#2-2020-Mar-“How to select a project?”

There has been more than one time I have struggled to:

  1. Complete a project I have started

  2. Prioritize which project is more important

  3. Understand why I am working on a project, the benefit I will get.

  4. Define what I am building

  5. See that something already exists, and I have wasted my time.

Why?

  1. Shining object syndrome. Starting something new is fun. There is an excellent drive in the beginning and a lot of optimism.

  2. There is no end in sight. The project is too big to complete easily

  3. I have hit a roadblock. Something is stopping me from continuing

  4. I don’t see the value anymore

  5. I have lost the momentum. Maybe something else in my life has taken priority

The purpose of this article is to formalize my process for starting a new project to:

  1. Maximize the chance of completing it

  2. Pick the project that will give the most value.

1: Limit your workflow to two projects but allow time-sensitive tiny projects to interrupt

At any point in time I have two projects in parallel:

  1. A project for my private life. E.g., create a system for tracking expenses, create flashcards for learning Spanish grammar

  2. A project for my career. E.g., create a course on influxdb on Udemy, create a CI/CD system for publishing blog posts

I attempt to have no other projects in-progress.

There are two types of projects:

  1. Less than a day (e.g., writing an article)

  2. More than a day

Any project that is less than a day can interrupt the current projects. These are time-sensitive (e.g., I have learned a lesson or framework); therefore, it best to complete them immediately.

Discussion: Is it better to use goals than focus areas?

  1. What I like about focus areas is that they are broad. A goal is specific. But sometimes it is hard to know what you need to do to improve a focus area. Having a focus area makes it easier to adjust the specifics.

    1. E.g., a goal could say learn to use technology X within Y weeks. However, after a few days, you realize technology Z is better suited.

  2. Having a goal can lead to extra stress. You feel like a failure if you don’t reach your goal or get closer to your goal. With a focus area, you instead try to improve by spending time in that area. Success is to spend time and focus on a single area a time

  3. Goals can help you do what is essential. E.g., if you want to take the driving license for motorbikes, that is all that matters. It is easy to evaluate if something is relevant to your goal.

2: Use focus areas to filter relevant projects

Realize that your bandwidth is limited. Try to keep a focus area on what you want to improve.

Career: E.g., better in python, better at dev-ops, better at backend development

Private: E.g., driving license motorbike, learn Spanish, improve writing skills, better control of money

Your focus areas should stay the same for at least a month.

Once you have your focus area, it is easy to filter many potential projects by asking:

Does this project improve my focus area?

Unless there is a clear yes, the project joins the future projects

Is this project the most effective and fun way to improve my focus area?

It can be hard to know the effectiveness of a project unless you have other projects to use for comparison. Therefore, you need to keep a list of future projects

3: Have fun and make progress on your project

Working on your projects should be fun. Spending a life doing non-fun things is not for me. Therefore, this should not be a strict process. More like ideas and tips for improving your chances of success. Because in-the-end success is fun.

Randomly ordered tips:

  1. Describe what you want to build

    1. Define the API you want.

    2. How easy is it to produce content?

    3. Why is it working?

    4. What is new/novel?

    5. Which resources exist, and how can you use them?

  2. Why is it worth doing?

    1. Maybe write some articles on the benefit.

    2. How will it help you in the future? Skill/portfolio/learning/relationship/passive income

  3. Can you find an existing alternative?

    1. Have anyone done something similar? How will you do it differently?

  4. How much effort is it?

    1. What is the timeline? Is it doable? Is it fun? Will you be the first user? What is the easy way to success? Who can help you?

  5. Make the project simpler.

    1. Do you depend on external factors? Is it possible to make it isolated?

    2. Can you re-use some existing products?

    3. What is the minimum viable product (MVP)

    4. Break down the features

  6. What is success? How do you test that you are successful? How much will it cost you to maintain the project? Who are you helping?

  7. What is failure? When do you stop the project?

4: How are you doing? What to track?

  1. How easy is it to work on the project? Is it easy to get out of bed on a Sunday?

  2. How much time are you using? (I recommend using toggl)

  3. What is your finish rate?

  4. How fast do you fail?

  5. What is your content production rate?

Conclusion: There is no fit-all system, but did you get some ideas?

Why not just do whatever you want all the time? Aren’t you going to have more fun? I guess it depends on your ambitions and natural ability to complete what you start.

This article is a living document, and I will do my best to keep it up to date. Hopefully, it gave you some ideas and tips on how to get closer to your goals while having fun. I believe the system has to be adapted and personalized, but hopefully, it gives you some ideas to try out.