A few years back, I had a lot of trouble getting stuff out the door. Projects would be left half finished, tucked away in a folder nested in the depths of my computer. I’d always chalked up the inability to finish things to a lack of interest, but lately my opinion has changed. With nothing stopping the last few things from shipping, I’ve realized that the issue had more to do with overinvestment.
For the last few projects I’ve completed, I’ve taken a different approach. Instead of spending a lot of time on the thing up front, I ask “what’s the bare minimum I need to do now to make this both good and usable?” I cringe at the phrase minimum viable product as it feels like something that’s become an excuse to ship junk.
Instead, what I’m referring to is limiting the amount of time spent on polish. Build the features, but don’t build them entirely. Make it work well, but learn to identify those things that can wait. Get the thing out the door, work with it, and make improvements based on its use. The language may be a bit confusing here, as I’m referring more to things built for my own use; not things built for others. It’s a delicate balance. The question that I ask to determine the level of investment I’m willing to make is “how likely is this to achieve what I want?”
The higher the percentage, the more time I’m willing to invest up front. Even then, I’ve found its important to not overthink it. Get it built. Get it done. Improve it later if it’s showing signs of life. If it’s saving you time or making a profit, give it some TLC.
This isn’t a revolutionary idea, but rather a message from the battlefield. If your ideas are failing to get finished, ask if you’re over investing. Can the thing you’re working on be wrapped up sooner rather than later? Can you put some of the work you want to complete on a list for later? Chances are the answer is “yes.”
Learning to determine the difference between what’s crucial and what’s nice to have can greatly influence your ability to move your best ideas forward.