. It can be done that way, but when Leo had come on board Buffer fully as a co-founder, I soon naturally started discussing future posts with him, and he was super encouraging and interested.

These days, I deliberately brainstorm many of my articles with Leo, right down to the individual sections. It makes my writing task much easier, and the posts are better as a result.

Write a list for the next day

One of the activities Leo and I are trying to build as a habit right now, is to sit down together for 20 minutes at the end of each day, and plan the key tasks we each want to do the next day.

We’ve found that whenever we plan the day ahead, we’re much more productive, procrastinate less, and feel happier as a result. This is something I can definitely recommend you do with your co-founders if you’re in the early stages, or if you’re part of a team you could try it with a co-worker.

Pull the other person in, even for your own tasks

Something I’ve just started doing, and encourage Leo to do as well, is whenever there’s something I need to work on myself, and I find myself struggling to get stuck into it, I will book a slot with Leo to ask him to work through it with me.

This is especially useful for analyzing and brainstorming, where you need to map out many things and come to some conclusions. Although I do it with Leo, I am mostly leading it and it is one of those cases where simply explaining something to someone can help me a lot.

Weekly mastermind sessions

Perhaps the most productive two hours of my week are Friday night, where Leo and I always go to Samovar, drink tea and have a systematic mastermind session which I have learned and cultivated over the last few years. We share our achievements and the other person helps celebrate them and point out interesting patterns. Then, we discuss our biggest challenges right now, and help the other person find solutions or adjustments to make to improve. It’s something I look forward to every week, and I make real changes for the week ahead during every session.

Do you have any activities which you do with a co-founder or co-worker which help you to progress faster or increase productivity? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Photo credit: U.S. Pacific Fleet

Focus on the line, not the dot

Yesterday I noticed the Who’s Hiring? thread pop up again on Hacker News. If you’re hiring, it’s a great place to share that fact. Since around half a year ago, we’ve been actively hiring and so I’ve made it a task of mine to post to the thread when it appears on the first of the month.

As I sat down to write the listing for Buffer in the thread yesterday, the writing came very easily. At the same time, those words I wrote on that thread have had a huge impact. The listing itself gained 11 points and was placed 2nd out of all job listings. In the hours that followed, I have received over 30 emails from super interesting people interested in joining the team.

One thing I realized is that the blogging is the reason that this happened. I’ve now written over 70 articles on this blog, mostly around 700-800 words. That’s over 50,000 words I’ve written, and I would guess that by writing that much you are only going to get better. That’s why it came so naturally for me to write that job listing.

How focusing on the dot feels

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You see, what I’ve found is that if I ever stop and try to focus too much on any single article, and try and have a massive impact with one specific article, it becomes very unfulfilling. Although there are one or two article which have had a tremendous impact for me, I had no idea at the time I was writing them.

The way I see it is that when you focus on the dot, you focus on your impact between one workout and the next. You focus on your writing between one blog post and the next. You focus on the quality of your code between one line and the next. This is mostly going to result in disappointment.

As Jess Lee theorised in Why Startup Founders are Always Unhappy, if we focus on a single point in time, we are likely to be less happy.

How focusing on the line feels

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I find one of the most exciting things to be thinking about the line I’m creating with my gym routine. Since I started measuring my bench press performance, I have increased the weight by fifty pounds in six months.

With almost every exercise I do at the gym, I put the weight up by a tiny amount each week. This happens every single week. One week to the next doesn’t feel like huge progress, but if I just extrapolate that trend out, it means that within a few months I am going to be lifting a further twenty or thirty pounds on the bench press. There’s no way I’ll be able to do that without having a higher muscle mass, so therefore in a few months I am going to be in better shape.

Start thinking about being a line

So, my conclusion from all of this is that personally I am much more focused on daily habits and consistency than any single point or any future goal.

Mark Suster said that he invests in lines, not dots. His advice for us as entrepreneurs is to treat our fundraising strategy as a line, not a dot:

dont allocate two months of each year to hardcore funding activities but allocate a regular amount of time each month to it like any other job function.

Ira Glass has a fantastic video which hints at this idea too:

There is a gap. That for the first couple of years, that you are making stuff, what you are making isnt so good. Its trying to be good, it has ambition to be good, but its not that good.

The most important, possible thing you could do is to do a lot of work. Do a huge volume of work. Because its only by actually going through a volume of work that you are actually going to catch up and close that gap.

Are you focused on dots when you might make more progress by focusing on lines, by thinking about consistency? I’d love to hear your comments.

Photo credit: FullyFunctnlPhil