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I'm seeing a pattern here ... numerous ideas hatched and numerous projects started then left to drag around unfinished, with too few things seen through to completion.
Unfinished business wastes resources, drains your psychic energy, chews up your schedule, and makes it harder to focus on productive new actions.
It's very easy for a creative mind to be seduced by new ideas and drawn into new projects. That's okay unless the next bright idea comes along before the last project is completed, or the work has at least reached a logical pausing point. That's the problem I'm seeing here.
I've been getting a strong sense that lack of focus is the biggest thing holding a lot of people back from major achievement.
Sometimes our focus gets scattered because life throws stuff at us and we have no choice but to respond. When that happens, do what you need to do, then get back on course.
But often the problem is our own creation: we have ideas and try to chase them all, without a realistic action plan. We spread ourselves too thin and achieve less, not more.
Worse, we start new things with no clear idea of how they'd advance our larger goals. We can't get "back on course" because we haven't defined our course in the first place.
A successful business owner whom I love dearly says that it's just as important to decide what we're NOT going to do as what we are. "Walking away from a great idea might be the smartest decision you make all year," he once told me.
I challenge you: take an inventory of your existing projects that are dragging around unfinished. Then, one by one, plan out specific action steps to finish the project and do them, or else find someone to help you. Sometimes the most sensible decision would be to cancel the project.
Resist the temptation to save a project "for later". In most cases your goal should be to deal with it or dump it!
A person (or a company) with too many unfinished projects is like a ship with barnacles and too much ballast. They can't move forward nearly as easily as they should.
They'd make more progress with a few projects executed well and others not even started yet, than a bunch of things half done.
Your gripe reminds me of lyrics from what is, IMHO, a great song:
You can dream a little dream
Or you can live a little dream
I'd rather live it
'Cause dreamers always chase
But never get it
Essentially, it's easier to envision a grand scheme than it is to enact one. For this reason, you will always have more thought than action. Which is why those who can move from the draft table to factory floor are called entrepreneurs and are often rewarded handsomely for their time and energy. Any why, I think, those who find success once find it time and again. I think fear of failure also plays prominently. Your ideas are always successfull, your actions are not. Therefore, it's much more rewarding psychologically to think big thoughts and imagine reaping the rewards of success than it is to try and fail...
Reminds me of another little quip: Those who can, do. The rest are consultants.
I think you first have to figure out what busienss you are in . If you are in the busienss of programming or web designing then you shouldnt have great business ambitions as these are not really the skills of successfull busiess people - be realistic, can you create demand and montetise it.
Most people I know can make a better burger than macdonalds but are not as sucessfull as them, they totally dont understand what busienss macdonalds are in..
I think yopu nailed it pretty good in your own advice:
>I challenge you: - Likes challenges
>take an inventory of your existing projects that are dragging around unfinished. - Can face reality, ca step back from the detail and see objectively
>Then, one by one, plan out specific action steps to finish the project - Good at planning the steps to actually complete
>and do them - Gets things done, can work long/hard when needed even if it means sacrificing other things
>or else find someone to help you - Good at delegating or has the skills to outsource, has a newtork of skillsed people to utilise
>Sometimes the most sensible decision would be to cancel the project. - Can make and take tough decisions. Come on, how many of those "great ideas" are you actually prepared to take a 2nd mortage out to finance, if not then move on from it.
Im definetely feeling challenged to bin a couple of projects this weekend, thanks for the post.
There are also cases where someone has A LOT of good ideas and simply doesn't have time to put all of them into play. Not a bad place to be either as long as some of the better ones make it to the production phase.
1) Metrics: Compare ROIs if at all possible. A simple cost-benefit analysis; which of your ideas will have the most immediate impact on your site.
2) Common Sense: Is it something you can do easily with the resources available or will it require significant investment of outside resources?
I think one way to make a proper go at some project would be to postpone their launch to the latest time possible (ie. don't launch them half finished as I tend to do). That way, only a few hours are necessary for them to 'roll' rather than as much time as you've already put in.
Unfortunately, for me, the project that bring the money is a boring one and the 'fun' ones are the ones I start every couple of month and never finish.
Does anybody want to buy some unfinished sites? :)
This is a blessing and a curse as quite often the harder something is to achieve, the better it's planned, thought through and executed as there is much more on the line if it fails.
A degree of waste is necessary, because coming up with the right idea is often a process of elimination. It's like writing down 30 or so ideas for a domain and then crossing out 29 of them to arrive at the one you really like (and how often is that the first one you thought of?).
It's not a bad thing unless it's coupled with a lack of action. If you try to measure your achievements against your dreams you will always fall short. The key is to get a balance between perspiration (99%) and inspiration.
I spent roughly 6 figures on a webproject a few years ago. When I refocussed and laid out my various plans/alternatives to my business mentor, he called it a 'nice hobby project'. Geeesh! So there it sits, not earning a dime :).
Seriously, I have unfinished website projects dating back to 1996. One of the earliest is a music theory textbook, 200 interactive pages, collecting dust on my hard drive.
There are also cases where someone has A LOT of good ideas and simply doesn't have time to put all of them into play. Not a bad place to be either as long as some of the better ones make it to the production phase.That's me.
I do have several that I've taken to completion, or at least to the point where they're running live on the www. I am very proud of those. But what if I were to take all the time I devote to sketching dozens of in vitro concepts, and spend that time focused on one project?
Every once in a while, I do "dump" piles of dead projects. It's like spring cleaning. It often means also dumping domains that I earmarked for those projects. Only once have I regretted it - an early "wiki" project for which I had a killer .com, that I wish I had back again.
Honestly, more than coming to this forum to deal with technical issues, I get more inspired about reading on the hard work others do, and I stop complaining and get back to work :) Good luck to all of you.
A person I respect greatly(and have deference for his having sold multiple businesses for over 100m) told me something that changed my perspective greatly when it comes to projects you choose to run with.
Choose who you want to work with, then choose what.
Great people can get rich with an average idea, mediocre people will likely struggle with even a great idea.
By that, I mean, it takes more than a coder or a graphic designer or a smooth talker to build successful projects over the longrun. I think the problem buckworks mentions grows exponentially when people start taking the attitude of "I can do it all myself, I want to retain 100% ownership." What's better, 100% of 100k or 5% of 100m?
Just food for thought. Merry Christmas all.
joined:July 3, 2008
I've been getting a strong sense that lack of focus is the biggest thing holding a lot of people back from major achievement.
Sometimes it's a lack of focus, but often it's simply a lack of self-discipline and persistence. The number of people who begin writing a novel, nonfiction book, or screenplay is huge, but most of their projects get abandoned after the first 10 or 20 or 30 pages.
Still, that doesn't mean people who have trouble with focus, self-discipline, or persistence are doomed to fail. It simply means they may be doing the wrong type of work. The person who lacks the focus, discipline, or persistence to build a Web site might be a great blog contributor, for example. (I know one self-described "ADHD" type who writes professionally for several blogs in different fields; the job is perfect for him, because he writes in 250-word chunks and can flit from tech topics to travel topics within a single day.)
joined:Jan 3, 2003
3) Opportunity cost: What other possibilities would I have to set aside in order to develop Idea X?
This always gets ya, doesn't it? This is where men are separated from the boys (and that includes you ladies too).
I have a project that is dragging along for 7 years now. We already top-3 in the niche...in a large, non-commercial niche. We are barely making some money, not something I can live on, but enough to drag it along into "maybe hopefully some day it will be the largest in the niche and make a killing". Not too likely. Had the same project been developed in a commercial niche, with this traffic I'd be driving Porsche and owning a yacht. wheel, If I had a mentor, he'd say "nice hobby project" too. Hey, but I've learned a lot of interesting stuff while doing it, and it helped me to get rid of 9-5 job drag.
So yes, do it.
However, I do try to make my ideas happen somehow. In one case, over the years I've stuck to developing a particular side project, for a number of personal reasons, partly interest in learning a subject and for its recreational value, and to apply new Web techniques that I can use in my paid job. I don't make money from this personal site, but I did target and fill an empty information space with link glue that I suspect contributed to the benefit of others, based on an independent federal study that indicates a $500 million/year increase in regional spending in the niche that this site would be expected to influence, and based on other economic metrics that indicate its region is healthier than comparable areas despite the economic downturn.
For projects that relate to work, I regularly propose funding and work program ideas -- sometimes suggestions fall flat, maybe I come across as foolish, sometimes it attracts funding and gets on the schedule, and we can do something new. We've done this sort of thing many times and funding is the key to it, as well as standing back letting other people run with ideas.
I also try to pass along ideas to companies that can act on them and benefit everyone-- software companies mainly. Though I don't claim (and would be presumptuous if not megalomaniacal to claim) to have been the originator of ideas underlying others' work, I do know I passed along ideas and then, later, the company I offered the idea to accomplished what fit it. For example, a long time ago I offered an idea to Adobe tech support to build a graphic file translator that uses Adobe postscript language to convert graphics from competing graphics software (any software that can print to a postscript printer anyway) to import into their Illustration software-- before they came out with PDF. Another one to Google, on this board, to suggest they work on a geographic search engine that uses proximity as a ranking factor, a year or so before they bought keyhole. Also one idea to Microsoft (actually to our internal programmers to ask Microsoft) to incorporate low-level logic into its SQL server to handle geographic queries fast and simply.
I've had several system ideas percolating for years now that I think are timely, one I contacted a particular software developer who might apply it (and who politely declined to even hear it because his people are already too busy). Another I offered as part of a public process. I submitted two recently to Google’s 10-to-the-100 competition, and if the ideas make the grade may be available for voting at the end of January for $2 mm funding.
The point being that ideas are meant to be shared, and worked on, assuming they're sensible. So, anyone interested to vote on an idea to develop a new transportation system?
It's very easy for a creative mind to be seduced by new ideas and drawn into new projects.
That's me 100% a few years ago, I can't agree more. In my case I love to code, it takes me a lot longer to get a project completed because I pour over every line looking for ways to improve a project and as we all know improvements, and new ideas, never end.
I just wanted to point out that I think this is a right of passage for webmasters. The majority of webmasters storm out of the gates and fade away quickly due primarily to boredom, disillusionment or frustration. I think most webmasters who succeed long term started out this way too.
Stay the course, now there is some good advice. Many websites gather dust because they didn't generate the income a webmaster anticipated when he/she launched the site... I wonder how many sites sit inactive out there that with very little effort could become a huge success.
too busy working on client sites
Ideas for me always seem to take the backseat whenever the client sites are involved.
Sure, I've started projects, get them 1/2 or more completed, only to shuffle them off onto another disk to wait until I don't know when. It's not for any great lack of motivation or money however. The business we're in seems to prevent any sort of real time to blow the dust off and continue. Still, I'll hang on to them in the event that I take a longer than normal vacation.
In the past 10 years, I've only fully completed two out of roughly 5 and put them on. They do fine as far as holding their own on the monitary end.
I find that putting a project together is much more fun than having to maintain the project once it's completed.
With the interactive tools available to programmers and end users for the Internet finally catching up and in some cases surpassing those offered by Windows and other highly interactive development platforms, many projects become obsolete almost before completion.
The question for me is often whether to work on creating unified systems/sites or to find open-ended ways to link together various technologies or modules.
In any event, no project development seems to be a waste--unless you have a problem completing any of them!
And the bottom line is income for me, as I would rather be traveling the globe than sitting in front of a computer, so if an "older" interface is generating income, why seek to create a state-of-the-art website with full social-networking functionality, etc... but offering little income generation? Many sites offer laudable cutting-edge aesthetics, but they often generate no income.
putting a project together is much more fun than having to maintain the project once it's completed
I recognize that one! Putting a project together, means conceptualizing a bunch of ideas and melding them together - immediate reward there. Even if only a prototype, the pilot/prototype shows that "it" can be done. From that point on, it's mostly execution and fine tuning to reach completion. Unfortunately, I'm a lot better at the first part than the second...