On organising oneself

Matt writes on ideas, organization and overflow, and that he’s ending up with so many awesome ideas, that even when he notes them down for future reference, he’s so busy that he ends up independently reinventing them before finding time to actually make them happen. (Spoiler: he likes the approach of Steven Covey’s Habit Three and has some ideas for improving it, that he’s probably already noting down for future reference… I kid, I kid)

I have what I guess is a similar collection of interesting little ideas that I think would be worth seeing through, with many of them not really seeing the light of day. If I had any sense, I’d be keeping them all in a wiki, but in reality I tend to just use a collection of TODO files in my home directory. Fortunately, that’s not really the problem for me: I’m mostly able to either track down or reinvent the nuggets of ideas, and I don’t usually forget ideas entirely, however long I’ve put them aside.

What I have been having difficulty with is actually getting them finished — I’ve got a bunch of neat ideas to the point where I think I see how to finish them — ie, right up to the point where the next bit is Hard Work. And apparently I’m no longer at the point where I like doing complicated coding gymnastics just to prove I can. And beyond that, the overall motivation, ie that it’d be kinda cool when finished, just isn’t enough to actually get stuff done.

(And the worst part about trying to motivate yourself to do anything hard, is that when you don’t succeed n times, that becomes an additional reason not to succeed at attempt n+1. But pfft, we’ve addressed that, right?)

(Of course, the worst part for you, dear reader, is having to skim through all this filler I’m writing while trying to avoid getting to the actual point…)

One aspect to my motivations these days is that I’m interested in business and entrepreneurship these days — and hey, I figure it’d be a lot easier to deal with having lots of Fantastic Ideas if you happened to have a profitable business with a bunch of employees you could tell to implement them for you. (I’m sure there are other complications of some sort in that plan, but hey) And having decided to pass on the exciting sounding BootUpCamp next month in favour of the inaugural (and much more local) kernel.conf.au and I guess the forthcoming Brisbane BarCamp now too, I’m left lacking an awesome opportunity to hone said interests.

Being the sort of person who likes looking for mass-kills when considering stones and birds, an idea came to me. If I want to try starting some businesses just for practice, and have a bunch of kinda cool ideas I want to finish, why not turn them into mediocre business ideas, build them, and see how it goes? Adds an extra reason to actually get the cool ideas implemented (it’s a business necessity!), makes them slightly more challenging (can’t just be useful, but have to be at least potentially profitable), and means that even having the business part fail completely is still an objective win (because there’s a kinda cool creation that’s at least functional, if not finished), as well as being a learning experience (which of course is also a win!). And if the business part happens to be successful, well, there’s all those wins, plus some extra cash!

Great in theory! In practice, the abject terror it inspires is something of a drawback — though also possibly motivating in its own way. Anyway, I figure sometime in the near future I’m going to try running a handful of projects through roughly the following formula:

  1. Pick a neat idea I’ve been putting off, that shouldn’t take too long to actually get up and running (say a week or two)
  2. Work out how it improves the world — who would be better off, and why
  3. Work out a plausible way of charging some-or-all of those people before they get some-or-all of that benefit.
  4. Blog about that, on the basis that (a) it gives me a huge incentive to actually finish in a timely manner, a la WoBloMo, and (b) if I’m really luck someone comments or emails with an even better business model.
  5. Write the software and whatnot.
  6. Setup as simple a charging mechanism as possible.
  7. Publish both.
  8. Take a breath.
  9. Go back to step 1.

My initial idea was to commit myself to doing one of those each week for about a month starting yesterday, but while that might be plausible for the coding part (or might not be, too), it’s a bit too daunting for the business part. So I’m thinking I’ll just be starting “soon”, and aiming to get each project “launched” within a week or two, and seeing how that goes. There’s a few other daunting bits too, like setting things up to automatically deal with payments, and there’s a few aspects to some of the ideas that require confusing things like setting up websites… But hey, learning experience!

Anyway, that’s the theory. Whether it ends up bearing any resemblance to practice, I guess we’ll see…


  1. I sympathize with your and Matt’s conundrum. I too keep a lengthy “idea file” that mostly languishes. (WoBloMo is a rare one that escaped.)

    I like your approach: it seems “right”. Good luck. Paul Graham is smiling. I look forward to your first step 4 and to see how this formula works for you.

  2. […] as per my post from a week ago, here comes the description of my first little side project. But first a quick […]

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