What's My Motivation? OR Resuming Old Projects

Writing software can be both a job and a hobby for many of us, and we all have projects sitting out there that we start and never finish.  Some of them, however, are farther along or more useful than others.  When we remember that we need to finish a project, whether at work or at home, you can use these tips for getting things done immediately to get back to your life!:

1.  Making Sure It’s Do-Able

is a big one.  If it’s not do-able, then why are you even doing it?  Want to rewrite Windows 7 in a weekend?  Yea, not gonna happen.  If you can, break the project into smaller releases.  You don’t hear “release early and often” for no reason.  Get something super-simple and basic out the door – it will take less time may even be all the users really NEED anyway.  Don’t waste time on projects or features that will never see the light of day.  Work a reasonable number of hours (<50hr. per week) and use that time put out great features that your audience will love and USE.

2.  Automated Reminders

Depending on how important the project is (and how close the deadline is!), you may just need a simple reminder to keep working on it.  GTD apps (that stands for Get Things Done), such as Remember The Milk and ToodleDo can both set recurring reminders to spend a little time working on your project every day, or other day or every week.  Even if it’s 30 minutes a day, you’re making progress, son!  The great thing about these apps is you can not only access them on the web, but there are mobile apps for the iPhone, Android , Blackberry, and Windows Mobile phones. Or, if think checking things off lists are for your losers, you can simply set a reminder in your favorite calendar application.  Schedule it in to make sure you have time!

3.  (Induced) Peer Pressure

Now, obviously, you can’t disclose certain information about projects, and especially not if you’re working for the government, but peer pressure can be be a powerful tool.  One idea on Stack Overflow shows that a good way to do this is to create a Facebook Page for your project.  Tell everyone how your project will change their life!  Then, they’ll be hounding you so much to see a release of it that you’ll be motivated by sheer nagging to get it done. The daily stand-up meeting in Agile is designed to be a form of peer pressure that can be leveraged at the workplace.  Many people think the daily “status” meeting is held to find out what everyone is working on.  In fact, it’s designed to help know what everyone is NOT working on.  This motivates you to not look like a slacker (the bad lazy) when someone asks you, “Hey, how’s project X you were working on going?  Isn’t that thing done yet?” So, remember, kids:

  1. Make sure you can do it, and do what’s most productive!
  2. Automate reminders so you don’t forget about the old project AGAIN.
  3. Leverage others to put pressure on you to get it out the door!