Is it Just Me, or is Hard Work Boring?

Nigel B. Peck
Jan 27 · 3 min read

It starts when I can see my way through to the end. A story about working effectively with personal projects.

Photo by Jordan Whitfield on Unsplash

Here I am again. It’s had many iterations over the years. I get to the point in a personal project that I can see my way through to the end of it, and the boredom kicks in.

It’s functioned well over the years, as a way of identifying that I’ve got to the point when there’s nothing left for me to learn. If I continue now, it’s going to be hard work only.

The question is, is it worth it to continue with this as a business. It’s been fine as an experiment, I can see it has value, whether or not others will see it has value is another question.

And… that that will change it. Bringing it to fruition as a business will mean bringing in whole new dimensions of others. Others to work on it, others as customers, investor interests.

It won’t be yours anymore. The day you discuss it with another interested party, it stops being yours. That’s wonderful, and so important to be aware of as a driver of business ventures.

But this is a story about personal projects. Our only interest in relation to business is to effectively identify the point at which a project becomes business. Perhaps we could say, becomes business in spirit.

In this sense, all projects reach a point where they become business. This article just did for me. I reached the point where I’d seen the ideas through to the end of the article.

If I’m going to continue now, it’s because it’s just business. It’s not for me, it’s for others now only. Sure, I’ll continue to get something out of it, perhaps further developments of some of the ideas.

Perhaps some income if it gets read a lot. But the effort to continue now isn’t worth it solely for its benefit to me. Only if it also has a chance of bringing value to others. I call that boredom.

I only become unbored at that point if I am convinced that value for others has sufficient potential in the venture.

It takes on a different tone. It becomes a business project. It’s good to know the difference.

One way I’ve found useful to take advantage of this awareness is to keep personal projects extremely small and tightly focused, and to work on them completely alone.

Work on them completely alone because you need to explore your own ideas. If you discuss them with others, only discuss specific technical details. Don’t give them the full picture. Treat it like a secret recipe.

Keep them extremely small and tightly focused because… if it’s going to have use as a business project, it’s going to need to take account of what others have to say about it. Of what works for them.

And there’s the corollary to this. Once a project does become a business project, it’s not yours anymore. It’s not a personal project any longer.

Others need to have input, and the more that is embraced, the better it will be. This is forgotten a whole lot more.

So remember, business projects are business projects. They’re not about you. You act as a steward to effectively deliver increments that work for all concerned. When this is embraced, they’re effective.

Personal projects are personal projects. Use them to explore ideas, do it completely alone, keep them tightly focused and identify when they’re no longer valuable just for that.

When that point is reached, stop, which can be five minutes thinking or days and weeks considering, and decide if you want to make them a business project.

That could be actually making it in to a business, as it is with what I’m working on today, or perhaps it could be just… sharing it with other developers. Anything that involves others.

Either way, it’s going to involve a lot of business, a lot of work: interaction with others, documentation, agreements, software, discussion, that need to have value for more than just you for them to be worth it.

Taking this approach, you can make the most of your time and others’, by not wasting their time with your personal projects, and by properly approaching business ventures of all kinds.

The Heart of Software

New for 2020.

Nigel B. Peck

Written by

Writing about software engineering, learning, mentoring and similar fayre. Mentoring & consultancy via nigelbpeck.com.

The Heart of Software

New for 2020. Fresh perspectives on the programming profession. Submissions welcome.

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