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Let It Simmer - Holding Off on that New Product Idea

Date: 3/31/2021

Time to Read: 3 minutes

I use these posts as part of my effort to sustainably build in public. My aim is to share lessons learned, prevent burnout, and connect with other motivated builders. If you are enjoying these posts, please share or give me a follow on Twitter!

Saying No to Yourself

The importance of saying "No" gets a lot of lip service, usually in the context of setting boundaries between yourself and someone else. An equally important skill is being able to say "No" to yourself, especially when you are executing on an idea and a new idea comes along. Without this, you will find yourself chasing every shiny new idea you have into the proverbial sunset of indie hacking purgatory.

The Problem - Letting a New Idea Derail Your Current Project

Something that ties a lot of us creators and indie hackers together is a seemingly bottomless well of inspiration and product ideas. Some of us execute on these ideas better than others. Some of us abandon our current idea the moment a new one comes along. Sure it is good to agile and chase down new ideas, but only up to a certain point. Follow through is important.

I am speaking for myself here but I would venture to guess that some of you can relate to the following scenario. I will come up with a new product idea (usually while out on a run) and then frantically try to get the idea down on paper (aka digital paper aka Notion). The new idea then consumes most of my mental bandwidth for the rest of the day. I am gripped by thoughts like "this project really has a chance" and "I could use technology stack x, y, z to build out this set of novel features.

Part of what drives this frantic shift in focus is the false sense of urgency a new idea can take on. It is easy to think things like "if I throw together a MVP for this, people will quickly see the value in this and I will be one of those success stories I see in my Twitter feed" or "if I don't execute on this quickly someone else will!" Far too often this urgency and subsequently adopted timeline are totally unnecessary. Ideas should be left to simmer on low for a while instead of throwing them into the instant pot on high.

Motivation and passion are hard waves to tame though so it is easier said than done. Like a lot of self-imposed problems, I have found that strong systems and frameworks go a long way.

The Solution - A Project Ideas Tracker and Discipline

Telling yourself "No" often is not any easier than telling another person no. Convincing yourself that your new idea is not the best thing you have ever dreamed up and that you need to start working on it today can additionally be a tall order. Systems work well for these kind of problems.

A simple system that has worked really well for me is keeping a running Product Ideas Tracker. Like any good system, it is designed to reduce the barriers of use to maximize the chances that I will actually use it. The Product Ideas Tracker is a simple Notion page filled with general thoughts, reminders for myself, and a running list of project ideas and their current status (To Do, In Progress, Completed).

I cannot explain the exact science, but the act of jotting down a new, burning idea almost immediately removes the sense of urgency of executing on the idea. There is probably something to be said for the positive re-enforcement that comes with using this system over time too. The act of cataloging the idea represents an act of nurturing the idea while at the same time setting boundaries and saying "No, not right now."

I wanted to share the very basic Notion template I put together for the Project Ideas Tracker. You can download it for free here.

Closing Thoughts

The Project Ideas Catalog is not a standalone solution in and of itself. It needs to be paired with a lot of discipline, but it at least helps to provide a framework for tracking ideas and preventing them from derailing you from your current project.

I would love you to hear from you and any strategies you have found that work for preventing new ideas from derailing you. If you have comments, please reach out on Twitter or share the post if you enjoyed it!

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