Getting Stuck With A New Project? Get Real

Years ago I began on United Hollywood Magazine. It started with a totally different idea in mind and eventually ended up as something else entirely. During that time, I attempted to create many different and supposedly perfect designs. None of them made it. My plans were too complicated, and there was never enough time to execute them.

Looking back, I can see multiple problems with my approach to this redesign.

Planning Is Good, But It Isn’t Real Work

Sure, it’s great to come up with perfect plans for whatever you’re working on. However, planning isn’t work. No matter how much time it takes or how much work it requires.

Why? Well, in my opinion and that of my colleagues, most people — and I am one of them — have exceptionally short attention spans. If you spend too much time planning, you run the risk of never realizing those plans.

Get Something Out Quickly

Look at the features planned. Look at your schedule. Can you get out a working prototype within a month? No? Forget about it. You’ll lose interest and move on to the next great idea before the project is finished.

That’s what happened to me. I have a stack of half-done designs for United Hollywood scattered all around my hard drive. I was happy with all of them at one point. The problem was that they took too long to finish and by the time a month went by I had new ideas, ones that did not fit within the existing design. So I had to start over… over, and over, and over. There was no end to this cycle.

It’s not just the new ideas that cause problems. It’s the fact that by the time you’ve been working for a month on the same idea, you’re not in the same state of mind as when you first got the idea. Everything’s changed, but you’re still working on the same thing, with no results.

Take The Smallest Feature, Build It. Move On To The Next

I decided that 2009 was the year I would change my habits. I wrote down a list of things that made up a great blog in my mind. There were 9 of them. I highlighted posts and comments, then I crossed out the rest.

I took those two vital parts of a blog, designed around them and built the first version. It took me 16 hours. Now I sit here typing this post, instead of wasting weeks on design and development.

Hey, I’ve Heard All This Before

Does all of the above look vaguely familiar? I would guess so. Some might call it getting real, others agile. It doesn’t matter. The issue, at least in my case, was that I was quick to apply such practices to my client’s projects or anything that involved a team beyond just me, but I would neglect them when working on my own portfolio or blog.

It took me six years to get to this point. Mostly, because I was too busy to sit back and reflect on what I was doing wrong. But here’s what I read that prompted me to work.

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