My quest to restore productivity to stalled personal projects

Posted by on May 6, 2009

I’ve recently discovered a few key items that have lead to stalled personal projects and steps I can take to get back to productivity.

Personal projects they are just that, personal. I could ask other developers/designers to be apart of these projects and would probably get a few to contribute, but there’s something about accomplishing a goal on my own that I am chasing. How far can I push my talents and what end result can come of it. I think this view also leads to a fear of the end result not being “good enough”.

I’ve started several personal projects over the years and most remain unfinished. What’s worse is that most are 90% complete. What’s keeping me from finishing them? The “excuses” range from “the last 10% is the hardest to finish” to being unwilling to commit to graphics and styling. And procrastination.

I stumbled upon a blog post with a quote that might help me get a jump start on finishing some of these.

People feel good when they accomplish tasks.

I know that. I’m giddy with joy when I accomplish even the smallest tasks with projects I work on professionally and personally. I can’t wait to share what I’ve learned and created with family and friends.

Get organized

  • Define simple and clear goals of what the end result should be. All of the projects I’ve accomplished in my professional career have mostly been with the aid of working with a graphics designer. They initially provide mockups and a voice to converse with when certain design elements are unclear or I feel could be improved. Their mockups provided the roadmap from which to work. Mockups are visual goals.
  • Divide tasks into unbelievably simple tasks. Beside each task write an estimate on how long it will take to complete. It seems silly, but a few days/weeks/months down the road when reviewing your task list you’ll read the description and the time estimate and think “I’ve got X minutes. I can check that off.”
  • Use some form of GTD. It really works.

Get productive

  • Do something. Anything. Related to your project.
  • Get fired up. Grab a cup of your favorite beverage, get in a productive environment, crank the tunes and sing along. Whatever it is, just get in the zone.
  • Once in the zone, pick a task that interests you. It doesn’t have to be next on the list, but it must interest you.
  • Give it 10 minutes and if you’re not feeling it – Stop. Pick another task.
  • If you’re still not feeling it, don’t panic. Step back and relax. Choose something that you know you can accomplish in a short amount of time. This is important. Back to the post, the feeling of accomplishment gives you encouragement to continue.
  • Do not get bogged down in meaning less pieces of code. An example would be database versioning. Sure it’s cool, but playing with DBIx::Class::Schema::Versioned for hours and hours and wondering why it just wouldn’t “work”. I then discovered at the bottom of the POD that it doesn’t fully work with SQLite. Great. I’d been motivated to once again work on my project and I picked the wrong tasks to work on. Instantly killed my productive mood.

These ideas are nothing new or groundbreaking and there are certainly others throughout the years that have written on this subject. This was written to myself as my quest to restore productivity to personal projects is ongoing.