Stop Building New Projects You’ll Never Finish
Of course, I’m guilty of it too — Most of the projects I start never reach a formal release. In reality, most don’t even come close. As a software engineer, I found that for years, my Github profile resembled an abandoned shack instead of a flourishing home for my dozens of repositories.
Yet still, I manage to take on brand new side projects on a biweekly schedule. How is this possible? What drives this behavior, and how it can it be controlled?
The Psychology of Desire
Modern Desire Theory expresses that humans naturally want to reach a state where their desires are fulfilled. On a fundamental level, this means achieving personal happiness, success, or generating meaning.
All projects have aspirations that match at least one of those three goals. In the context of software development, this includes resolving a personal issue, building a career, earning revenue, or benefitting the greater developer community.
But what negative comes from aspiration? Let’s not forget that every identity is paired with its corresponding ego. This ego, first characterized by Sigmund Freud, leads us to believe our goals are more attainable than they really are. As a result, we oftentimes overlook potential road blocks, structural issues, technical limitations, and other red flags that will prevent our projects from reaching production.
Reasons for Abandonment
It’s just as important to analyze and pinpoint why we let our projects stall.
1. Time is scarce
Life is busy, I get it. Sometimes side projects are a backup plan to a legitimate job, and always work comes first. Maybe your schedule is undergoing a shift and project work time is cut first. Either way, it is important to ensure that your life schedule has the stability to commit to such a project, or else it will inevitably be pushed to the side.
2. You just don’t care anymore
Projects can be just as trend-focused as fashion. When a new area of technology gains in popularity, you also want to join the wave. The excitement cannot be understated, as it feels like you’re reinventing computing. However, after a time, the glamour fades, and so does your interest in the project.
3. Another project came along
For eager beings like myself, this is the most common reason. After a few weeks, you had yet another project idea, and decided to act upon it. You promised yourself you would work on both projects simultaneously, but in reality, your old project was replaced, and will never be touched again.
4. You’re very, very stuck
All projects will throw you a curveball at some point. Some hurdles are easily overcome, but others lead your project to reach a devastating breaking point. For instance, if your project relies on a core technology that fails, your project would required an entire redesign. The intense frustration discourages you from continuing work on the project; you leave it behind altogether.
How to Fight Project Abandonment Syndrome
The key to building projects you’ll support, maintain, and expand for many years is passion. Your surroundings change all the time, more than you know; a deep passion for a topic, subject, or problem will not fade. If it does, reconsider if it was a passion to begin with.
A passion can take many forms. Do you have a strong dissatisfcation with the state of today? That’s a passion. Do you feel a calling towards an influencial career? That’s a passion. Is there a quality in the world you are desperate to see improved? That’s a passion. All you need to do is seek it out from within yourself.
An Odyssey Backed by Passion
Applying your passion in the right way will cause your project to become eternal. At this point, your project is not a project, but a journey; an odyssey with many milestones, but no finish line. This odyssey will not be interrupted, as any interference only adds another stage to the journey.
Many view projects as concrete, time-boxed deliverables. Sure, the argument can be made, but such projects are only worth your while if they constructive tie together somehow. Think of a deliverable project as one step on the staircase of your core mission. For instance, SpaceX prototypes multiple rockets in the pursuit of affordable space travel, and Apple develops mobile devices to more fully integrate technology with everyday life.
In the same way, your projects should converge towards the vision you so critically want to make a reality. If this is not the case, your side-projects merely provide burdensome work, not a medium for your heart to speak.
Side-projects are food for curiosity, dedication, ambition, change, and the soul. Stop building fragmented, incomplete projects, and instead, work toward the impact you’re destined to make.