How do you stay focused on personal projects?

I just logged into my host today, and I noticed that my “Domains” page is paginated…wtf? In less than 1 year I’ve somehow amassed over 25 domains. I’m talking about domains for personal web apps I want to publish. I’ve been freelancing for a while now and I NEVER have a problem working on a clients project; I’m able to take an idea from a client, which is sometimes incomplete, and turn it around no problem.

When I work on my own projects, however, I’m so zoned in I actually have to set an alarm to remind myself to eat. Hell, last week I coded 27 hours straight…for fun! I feel like I’m wasting my time though, because one day I’ll have a great idea for this web app, and the next day I’ll need to start this badass mobile app. It’s always some “awesome” idea that I must work on.

Do you guys have any tips? What do you guys do to stay on track and finish a (personal) project? I wish it was as easy as saying “just do it”…

I know what you mean. It’s easier to finish something when you have someone asking for it.

Set a schedule of some sort. Or, tell people about it and drum up some interest. When you know you have people waiting for it, it might force you to get moving on the project like your “real” projects.

The crappy part is that I’ve created business plans, design documents, storyboards; you know the whole bit and I still can’t seem to finish. It’s not that I don’t want to either, hell I wish I had more time so I could! But now that you mention it, I’ve noticed that when I tweet about a project and people react I’m actually more inclined to finish.

Maybe I’ll start telling people about my projects more often.

Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

The way I figure it, the hobby project in my signature is two years behind schedule. Even though I have people who would like to see version 2.0, it just doesn’t bring in as much income as other “real” projects do, and it’s been dragging along for so long (I started working on it in 2008!) I just don’t have as much incentive or interest in it as I once did.

You shoul try to prioritize your activities , set up some goals for each project . if you don;t have a destination , a goal you may find yourself in the same situation over and over again . Don;t skip eating, sleeping and stuff these keeps you healthy (body and mind) and keeps you going. Prioritize first and delay projects that you think are not priorities!

The next time you have another brilliant idea, don’t start working on it write away. Write everything down, wait a few days or a week, then consider it again. Only then, if you still think it’s a good idea, start developing.

I’ve been on the same boat as you (or very similar) I realized this was a bit of a problem and now I treat myself as a client. I have over 60 domains and ideas along with a few business plans to use them… but I now just work on one of my projects at a time. I treat it like a client project.

The main difference is that if I build a project, my goal is to make money from it so that keeps me going (vs getting paid from a client). And what I did to manage the new ideas is I have a running list of ideas and long term to-dos so that if I do get a new idea or want to start something but haven’t finished my current project, I just add it to the list, and before starting a new project I revisit the list.

I keep it in google docs as a form so I can quickly add new ideas.

I will set a goal there and a reward for myself to motive me to keep on the track until i meet the goal . All I need is the motivation toward the reward or result that can fulfill one of my need. Maybe self-esteem maybe some present.

Whoa great ideas!

@pavels - I’ll give it a try. I think my problem is in being too compulsive, this should work.

@ziggydigee - The to-do list seems to be working so far. I’ve got a “master” to-do with all my ideas as they come, and then my per-project to-do. I’m finding I’m able to focus a lot more on a single project.

@exabytes - Yea I started tweeting about my projects a little bit more like Force suggested. I don’t know if it helps with my self esteem, but it definitely makes me want to not blow it!

Here’s what I’ve been doing for the last year:

Whenever I get an idea, I would put it up on my wall. At the end of the month I keep my favorite 3 or so and take the rest of them down from the wall. Unfortunately, the top 3 keep changing lol. I’ve got a crate full of “ground-breaking” ideas, and a few IOU’s for my web host :stuck_out_tongue:

Just posting about it here has helped me realize a bunch of things though

The wall looks good. I use a whiteboard for that stuff, and I use evernote as well, heavily. It’s like an extension of my memory… then you add the search extension to your browser and you have bliss. :slight_smile:

Thats actually a damn good idea. Its far too easy to dive in, buy a domain name and start work on it

Maybe this is your problem. Trying to focus on one project while you have 3 on a board right in front of you at all times. Why three projects? Why not one? How about try just focusing on one? Surely there’s one that’s been up there the entire time, one that you feel is more significant than all the others.

I’ve come up with few ideas on how to stay focused based on my working methods. I too have just started working on my own project, it’s my first that I’ve actually started, and I haven’t yet finished it so feel free to take everything I say with a grain of salt.

I’m not sure if this is good advice but if you get an idea don’t write it down (or record it for that matter), the reason I’m not sure it’s good advice is I have bad habit of not recording any of my thoughts. I get new ideas for projects all the time but I treat them all as something passing and insignificant, no matter how great it appears it’ll always sounds great the first time it strikes your mind. I still spend the whole day (or sometimes many days) thinking about it, that’s unavoidable but I never write it down. The advantage of this is if it’s not a good idea you’ll probably never think of it again especially considering there’s nothing you’ve created to remind you of it. If it is truly great idea than it’ll come back to you and by means of something that exists in the real world, (thus justifying its significance) not something you’ve written down.

When it comes down planning. I would only do things on a week by week basis. Planning for a year long project just turns it into one big daunting task. Just set small goals for the end of the week then use that as springboard for the next task. I’m sure you know what you’re working towards without planning it in its entirety. I find planning the project soon makes it boring to work on.

Work not to a planned schedule but to what you find to be the most interesting thing to work on at the time.

Also identify the core of you project. What is it what are most important things it needs to function. If you’re building a wiki maybe the ability to create and edit pages should the first thing you create. After you’ve built the core it could very well be considered a finished project and be released tomorrow and than you can start working on additional features like user accounts and what not.

I guess what I’m saying is (and I tend to do this). It’s waste of time work on a feature for an app when it isn’t necessary for it to function. Spend less time thinking about all the things your project could do and spend more time working on what is necessary for your project to achieve its intended purpose.

I like to to remind myself that facebook took only 2 weeks to build, and it certainly wasn’t the beast it is now when it first started. But considering that, if an experienced programmer took more than year to build web app they must certainly be wasting their time on something besides their regular work/social life, right?

It is very amazing that you coded 27 hours straight. I have never done that. I think you have already very absorbed in the projects. Don’t push yourself too hard.

“He who begins many things finishes but few.” Famous Italian Proverb

As others have said while it’s not easy you have to focus on one thing at a time and give it your undivided attention. Once it’s to the point the project is near complete then you can let up a bit, just have to be careful.

I agree when you start telling people about your project it becomes ‘real’ and it encourages you to get it done .
It helps me…

It happened to me as well. I open switch to something new, to something that captures my interest. But I recently noticed it’s not good. I often read articles, about blogging for example, and it is always good to have our focus to something we want to do, to concentrate on it. Switching to something, leaving the previous project unfinished will just make our day unproductive.

The reality is - there are too many good things that might tempt us to try or do, or switch into
Another reality is - not all of them are good to us, because we have our own skills and interests.

What interests us most? Let’s do it - let’s finish it!

That why it is good to just focus on one thing at a time. What I do is make a list of things I need to do in that day…like my projects, marketing, etc. Then I make time for the personal stuff…


It’s not easy, but I think I found the solution.

I partner up with friends and this helps me stay focussed. They often bounce ideas and the fear of letting each other down (just like you do with clients) but your friends help you evolve. The hard bit is finding somebody who you can work with. Once you’ve found your friend you can easily work together on cool projects!

I have the same problem. I get distracted easily and many times the important personal projects that really need to get done take forever to materialize as I continue to procrastinate. One thing I do when I really need to focus on a project and just get it done is to turn off my skype and im platforms, as well as take down any open browser windows such as email or stock quotes that could distract me. Then I just sit there and force myself to focus and to write until the project is completed.

Once you’ve found your friend you can easily work together on cool projects!

This is so true. I’ve recently partnered up with someone and the accountability part is great and also the focus that you can bring to each other to finish a product and start on the next is really good too.