Starting That Next Big Project
Have you ever gotten to a point where you’ve just finished a project, having spent hundreds or even thousands of hours working on it, released it into the wild with adrenaline and anticipation, enjoyed it’s success or dismayed at it’s failure for a few short days or weeks and now it’s time to start over again. A new project. A blank canvas, waiting for you to begin the slow transformation process of ideas into reality.
For me, this happens regularly. I finish one product, evaluate how it was received and what I can improve on for future updates and then begin another. Time and time again I start off with some simple idea and then expand on it like a spider spinning a web. It becomes a complicated net of ideas, features, functions, lines of code, images, designs, text and usability. Each time I complete something I feel the elation of accomplishment.
But I also feel the emotional drain of having to start something new. When you’re starting on something new for the first time- it’s fun and exciting and you have all kinds of crazy dreams of what the project might bring you. But once you’ve done this process three or four times, the excitement definitely fades. The honeymoon period of a new project just doesn’t happen any more. You now know the reality of what starting a new project means. You know that it’ll be months before you see any real results, you know you’re going to have to go through the pain of quality assurance testing that you wasted so many late evening nights on, you know you’re going to have come up with some new UI design that doesn’t look like a website from the early 90s.
This feeling can sometimes be overwhelming. It can definitely put you off starting a new project and sometimes it can make you give up altogether. This post is going to try and help you find that enthusiasm to start again, to look at the reasons why we sometimes get demotivated when starting out a new project and what you can do in the future to keep that same drive and passion you have when you’re on the home stretch.
Before you even begin to start that next project, you want to look at the reasons why we are starting a new one. Sometimes the grind of making project after project can make you forget the reasons you are doing it in the first place.
One of the biggest reasons we do anything is to make money. It may seem obvious, but remembering this goal can sometimes be forgotten, especially if you’ve had a recent failure. You’re not going to afford that new car or that down-payment on a new apartment without working hard and the more time you waste doing nothing will surely hurt the amount of money you can make. Sometimes it’s good to remind yourself of the rewards for completing new projects; perhaps you have your eye on a new digital camera you want to buy, or you want to upgrade your computer or perhaps you want to refresh your wardrobe. All these cost money and you can earn more money by starting your project, hopefully.
Not everything is about money of course. Some people starting a project may not be doing it for money and may not even expect to earn anything from it at all. Another reason to look at why you’re starting a project is to what end does making this project benefit others or yourself? This can help you explore the real benefits that you can provide to people by creating this project, as well as giving you extra ideas to implement. If you know that by making this project it could potentially benefit hundreds of users, that can give you a pretty satisfying feeling that can help you push on. One aspect I like trying out is challenging myself. Sometimes a new project I’m going to work on has lots of challenging pieces- ones I haven’t even figured out how to implement yet or go about tackling. The challenge of figuring these things out and also knowing I’ll benefit from completing them in the future helps motivate me to tackle a project. For example, say I need to implement some payment system like PayPal. I currently don’t understand the API but I know it’s possible to implement. The motivation to learn this API is that I know it’ll benefit me in the future because I’ll have this skill to implement into other projects a lot quicker and easier.
Before you do any work on your new project, it’s a good idea to layout a plan for how you’re going to get from the beginning to the end. You want to map out all the major points of a project; give yourself targets to complete and achieve. This will allow you to see progress being made and also keep you on track. This will not only help you in the beginning phase, but also in the middle when you feel lost for ideas and motivation on what to work on next.
Planning will also help you not get overwhelmed. By breaking down a big project into manageable sections, you can take each section step by step. Instead of worrying about the huge tasks ahead, you can just focus on one section at a time, slowly grinding towards that achievement of completing it.
Even for huge projects, where there's months of work involved, it can really help to have a defined list of targets. You could even do it by day or by week of what you’d like to achieve and get done, then work towards that goal of completing it. You can plan using a number of tools; a simple word file with some tables of what needs to be done can help- or you can use a much more sophisticated tool that allows you to plan tasks out, create sub-tasks and more.
Remember, starting a project and not finishing it is a waste of time. You want to utilise your time as best as possible because wasted time means wasted money. If you spend months on a project, only to abandon it at the end, it’s going to hurt a lot, especially if you’re relying on it to make you money. I have done it several times where I have worked on something for months, only to find out it’s not really what I expected and didn’t achieve what I wanted it to. Then I remember all the time wasted that I could have spent on something else.
So when you begin a new project, think long and hard about the end goal. What do you want your project to achieve? How will it affect customers, yourself and your business? What are the best possible outcomes for the project and what are the worst?
Since I’m in the business of selling software, I always look at creating products which could potentially benefit me as well as customers. For example, my first ever product was the Support Centre, a PHP ticket system to handle user queries. If it flopped and it didn’t sell, I could always use the software for myself so it wouldn’t be a complete waste of time.
Remember that with a project, we want to complete it. Analyse the hours and time you’re probably going to have to spend, analyse the potential hurdles and if you can overcome them. Using all of the points above, try to get a clear picture of what your project will be once completed; I strongly believe it will benefit you in helping you start the project.
Don’t forget to learn from each project you take on. If you can think about a project in terms of taking valuable lessons and skills from, you’ll feel that completing a project is much more beneficial than just working on a conveyor belt of producing idea after idea. I definitely feel my products have gotten better and better over time, learning from my mistakes and also understanding my user-base in terms of what they commonly seek for.
I hope this article gives you some good starting points when you begin a new project. If you have any tips or tricks that you find helpful, feel free to share them in the comments!