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Narrowing Your Focus To Prevent Burnout

Date: 3/22/2021

Time to Read: 2 minutes

Bracket of project ideas

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!

Something I have been actively struggling with is the prioritization of ideas. My ideas list has continued to grow each week while the amount of time I have available to devote to them has held constant. Not surprisingly, this growing asymmetry has been leading to feelings of great unease.

Self-Driven Scope Creep

Something I saw all the time as a consultant and in my own freelance work is scope creep - the client asking for feature x, y, and z that was not included in the original scope of work. As I add new projects to my ideas list, I tend to ride the wave of motivation and start working on it immediately, bringing my active project count up by one. In a lot of ways, my growing products and active projects list represents self-imposed scope creep. It is fairly easy to be cognizant of this when someone else is asking for additional features and products, but so much harder to recognize when you are the one guilty of it.

At the start of this year, I had one project I was working on - Scoped, a budgeting and cost estimate planning tool for freelancers. Then I had an idea to start writing a Mapbox Developer's Handbook so I started working on this too. Next I added in Sonic Postcards in addition to a couple of other projects. So in three months I went from one project + a full time job to nearly five projects + a full time job. Not sustainable!

If I was working with a client who was pushing for so many new features and was so blatantly guilty of scope creep, I would probably fire them as a client. So it looks like I might have to fire myself...or change.

Whittling Down Your Focus

The process of telling yourself no, especially if it is related to something(s) you are deeply passionate about can be painful. I decided I needed to whittle down the total number of projects I am working on at any given time to three. This was still too much. This week I brought this number down to one.

This mental framework is still sparkly fresh for me, but thus far it has helped put me ease. An added benefit has been that it has forced me to recognize if an idea is good, it will still be just as good of an idea whether I start on it today or a year from now. Someone else is likely not going to "steal" it either.

Anyways, I will report back on if I have the self-control to stick to this new paradigm and how it buffs out long term.

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