Courtland Allen from IndieHackers
Published 26. nov 2017 08:34
Who are you and what do you do for a living?
Hi, my name is Courtland Allen. I've loved computers for a long as I can remember, I've been a full-stack developer since college. Last August I created Indie Hackers (https://www.indiehackers.com). It was acquired by Stripe in March 2017, and I've continued to work on the site full time.
What's your morning routine like?
I'd consider myself big on efficiency, but I've found that repetition from day to day makes time pass much more quickly than I'd like. I spent a couple years doing that once, and didn't create very many new memories. I also find it kind of boring. So I don't have a regular routine.
Instead, I do whatever I'm most excited to do when I wake up. Usually, that's working on Indie Hackers, so I'll grab my laptop and head down to my desk. Other times I'll play some video games, go for a walk, read a book, or lie in bed with my girlfriend.
What's a typical day at work like for you?
Running Indie Hackers is a jack-of-all trades job, and I juggle a lot of tasks throughout the day. At first I hated all of the context switching, but now I've gotten used to it.
I spend more time coding than anything else. Indie Hackers is still evolving as a product and as a community, and since I'm the only person writing code, turning new ideas into reality falls squarely on my shoulders.
The Indie Hackers podcast takes up a solid day every week. I usually allow for 3-4 hours of solid preparation and research for each episode, which includes listening to other podcasts the guest has appeared on and reading things they've written online. Then there's the recording, editing, getting a transcription done, coming up with a name and description for the episode, and deploying the new episode page to the website.
I spend a considerable amount of time talking to people who are starting businesses on the Indie Hackers forum, over email, on Twitter, in various chat rooms, and sometimes in person.
Finally, there's writing. Sometimes I write blog posts and articles of my own, but more often than not I'm helping edit articles that other founders have written for Indie Hackers. When you factor in the Monday+Wednesday+Friday newsletters, regular forum posts, Twitter, and the copious notes I write to myself.
What does your office and desk look like?
I have a desk at the Stripe office now, but I rarely go. Instead, I work from home. I recently moved into a beautiful apartment with high ceilings and a skylight, and I love the atmosphere here, so it's hard to leave.
The apartment came furnished, and I set up my workstation at this huge dining room table made out of redwood. I don't use any special tools, but I do swear by using an actual USB mouse (as opposed to a trackpad) along with an extra large mousepad.
What challenges do you often run into when you're working?
The biggest challenge for me is to spend more time working on the things that matter.
I could spend all day every day responding to emails and tweets, recording podcast episodes, writing newsletters, and chatting and talking and meeting with people, and it wouldn't really move Indie Hackers forward. I'd just be treading water.
And yet it still feels like a constant temptation, even a responsibility.
So the hardest part of my job is constantly prioritizing. What can I skip? What can I ignore? What can I procrastinate replying to? I have to make that decision over and over, every day.
Do you have any good productivity tips?
My number one tip is to find something you love. I love working on big, ambitious projects. I love building and creating things. I would do it if nobody paid me. My social life suffers sometimes because I'm so obsessed with it, and I always have been.
That's the only productivity hack I need.
I'm extremely lucky in that the thing I love doing happens to align so well with what society considers useful, commendable, and productive. But I like to think that if my favorite thing were watching TV all day, I'd find a way to make that my job.
Which tools do you use at work to be productive?
Although I'm not a fan of daily routines, I'm an extremely organized and systematic person. In fact my girlfriend thinks I'm insane.
The tools I use most are Asana to track my tasks and Google Drive for strategizing and storing knowledge. But it's hard for me to recommend them over any other productivity tools, because what you get out of them completely depends on how you use them. They give you enough rope to hang yourself with, so you need a good system.
My goal is to make sure I can always keep track of the big picture of what I'm doing, even while I'm diving into the tiniest of details. No matter what I need to track or record, I've got a place for it, and I'm religious about reorganizing to get rid of old tasks, projects, documents, and other cruft that slows down my write speed.
It's easy to get carried away with this stuff, however, so I avoid taking notes or record tasks just for the sake of it. I try to only record what's necessary for the future.
Another tool I use is Toggl for time tracking. It's just helpful to be able to look back and see where I spend my time. For example, I can tell you that in the past week, I've spent roughly 50% of my working time coding, 16% on the podcast, 15% talking to people, 10% strategizing, etc.
How do you get inspiration to get up in the morning and kick ass?
Whoops, I basically answered this one above. Let me add that I think all of us are different people at different times. Morning Courtland is not the same person as evening Courtland, and November 29th Courtland won't be the same as July 8th Courtland. I have no idea what I'll be be excited to wake up for tomorrow morning, but whatever it is, I want the freedom to be able to do that thing. And if it's nothing, then I'll just lay in bed!
What do you do when you're not working?
I'm a huge nerd. I love watching anime and playing competitive video games like StarCraft. I also read a lot of books, and I have a habit of listening to audio books and podcasts whenever I walk anywhere, even if it's just to the corner store.
One of my big side projects for the past 5 years has been teaching my close friends how to code. (This year it's been helping a friend start and run a business.) Most of my "students" have gone on to do awesome things, and I find it more fulfilling and enjoyable than almost anything else. If you know how to do something, try finding someone who wants to know and giving them a hand!