Starting a project of any sort may be difficult for some, and easier for others. However, you should have reasonable expectations and a proper plan no matter how much effort or time you intend to pour into a website, app, business, art, writing, or any other project. More importantly, you should always be okay with asking yourself, “is this worth it?” and not feel bad if you decide a project is not worth continuing. Keep reading to hear my morning thoughts (perhaps a ramble of sorts) on the importance of planning ahead, knowing when to quit, and the benefits of being aware of how you spend your time and energy.
I have started hundreds of projects throughout the years, whether it was a paper mache mask as a child or a full blown web software in 2020. That does not mean I finished each one, and that’s okay! The important part is to understand your goals with each project and make a plan that allows you to feel accomplished, or at least educated and more experienced from the challenges of starting and finishing the project. There may be things that you do not end up doing and as a result, your project remains unfinished. I’m here to say that it’s okay! Of course, finishing anything is always a great goal, but sometimes it may not be in your best interests. For example, I have planned, designed, and programmed countless user and content management systems using PHP and MySQL. At this point I could honestly say that if I started a new CMS or CRM software and didn’t finish it, I would not be bothered in the slightest. Why? Well, I have done it before and so finishing yet another web portal will not genuinely increase my skillsets in any noticeable way (unless I decided to use a different programming language or create unique features). I would be much better off if I started a project type I had never worked on before than to start and finish (or not finish) a project that I know I can finish as long as I sink in enough time.
Time is an interesting thing and isn’t always so plain and simple. 1 hour to me maybe much different to you. Spending a few hours on the computer may be productive, or maybe for someone else it’s a terrible decision because of what (or who) they had to ignore or disregard in order to spend that time on the computer. So, it’s very important to understand that you can’t judge time by a set amount of seconds, minutes, or hours, etc. Instead we should focus on what we do with the time, and if it’s worth it to spend our time doing any single thing rather than another. That is why it is so important to have reasonable expectations when you start a project. What are your goals? What do you hope to accomplish? How much time do you intend to spend seeking that completion? What will you miss out on if you do? Is it all worth it?
Once you can define a project by how much time or effort is required and what the benefits of completing it is, you will be in a much better place. Too many people start something and then work endlessly and tirelessly to try to complete it. Some do and others spend their entire lives trying to accomplish a goal that may have started with unreasonable expectations. Once you can reframe your mind to think “I am choosing to be productive in a better way” instead of “I am a quitter, I am giving up on my project”, you will have a better chance of having a fulfilling career, hobby, or life in general. Walking away from something is just as important as jumping into something and starting a new project, and it does not make you a quitter across the board. That’s up for you to decide, and nobody else. After all, when I decided to stop working on certain projects it was only because I began new projects that gave me new skills. Although my portfolio of finished projects may not have grown, my experience and knowledge certainly did. This is an important realization, but once you understand that “quitting” is different than “making an informed decision to stop working on a project”, you will be in a much better place mentally and emotionally if you ever do abandon or put a pause on any endeavor.
No matter what you do, make sure you clearly define your expectations for any project or effort in life. Without any expectations at all, you will surely struggle to find purpose. With unreasonable expectations you may find yourself chasing a dream faster and harder than a 50 year old neighbor who’s convinced they will be a rockstar as their family life falls apart… but with reasonable expectations, you will gain a true awareness of how you spend your time and effort, when it’s worth it or not, and how to leave something behind in favor of far more reasonable and productive ways to spend your time.
Good luck and happy holidays!