Walk Before You Run

You sit down to start your next project, full of energy and enthusiasm. You’re excited; starting something new is an opportunity to make something great. It starts out simple but, over time, grows into something unmanageable. You add a new feature here, a design tweak there. Until, eventually, your perfect little side project has become something else entirely.

Later, with a huge list of tasks to complete and no sign of launching on the horizon, your energy fades. You start getting frustrated. Working on your side project stops being fun. You aren’t learning anything new; you’re just trying to finish the damn thing.

We’ve all been there. It’s a struggle as old as time itself.

It’s a cycle of failure and, if you’re don’t change your approach, it’s one you’ll repeat over and over. Managing constraints, priorities, and scope is easy — when you’re at work. There are external pressures and expectations motivating you to get shit done. But when you’re working on a side project — when every decision is yours, and yours alone — you struggle.

Take a moment, right now, and think about why you failed to ship your last project. You might believe the problem was a lack of willpower, discipline, or motivation. You might think your idea, well, sucked. But there’s a good chance that wasn’t the problem at all. The problem was scope management.

You don’t become a master painter overnight. No, you start by painting something small. Taking some classes and learning the basics. Practice, practice, practice. The same principle applies to shipping your side projects. Once you successfully launch one small, manageable project, you can ramp up a little bit. Then, ramp up some more. Shipping is a skill that can be learned and practiced, like any other.

So start practicing.