7 min read

An Interview with Michael Tigas

An interview with Michael Tigas, an iOS developer who's created several productivity apps including Focused Work & Ochi.
An iPhone on the left and Michael Tigas on the right.
Michael Tigas, creator of several wonderful productivity apps.

Michael Tigas is an iOS developer. He's created several productivity apps like Focused Work, Ochi, and Go To Sleep.

1. Who are you, and what do you do?

Hey i’m Michael! I live in Melbourne, Australia and have been creating apps since 2014.

Most of this time i’ve worked as a freelancer, helping clients create apps for their business, but recently moved into the indie space in 2020 - and haven’t looked back since!

2. How did you get interested in that?

Thankfully I discovered my joy for creating apps in my final year of university, as I was quite lost with what I actually wanted to do.

My first professional role was creating an app for a startup, before I moved into freelancing working with other people and then later on becoming a soloist.

When COVID forced the world into lockdown, and unfortunately some of my clients as well, this was my best chance to start creating products of my own with the tips and tricks i’ve learnt over the years.

I’ve really enjoyed the journey so far, although some days can be quite challenging, but i’m always strongly driven to learn new things so I can create even better apps.

3. For people interested in learning how to do what you do, what resources can you recommend? (Could be books, videos, podcasts, etc.)

When people reach out asking for advice about how they can create an app (or even how to code), I always point them to Paul Hudson’s Hacking with Swift resource - which I find second-to-none with getting up to speed on the basics quickly.

100 Days of Swift, and 100 Days of SwiftUI are the two particular courses I recommend.

https://www.hackingwithswift.com

Also, over the years I’ve been a huge fan of Jonathan Stark and his content around how to position yourself and your business in a niche market, and how to charge for your value rather than time. This has helped open my eyes with how to communicate with my clients more effectively. He and Rochelle Moulton also have a podcast named “The Business of Authority” that I’ve been a big sponge for.

https://jonathanstark.com

Under the Radar and the SubClub podcast are also my go to podcasts for learning more about how to create a sustainable app business.

https://www.relay.fm/radar
https://subclub.com

4. What tools & gear do you use? (Could be hardware, software, something else entirely.)

This is a topic where I could go down a rabbit hole, but I might save that for another time. 😛

In short, I tend to work from home most days but also change it up during the week by working from a co-working space and a mate’s digital design studio.

I use a MacBook Pro M1 Pro and have a standing desk at home that I love, with a couple mounting arms that hold an ultrawide + secondary screen in portrait.

App-wise, I use quite a few;

https://twitter.com/michael_tigas/status/1553941098774806528

5. Besides the tools, what are the routines & habits that help you get your work done?

Another topic that I could go down a rabbit hole with, since I’m always refining my routine and habits.

I begin the day by priming my brain with physical activity to get the blood pumping and help snap me out of my sleepy state, followed by coffee and breakfast.

Afterwards I begin my work day by filling out a journal where I track my sleep, mood, food, and thoughts.

I then review tasks and goals that i’ve set at the beginning of the week, and start a focus session in my app Focused Work to minimise potential distractions. I’ve configured automations that mute alerts on all devices, and block distracting apps & websites during a session.

When I hit a wall, I take a walk regardless whether it’s rain, wind, or shine and apply Diffuse Thinking to work through problems that I face. As I write this, i’m on a 1305-day Move streak on my Apple Watch!

I also ensure I take enough breaks during long focus sessions so I can maintain my willpower and level of productivity across the day.

6. Finding the right productivity strategy is different for everyone. How did you discover what worked for you?

Trial and error, mostly. Standing, sitting, eating at particular times and various foods. I always try to get the most out of the limited time I have each day, especially when i’m not feeling super motivated/productive.

On those kind of days I tend to write notes on what works for me and what doesn’t, so I can flag changes to my systems - something i’ve built into Focused Work after you complete a focus session.

7. You have a phenomenal Launching an Indie App blog series on your website, which traces the journey of launching Focused Work – complete with sketches, screenshots, and a week-by-week breakdown of what you focused on. As a team of one, how do you deal with the uncertainty of how a project might turn out or be received?

Appreciate the support, thank you! The blog series was something that eventuated from journaling every single day since I began my indie journey, so I could use it as a blueprint for future apps and be a helpful resource for others.

Over time people have reached out expressing how much it’s helped them work through a particular challenge of their app, whether that may be marketing it or creating a system to manage and prioritise development.

In terms of uncertainty, I think as an indie you need to continuously make decisions that’ll put you in a position to capitalise on potential opportunities.

For example, this could be strictly limiting the initial features you launch with, so you can launch faster and get quick feedback. Or perhaps, continuously sharing what you’re working on via Twitter to put yourself out there and generate a following of likeminded people over time.

This can also build hype for the inevitable launch of your product, which could then result in journalists taking a keen interest and writing about your app.

I was very fortunate to have MacStories write a piece on Focused Work when it first launched.

https://www.macstories.net/reviews/focused-work-review-staying-on-task-amidst-growing-distractions/

8. You recently released Version 3 of Focused Work. How do you find new ideas for subsequent versions? Is it more of adding what you personally want, or what users want?

I was super glad to get that update out, since it involved a major redesign of the app!

r.e. finding ideas… a mix of both. I generally build apps that scratch my own itch, otherwise I don’t have much motivation to continue growing them. I’m also conscious that they may scratch an itch for others too since people frequently reach out suggesting ideas.

I have a feature board for Focused Work that is massively long, ranked by total requests and level of priority which I hope I’ll be able to see through someday as the app grows in popularity.

9. What are some of the Focused Work timers you've created for yourself?

Two Halves is #1 for me, which I use for most of my coding and content writing tasks - since I need extended durations of time to reach a state of flow.

For smaller tasks I’ll run a general Pomodoro session, but if I simply want to get started on one-off tasks I’ll begin a Quick Start session.

10. How do you relax or take a break?

Before I started my indie journey I was gaming quite a bit, but I’ve now filled that spare time with working on my apps since it feels like a more effective use of my time. (and is kind of a game too - from a certain point of view 🧙🏻‍♂️)

However, once I reach a point that i’m financially stable from my own apps I’ll definitely treat myself to more games!

I’m a huge fan of Aussie Rules football too (and in my opinion is the most entertaining sport) and go to watch my team the Collingwood Magpies every single week at the MCG with mates - which i’ve done for the past 10 years.

https://www.collingwoodfc.com.au

That’s my proper relaxation time where I can completely switch off for 3-5 hours, get away from the computer, and blow off some steam!

11. Who or what inspires or motivates you; or, alternatively, that you admire?

There’s five people that come to mind from the iOS indie community who I’ve been fortunate to bounce ideas off for a couple years now (in alpha order);

They’re all doing amazing work in the indie space and inspire + motivate me to continue persisting with my journey.

12. What would be your dream setup?

I’m honestly quite content with my day-to-day set up.

The only true addition to complement it would be hanging out with the above people every day, maybe from a co-working space, where we’d be able to bounce stuff off each other and have super interesting chats all the time.

That’d get me out of bed every day of the week! But thankfully we have Twitter and Discord. 🙂

13. Anything else you'd like to add?

Thanks for reaching out for this interview Raj!

Feel free to follow me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/michael_tigas, check out my productivity apps on the App Store (Focused Work, Ochi, Go To Sleep) and let me know what you think! 🙏