For a long time I’ve been wanting to write a blog post sharing my experiences and lessons learned, while making Headway Hero: my first real, full-blown online course / membership site. It’s been ride, and I have so much I’d like to share with you!
Regrettably, I haven’t had the time to do so.
For exactly that reason, this blog post is a nosedive straight into the honest, nitty gritty truth of what’s been going on, behind the curtains, at “the WebMatros e-learning sweatshop” 😉
Revising my release schedule
After many considerations: as of today, I will move away from the weekly “new lesson on Monday, Wednesday and Friday” schedule I’ve kept going up to this point.
I could give you “the official” version of the story and consider myself having done a good PR job. But I always wanna be honest, open and keep you in the loop. So here’s the true reasons why I need to revise my plans.
Short story: the aforementioned release schedule is simpy too tight – and too rigid. I find myself not having enough time to do things better and smarter.
Adhering to such a strict schedule makes me too reactive. I lack and miss flexibility and flow. Each video lesson takes me more than a day (one and a half day on average) to produce. So three videos per week takes up pretty much all of my working hours, in any given week.
Apart from leaving too little time for customer support, workflow improvements and making new features; I simply can’t keep pushing myself like this. I’m ashamed to admit I’ve occasionally even been pulling all-nighters until 6 AM and haven’t had time to train martial arts since January 6th.
I needed to stop and revise my plans.
So, sitting here writing this to you, I’ve just come home from training (krav maga) for the first time in months. It feels so great (apart from the fact that I got poked in the eye, haha). And while we mostly practice groin kicks at krav maga, rest assured: I can kick more Headway Hero *ss when fully exercised and healthy.
Being agile while on three deadlines per week?
I’m subscribing to agile development practices. While agile is originally “just” a software development method and philosophy, agile has also found its way into f.e. marketing. And in certain ways, I also use some agile ideas in my daily, private life.
Anyway, solid release dates are rarely seen in agile development! Agile means, well… being agile. Able to move quickly. Switch plans, and find better ways to do things. Cryptically, I’d argue that:
“agile is like the antidote to reactive work patterns, by it being deliberately proactive about acknowledging the reactive, ever-changing nature of modern work and life in general”.
Put more simply, from line four of The Agile Manifesto:
“Responding to change over following a plan”
And from the last lines of the Principles behind the Agile Manifesto:
“At regular intervals, the team reflects on how
to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts
its behavior accordingly.”
In other words: stop, think of ways the processes can be improved for higher efficiency, implement those changes, watch and observe. If not good: improve some more. If all does seem good: still find something to improve.
In what’s known as lean manufacturing (which I’ve read a lot about lately, to supplement and challenge my agile viewpoint) the production-line is stopped, whenever there are errors or a need for revision of the value stream (aka workflow).
A fast food analogy
Producing three videos a week, is like owning a fast food diner, experiencing huge demand for your famous burgers. There’s always a line outside. You’re working like crazy, sweating, but amidst all your frenzied chaos management, you have no time to stop, think, and realise that you need to hire help + need to spend some time researching and implementing better kitchen equipment, so the will get done faster. In the end: you’ll make more money, and the customers will have to wait less time, to get their burger.
Enough about agile kaizen burgers – what about the customers?
Couple that, with the comments I’ve had from course participants who has expressed that they’d enjoy more modular lesson releases. So that you can spend your weekend working through f.e. the Typography lessons, instead of part 1 being released on Friday, leaving you wating for part 2 and 3 until the following Monday and Wednesday, respectively.
And I can certainly understand that sentiment.
The future is bright!
Please be 100% certain, that this is NOT an attempt by me to spend less time on Headway Hero, but the opposite. I wanna find ways to speed up my production workflow, make even better lessons. Improve both the content itself, as well as the delivery / flow of the the content.
Said in another way: I wanna make Headway Hero better, without killing neither myself or my flow, because of mindlessly adhering to a too rigid release schedule.
So what the plan?
This week I’ll be releasing the remaining two Typography lessons. With that, it’s finally to time get really practical with the site we’re building for Jenna Headway – our client and case.
As an example of improvements I’ll make: I’ll soon make it easier for you to get notified of new lessons, so you don’t have to manually login, reload your browser endlessly, three times per week. Watch the course area!
Your suggestions are welcome by the way, so feel free to share them with me in the comments section:)
So: check it out!
David Madarro says
Whatever you need to do, to feel less stress and more happiness, it’s the path you should go. You need time to focus on physical expression, especially when it’s something you really enjoy doing.
Besides, what’s more important in life than health? I often ask this question when I see people who’re working themselves to death, “what’s the point of all this stress, if you won’t be there to enjoy the fruits of your work down the road anyway?”
I haven’t been able to follow along immediately as you’ve released lessons, as I’ve been way too busy with client work, but when I do watch your lessons I watch several in one sitting, and most of them I watch 3-4 times so that I can thoroughly grasp the concepts.
I learn much easier this way, as opposed to the more sporadic approach.
You’re doing great Oliver, your course is already the most original and authentic I’ve come by, and that’s saying a lot, considering it’s the first time you’re doing this, and I’ve taken countless of courses over the years. Lynda.com got nothing on you 😉
Whenever I’m so stressed with work that I find myself skipping my daily workouts, and thereby reducing my quality of life, I pause and reflect, and this quote by Seneca always pops up in my head:
“There is nothing the busy man is less busied with than living: there is nothing that is harder to learn.”
Oliver Nielsen says
On the other hand; it says a lot about what one is passionate about (many people can’t seem to find it) when one can’t help doing it:) I mean, there’s no boss telling me to do this – I’m just excited about the possibilities of sharing what I know, with nice people who can benefit from it, using the tools I have.
The latter, the tools, is key to the experience, for me personally. I really enjoy applying what I “know” theoretically, in a practical manner. So when reading a book about f.e. presentation techniques or typography or time management: I apply it. It’s in the application that the rubber meets the road. That things get tough. But it’s what makes the learning the skill worth it, in the end.
Profound Seneca quote. I’ve put it in a sticky note on my Mac OS X Dashbaord.
PS: Good to hear your clients keep you busy;-p
I´m on vacation and I can see clearly now how our everyday “crush” is not good at all. Give time to time, work will always exist, and it´s better to know our capacity and timelines to deliver the job not in a satisfactory way, but a better one.
Have a nice journey in your Headway course, it´s already by far the most comprehensive one. And remember, happiness is the main goal, for us, bosses and clients.
Oliver Nielsen says
Thanks Cesar! You’re right. I tend to forget that. I do remember to go on long walks and do relaxation and mindfulness exercises daily, though. Essential.
It’s difficult to detach when one loves what one does so much 😀
I hope your vacation is going great and superseding all expectations!
Jos Vermeulen says
You are doing very well, and if you will do better this way (as you make me believe) please do it. Headway Hero taught me already so much, that I can only welcome the fact that you want to do it even better.
I am looking forward to every new lesson and will keep on doing so even if it takes a month to complete a video (although I would regret that a little bit 😉
Take your deep breaths and get happier!
Oliver Nielsen says
Thanks Jos:) Yes, I’ll keep on breathing and improving the course, and delivery of the content. To me, Headway Hero is just about to begin.
If only I could clone myself (not said from a narcissistic viewpoint – haha) or grow more hands. Like a hindu god:D That would be great!