Unfinished side projects – The never ending story

Developers are known to have side projects, and I’m no exception to that. I see people launch their stuff, but when I look back on myself, all I see is a trail of unfinished side projects. I’ve had every opportunity to create every single one of them, but it never happened.

Update: After I made this post I went back to Workflowy to make a decent base template for managing my projects. You can find the template here, and at the end of the article you will find an explanation for the different lists and sub lists.

Unfinished side projects

TL;DR – I am trying to find solutions how to stop this unfinished side projects trend, and I would really appreciate feedback with suggestions.

If you don’t feel like reading all the history stuff you can jump to the part about “Ideas for a solution

A little bit of history

Back in ’95 I got my first computer and I was hooked. Soon after, a friend of mine introduced me to IRC and we were using the mIRC client. This had its own scripting language and I quickly understood that development was a path I wanted to pursue.

I then found GeoCities, which was an online hosting service that allowed users to create free websites and write their own html code, and I really enjoyed it.

Then came 2000, and PHP entered my life. Making dynamic websites! This was completely mind blowing and I have never had any doubts after that point what I wanted to work with. Since that day I have had one idea after another, and I’ve written them all down. But that’s it… I’ve written them down, started working on them, gotten distracted, had another idea, and repeated the cycle. Leaving a history of unfinished side projects.

Fast forward 23 years…

… and we’re in 2018. I still have my list, now with even more projects, and still all I see is a never ending story of unfinished side projects. I’ve been close to finish several times, but no cigar.

What am I doing wrong!?

There’s a lot of variables that can be the cause for this. I have a girlfriend, three kids which are here every other week and a day job. In addition to this, I’m now maintaining a server, this blog, one other personal blog, and I host two other blogs for my girlfriend.

The answer could be as simple as failed time management, but I’m not sure. I know there’s a lot of people that succeeds who’s in the exact same situation as I am, so that’s definitely not a good excuse to have unfinished side projects.

Another thing could be loss of motivation and not enough self discipline. The ability to force myself to continue even though I don’t see the progress I want. I’ve also found myself wasting time on things like project management, etc. In general wasting time on treating the project like a enterprise project with multiple developers and teams. I guess that’s a thing I’ve adopted after working in a couple of very large companies.

Ideas for a solution

I’ve spent a lot of time lately reading articles and forum posts by others in the same situation, or at least something similar, to get some ideas on how to improve. I have also spent more and more time to look at what I’m currently doing, and what I can change to break out of this evil circle, and I’ve found a couple of points for improvements.

Think smaller

One of my biggest mistakes is to try to make the first version of a project way to big. The release plan for a minimal viable product often ends up as a massive enterprise project. This can also be the reason why I lose motivation after a while.

Less management – more work

Another thing I see myself doing too much is project management. Seriously! I’m one person! I don’t need a full featured project management system. So, I have now stopped using Asana, and moved completely to Workflowy to manage my projects.

One project at a time

Working on multiple new projects in parallel has proven to fail over an over again, so it’s time to stop and to try something new. I will pick a single project and finish a basic MVP before moving on to another.

Workflowy template

https://beta.workflowy.com/s/projects-management/a7dbOKhThVmkozlI

  • internal – only you/team should see this list
    • research – any material you find that can be used to benefit your project
    • feature tracker – project features
      • pitch – ideas you get to new features, new stuff to existing features, etc
      • queue – features that will become a part of your project
      • requests & suggestions – stuff that comes as feedback from users, etc
    • development tracker – task manager
    • bug tracker – bug manager
    • release plan – plan each release as a sprint adding which features, tasks, bugs, etc that will be a part of the next release
    • work log – write down what has been done on each day
  • external – these lists can be shared to your users to keep them in the loop
    • AppName Release Notes
    • AppName Road Map
    • AppName What’s Coming

The template is based on my web development projects, but it has also taken inspiration from this post

https://blog.workflowy.com/2012/08/29/how-we-use-tags/

… and the workflowy release notes which you see here

https://workflowy.com/s/workflowy-release-notes/aaEJNvR2y2xlu3s1

If you have any questions about this, I would be more than happy to answer them. I would also appreciate feedback and suggestions for improvements, etc!

Your feedback

If you have had a similar experience, or you have a method that works well for you, I would really appreciate additional suggestions on how to break out of this evil circle. So please, feel free to leave a comment below if you have some ideas on what I can try! All constructive suggestions are more than welcome!

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