It's an Energy Problem

Recently, I had a side-project stall out for a bit. I was in a funk, struggling to make progress for about a month. Other things seemed to come up and it always felt like I didn’t have time.

As this continued, I did some honest reflection and I realized that the issue wasn’t “time.” It was energy and enthusiasm. If you’re dying to do something, you simply won’t let other things get in your way.

Have you ever gotten a new video game that you want to play whenever you get a chance? You pick it up as soon as you get home from school or work, and you don’t stop until something else becomes so urgent, that you reluctantly have to put it down. That’s how it felt when I was building After Dark screensavers with CSS. I was so excited about it that I didn’t want to browse Reddit or watch Hulu. I had an itch and I had to scratch it.

Sometimes you have a project that starts out like that, but then, once the interesting problem is solved and it’s time for you to do the boring parts, your energy fizzles out. How do you solve that problem? I’m not sure, but here are some things I’ve done in the past:

  • Allow myself to take an intentional scheduled break, and then set a time to jump back in.
  • Change what I’m working on. If I was coding, I could switch to design, or vice versa.
  • Change my work location. For example, I’ll bike to the library and work from there.
  • Set up some regular checkins with a peer or somebody interested in seeing your progress.
  • Talk about it with someone, like my wife, or a collaborator. This way, I can admit to others (and myself) that I’m feeling unmotivated, let go of any guilt or frustration, and get assistance, encouragement, or a new perspective.

However you go about solving this, the key is to remember that it’s an energy problem, not a time problem. The goal is to make a change big enough to kick-start that enthusiasm. If you can do that, then it’ll be easy to find the time.