Doing difficult things is tough – we need to give ourselves all the advantages we can.

In yesterday’s post I explained that having a

  • Quiet place to work

  • A clean place to work

  • Working in blocks

  • Drinking three waters a day

All make it much easier to do difficult things.

In today’s post, I’ll look at other lessons I’ve learnt from my last three months of trying to build my startup Streakoid.

  • Don’t watch YouTube/Netflix

  • Don’t go on your Phone

  • Don’t go on social media

  • Listening to or watching a relevant talk about building a startup

  • Reading a nonfiction book

No YouTube

This is one I struggle with the most. I’ve done well to avoid alcohol, drugs, food and TV.

But my big downfall is YouTube. I love watching videos about startups, technology, and random vlogs.

When I pictured myself building a startup, I always imagined it would work from when I woke until I fell asleep.

Obsessed with the project I wouldn’t want to waste anytime.

This hasn’t been the case. I started off like this but over the months I’ve lost some discipline.

My brain still craves some time to watch YouTube videos.

Throughout the last three months I’ve had stints with no YouTube. During these periods I got a lot of work done.

Other days I’ve watched two hours a day.

When I don’t allow myself to watch YouTube at all, I allow myself to get bored. Working on Streakoid becomes the only fun things to do.

But when I’m letting myself watch YouTube, my brain craves the dopamine hit that comes from it.

Youtube is worse than TV

I believe watching TV is the biggest waste of life. But this makes me a hypocrite, because I watch YouTube.

YouTube can also mean Netflix, any video watching on your phone will take away your ability to do difficult tasks.

I’d argue that YouTube is worse than TV because you can watch it at anytime.

There a few problems YouTube causes that stops you from doing difficult things.

It’s easy to dumb out to YouTube. When you’re taking on a difficult challenge, your brains going to suffer. It will crave easy ,there is nothing easier than sticking a YouTube video on your phone and watching the time go by.

Whether it’s informative, funny or stupid doesn’t matter. It eats away at your time.

We all feel like there’s too the little time in the day.

When I feel like I’m not making progress, I feel defeated.  I do less work, which makes me more stressed.

The stress causes me to stay up later. I want to avoid work.

Getting time to work on your difficult task is an issue.The problem with YouTube is that it takes your time away from you. It’s so easy to have a short break turn into two hours of stupid videos.

The only success I’ve had is to ban YouTube altogether.

The problem is you can say: “I need it for the educational resources”.

YouTube a valuable tool for this. Getting access to talks from startup founders has been helpful for me.

But the recommendations engine will drag you to a bad place.

YouTube consumption got bad for me when I was recovering from surgery in the first month. It bummed me out after paying my hospital bill.

While I was waiting to fly home I set in my room only leaving to grab food watching David Dobriks vlog. He’s this 20 something year old living in LA.He has good friends and a fun life. My brain loved his short videos. Ever since it’s been craving more.

If you want to get time to focus on your difficult tasks, you should get rid of all online video.

No phone

Similar to YouTube, your phone makes everything stressful.

Messenger, WhatsApp, and LinkedIn  notifications come in all day.

When your phone is there, it’s tough not to look. This is by design.

The problem is, if you are checking your phone, you’re not giving yourself the chance to enter a flow state and do your work.

Allowing yourself to check your notifications takes control away from your life. Your phone controls you.

You should leave your phone in the other room.

I’m ok with ignoring notifications most of the time.

It’s been a problem when I’ve been developing the mobile app as I have to use my phone, which makes me a lot more likely to check a notification when it comes up.

If I’m struggling with the code, scrolling through Facebook and numbing out is always an attractive idea.

It takes a lot of self control to not check it when it’s buzzing.

What if it’s an emergency? 

It could be a friend wanting you to go out?

Maybe it’s a wealthy distant relative that’s just sent me a mysterious inheritance message?

Hearing the buzz, is a problem because even if you don’t look at it, it distracts your attention.

Wondering what the notification is Breaks your train of thought.

My best work over the last three months has been when my phone is out of the room. I forget about it.

After work, I’ll be like “oh, should check my phone.”

Social media

If I want to put myself in a bad mood, all I need to do is go on Facebook. Being in a bad mood makes it difficult to work.

I don’t have Twitter, Instagram or Snapchat so I avoid most of it.

But I scroll through Facebook for no reason and it makes me sad. It makes me sad because it forces me to compare my life to others.

Starting a business, blogging about it and my other experiments can be lonely. It’s mostly thankless work.

When I see friends from the past having the time of their life, it makes me question if I’m making the right decision locking myself in my room.

“Oh that looks fun”. 

“I wish I was there.”

Comparing myself to others is always a bad option.

Even worse than that, it makes taking on a difficult task worse.

It’s already hard enough to sit in front of a blank screen and write.

Or come up with a new feature on Streakoid from scratch and then code it.

But it makes it much harder if I know people are out in bars, travelling or out for dinner instead.

Reading a non-fiction book

The world can be negative.

When you’re talking on a difficult task, it can be tough for your friends and family to understand why you want to do it.

I see the horror in people’s eyes when I tell them I quit my fancy job to build my app.

I know that people make fun of me for these blogs.

My family can’t understand why I’d want to lock myself away to build it.

Seeking difficult work is unconventional. Many people are happy with comfort.

That’s ok but if you need to do something difficult, it’s nice to surround yourself with positivity, or like-minded people.

This can be tough.

For me I’m in rural Ireland at the moment meetups or like-minded people are far away. I’ve substituted actual people with non-fiction books.

I find if I can read half an hour a day of a good book about a problem I’m having I come up with better ideas, I’m in a better mood and I feel a lot more positive about the situation.

Some books have given nonfiction a bad rep.

But there are some excellent reads that have lasted the test of time.

When you say you’re reading non-fiction you make yourself a target to people who think it’s all get rich schemes and affirmations.

But it’s more than that.

It’s insights and practical guides into some of our greatest thinkers, for any topic or problem you’re facing.

You can read biographies of your heros.

Guides on how to do things

Or get frameworks for the problem you’re solving.

A funny thing happens to me when I’m reading non-fiction every day. I feel more sure of myself.

Without them I question what I’m doing. I’m more influenced by the people around me who don’t want to take on difficult tasks.

But with them, they help me focus and give me access to better ways of thinking.

This all sounds fluffy, but try it.

You don’t have to scream and shout to the world that you’re reading it.

Think of the books as a mysterious, successful family member who appears every once in a while.

There are other tactics I’ve picked up over the last few years, but the above rules offer the most bang for your buck.

Try them and let me know how you feel about them.

Any thoughts or optimisations are always welcome.