Todoist Founder, Amir Salihefendic, Talks About Never Giving Up

Todoist Founder, Amir Salihefendic, Talks About Never Giving Up
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I have to admit that I am a productivity junkie. And I have been on a journey to find the best tool to help me be more productive. I have gone from pen and paper to applications, back to pen and paper.

But all of these tools always fell short of helping me be more productive. Fortunately, I came to understand that the tool was not the problem – I was the problem.

I was…

  • unfocused
  • distracted
  • saying yes to every request

It was only after following Michael Hyatt that I actually began to understand what it meant to be productive.

Once I started modeling Hyatt, I began to realize that no tool can help you be productive until you start…

  • focusing on what matters
  • discarding distractions
  • saying no to requests

Once I was focused, I returned to my search of finding a tool that would help me get things done – Todoist is the application I found.

I manage many writing projects and sometimes it gets stressful and Todoist helps me stay on task. In part because of its simple design.

Todoist has been an invaluable tool. So I wanted to reach out to Amir Salihefendic, founder of Todoist and talk to him about his story.

The Interview

So Amir, what's your story?

The truth is, I never seen myself as an entrepreneur. And I didn't initially start Todoist with a big company or big service in mind. The step of creating a company just came naturally. That said, I do come from a family of entrepreneurs, so my background probably influenced me.

Todoist was actually a tool I made for myself. I was still a student, studying computer science in Aarhus (Denmark) and I had two programming jobs on the side. I had a lot of projects going on and I needed to effectively manage my work and my productivity. I looked at the other tools on the market and none worked the way I wanted them to work.

When I started Todoist, I never imagined it would become anything significant - it's only later that I released its true potential.

Tell me about a project or accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant in your career.

Todoist is by far my most successful accomplishment. It means a lot to me to know it has helped millions of people accomplish their goals.

That said, Todoist isn't only an accomplishment by myself, but also by an amazing team of people who are working very hard on making Todoist even bigger every day.

Discuss a specific accomplishment of yours in a previous position that indicates you will thrive in this position.

I think one of the most important things in life and especially in business is evolving and learning. When you start a company it’s just you or just a few people and you face the enormous challenge of building a minimal product that people want.

After you have some success, you add more people and things become more complex. After more success, you have teams, multiple products and maybe even entire departments you need to manage. Every step has new challenges and requires new skills.

I am doing everything I can to thrive in my position and to thrive as a leader. I do it by reading books, reading articles, following Coursera courses - anything that can help me prepare for the next steps of Todoist's lifecycle.

How do you see the company changing in two years, and how do you see yourself creating that change?

I am very motivated by solving hard problems and having a positive impact on the world, and I am very inspired by people who are creating something of significant value (e.g. Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, etc.).

Today, what we're doing with Todoist is helping people and teams get more done and become more organized, in less time with less effort. In the next two years, my role will be to steer Doist towards becoming something of true significant value for people around the world.

What do you value most about your company's culture and vision?

I think Doist has a very unique culture. We have hired people from almost all the continents in the world. We also work remotely, something that was not even possible a few years back.

Collaborating with people who come from very different cultures is awesome, since everyone has a very different perspective. I think this multicultural and multiracial aspect will enable us to create products that truly target the world - instead of just a specific demographic.

Can you tell me about a time when you almost gave up, how you felt about that, and what you did instead of giving up?

I never felt like giving up. I think the reason is simple: I never put myself in a position where Todoist/Doist was the only thing that paid my bills. In fact, I worked on Todoist for over five years before it could even pay my salary!

When you start something, I don't think you necessarily need to commit everything to it. You can start it on the side and see how it evolves. That's at least how I started Todoist. This way I was never forced to give up or to try something else.

On Making Your Choice To Fail

The journey of an entrepreneur is peppered with failure. Those failures can either push you to progress or to give up.

But it all comes down to one thing – making a choice.

And when you are at that crossroad the choice to either progress or give up is suffocating. Because the wrong decision could be devastating.

In the case of Salihefendic, he took a slightly different path. His choice to progress was fed by the fact that if Amir failed – he had other things to fall back on.

Salihefendic always made sure that he had other projects on the side. And when you have options the choice doesn’t seem as daunting. Moreover, those options allow you to be more tolerant of failure.

Amir’s strategy worked – even though it took 5 years before he could take a salary from Todoist. And what he created has allowed the Todoist team to help millions of people get things done.

Question: What tool do you use to get things done?

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