I recently experienced a 12-hour power outage. I had forgotten to charge my laptop. All my devices were just expensive black mirrors. I was limited to writing on paper and reading books. And most of the time, I was in the dark.
This made me think about how I make the best of my time in such situations. Interruptions, unexpected limitations, and external events that impact my productive hours.
It got me thinking about constraints in our lives as solopreneurs, small business owners, and independent creators. We face plenty of constraints, but there are also ways to turn them into opportunities. I was talking to Channing Allen of IndieHackers.com about constraints this week, and he explained to me that dealing with these restrictions is the reason why the Indie Hackers podcast is currently on hiatus. Channing and Courtland just have other and more important things to do.
Let me share a few of my own constraints here today and show you how I approach overcoming them.
One constraint I often feel is my limited ability to do several things at once — which is a problem for a solopreneur. When we’re alone, we wear all the hats at the same time. Sometimes for multiple independent businesses. I run a media business and several SaaS businesses simultaneously. To manage this, I have to be extremely intentional with my focus. I set aside specific time blocks for each business.
Experience this article as a podcast, a YouTube show, or as a newsletter:
My media business is currently my main focus, while the SaaS businesses need less attention. Or, rather, I give them less attention. There is so much I could do there: build features, increase outreach, and amplify marketing efforts. But I choose not to: I am currently all-in on building a media empire.
So, I spend a lot of time online and on social media to gather information for my media work. This includes my newsletter, blog, podcast, and YouTube channel. To avoid dividing my attention too much, I also focus on my deliverables: I set out to create one product each week. That’s all. One essay or article. This then serves as the foundation for all my other content. I turn it into a newsletter, a podcast, a video, and whatever other format I want to see it in. But ultimately, I allow myself to focus on just one thing.
As a solopreneur, I need to control my time and schedule. No one will do it for me. So, I focus on building a process with one source of truth and all other things built on top of that.
I dedicate most of my time to writing my weekly essay or article. At least one day, sometimes even two. The rest of my week is divided between recording interviews for my podcast and other tasks like consulting calls, Twitter teardowns, and, if I want to find the time, working on my SaaS products.
My focus is time-boxed: Monday and Thursday are for working on my solo show, Tuesday and Wednesday are for interview shows; and Friday is for everything else. By setting these boundaries and focusing on one task at a time, I can make the most of my time and manage my constraints effectively.
During the week, I work on my media properties, and I save weekends for myself and my family. I’ve been following this routine for a while now. When I look at the constraints here, they are mostly self-imposed. I want to make sure both my weekly podcast episodes are exciting, instructive, and something I’ll be proud of ten years from now. At the same time, I want to enjoy my family life and not drown in work.
And then, there is my biggest struggle, and I hear from my fellow creators that I am definitely not alone with this.
The challenge that I face the most is staying consistent. I admit, I’m terrible at it. Always struggled with routines and habits.
But with now 269 podcast episodes under my belt, I guess I’ve managed to stay consistent. Didn’t miss a week.
How? I force myself to show up by having set up accountability systems.
Here’s what I was thinking when I started writing for my blog in late 2019. If consistency is my struggle —and I certainly had proof it was back then, having dropped out of university twice— then I need a process that makes it easy to stick with writing. My mind needs to believe that people want what I create. So I found a way to signal that to my brain.
I asked for opt-in.
When people sign up for my newsletter or subscribe to my podcast, I know they want to hear from me. They enjoy learning from it, find entertainment in it, and they deserve to see new content every week. That’s why they signed up. And this mindset helps me overcome my inconsistency. I can see the tangible numbers of readers, listeners, and viewers, such as yourself, right now. Your mere presence right here is the reason I can show up every week.
When you have trouble motivating yourself, and you ask, “Who is it this all for? Why am I doing this?” — the answer is “the people who opted in.” Find them, ask them, and serve them.
The Ultimate Fallacy
And that brings me to another huge and definitely self-imposed constraint: the belief that we have nothing new to say or that everything has already been said. Particularly, subject-matter experts fall prey to this fallacy.
Yes, people may have discussed similar topics before. But that’s not a reason to never talk about it again. Your unique voice and experiences make your content valuable and interesting. And, maybe most importantly, relatable. Approachable. Your followers want you to write about topics they care about. They’re not just there for the content. They’re there for the creator.
This is a strange thing to lean into, particularly if you’re an introvert. We tend to try and stay away from the limelight. We’d rather be in the audience than on stage. But we have a lot to share. Someone is always on the same journey as us, and they can learn even from our most mundane experiences. Consider how much you learned in the last year alone. If you could go back in time and tell yourself what knowledge you’d absorb, would you not be amazed? Well, you can do that, for others, people who are waiting all around you, right now, ready to learn.
I still fall into this constraint a lot. Whenever I write about a commonly discussed topic, I wonder if my interpretation matters. But, every single time, I am pleasantly surprised by the emails and DMs I get after having written about it. Now, four years in, I get a lot of these messages. Back in the day, when I started, there were few. But people who resonate with what you have to say will find ways to show that to you.
Constraints like this can change over time as well. The system that works for you right now might not work in the future or under different circumstances. It’s important to regularly analyze your constraints and adjust accordingly.
I recommend having a self-reflection summit at least once every quarter to evaluate where you stand in this constantly changing world around you. As a creator or entrepreneur, working with a system that isn’t aligned with reality will hinder your success. Your process isn’t and should never be set in stone. By regularly re-assessing what limits you and what defines the boundaries of your work, you also get to outgrow these self-imposed limitations and start to focus on the actual limitations of the markets you operate in.
Recognizing and understanding constraints is crucial to achieving success in any creative endeavor or business venture. So keep them in mind without letting them make decisions for you.