Building in public: 5 things I learned about productivity, personal knowledge management, creativity, and community while launching Calmer Notes (December 2021 update)

I’m so delighted to announce that I have officially launched Calmer Notes: Personal Knowledge Management (PKM) for Busy People. 🎉
Elizabeth Butler, MD, PhD 4 min read
Building in public: 5 things I learned about productivity, personal knowledge management, creativity, and community while launching Calmer Notes (December 2021 update)
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Hi friends! I’m so delighted to announce that I have officially launched Calmer Notes (a couple of days before my projected launch date! 🎉). I’ve had such a warm welcome from the very kind community of early adopters and PKM enthusiasts on Twitter— so grateful! ❤️

As I was going through the launch process, I realized that I learned a number of things while building in public for the first time. I thought I would share them here, in case they help anyone else along their own journey as a part-time creator.

Building in public is less intimidating than I thought

I’m the type of person who usually works on something until it is polished and 100% ready to go. I like to check, and re-check, and perfect things before they go public.

I’ve been following online makers who have adopted the build in public approach, and I found it both inspiring and nerve-wracking. I decided to talk about Calmer Notes while I was working on it, which made me a bit nervous. Would I just spend time talking about the project online without taking any real action? Would I regret my choice to discuss it while it was still under development and might change direction? Would it feel strange to talk about a work-in-progress?

I was pleasantly surprised to realize that building in public wasn’t nearly as frightening as I’d imagined. I quickly came to feel part of a warm, inclusive community of Twitter creators. I even got some kind encouragement along the way from one of my online role models, Marie Poulin, which was so amazing! ☺️ And none of this would have happened if I’d waited to talk about Calmer Notes until it was completely finished and ready for launch.

(Flexible) deadlines help— but add some margin

I set the launch date for Calmer Notes somewhat arbitrarily. I was trying to figure out the pre-order settings on Gumroad,  and ended up just picking December 16, 2021 as a rather random date that was relatively far away, but not quite into 2022.

I had no idea what the intervening months would bring. Family challenges, busy clinical days (and nights) at work, a (non-COVID) viral infection of my own… nothing went according to plan.

But— having a deadline kept me on track. If I didn’t have that date on the calendar, I would have said (quite reasonably) that it wasn’t the right time to finish up Calmer Notes. That I’d launch it later. And push it later again. And again.

Since I had the amazing support of my early adopters cheering me on (see “community makes all the difference” below), I didn’t want to let them down. I didn’t want to push back the deadline— though of course I could have done if things had really gone pear-shaped.

I ended up being able to launch a few days early, in the end.  But if even if I had launched a few days later than planned, it still would have happened. I feel like I was able to successfully ship Calmer Notes as a busy part-time creator because I had a deadline, and the support of a lovely build-in-public community on Twitter.

Community makes all the difference

I am so happy that I tentatively dipped my toe into Twitter while working on Calmer Notes. I have been on Twitter before, but never really connected with the creator, productivity, PKM, and build in public communities there before. I am so grateful for the kind early adopters and cheerleaders that helped to spur me on to actually finish and ship Calmer Notes!

A special shoutout to:

Your kind words and encouragement helped me to make Calmer Notes happen! I am so grateful for your support. ☺️

Draft in Markdown (and keep working in Markdown as long as possible)

I wrote the first draft of Calmer Notes in Markdown (in Bear Notes, if you’re curious). I needed to be able to write on my phone, my iPad, and my computer— and Markdown was great.

In some ways I wish that I had just kept on using Markdown right until publishing— I may have moved from drafting in Markdown into DOC format a bit too soon, in retrospect. For my next book, I might explore Markdown to ebook options... 🤔

I particularly appreciated the focus on headings that is embedded into the Markdown format. It was easy to outline and break down complex ideas by using H1, H2, H3, etc. I feel like building in Markdown helped to keep my writing structured and my thinking more organized, even when I was writing in multiple different, brief sessions as a part-time creator.

Build your infrastructure when your brain is too tired to create

There were some times that I had a bit of spare time at the end of a long day, but I was just too tired to write anything useful. Instead of just 🤷‍♀️ and deciding to read celebrity news instead, I used my half-awake brain to build infrastructure and do some lower-energy admin work.

I set up my workflows on Zapier, Flodesk [affiliate code with 50% off for you, if you're interested!], and Gumroad. I adjusted settings on my main website and my Calmer Notes landing page. I made some promo graphics in Canva.  I made fancy mockups in SmartMockups (highly recommend!).

Basically, when you’re too tired to write, look for some low-hanging fruit to feel like you’re still making momentum.

Hope some of these thoughts may help any fellow part-time creators on their journey! Building in public is the way to go– highly recommend. ☺️

PS - Build your personal knowledge management system with Calmer Notes

Hi friend! 👋 If you came across this post, you might be the kind of person who's interested in personal knowledge management. But maybe you feel like you're too busy to create an organized, methodical note-taking system. Even if it will save you time and free up mental energy in the long run.

I've just launched Calmer Notes: Personal Knowledge Management for Busy People. The Calmer Notes method will take you through the process of creating and maintaining a tailored, mindfully-designed personal knowledge management system to organize your digital notes and files.

This self-paced digital course (digital textbook + workbook + PKM app database) is now available for purchase at Gumroad.

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