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Priorities

Cameron Moll's recent post, "For Non-Startups, Things Just Take Time", has me thinking. While he's specifically addressing independent teams, I'm taking it more personally to pertain to individual side projects.

The independent team soon realizes that speed isn't a luxury; its currency is late nights and long weekends. For those who prefer to keep a semi-regular schedule and who have other things to care for outside of work, we eventually learn to accept that things just take longer than we hope they'd take.

I think too often within the web development community there's an inane sense of urgency in the work that we do that spills over into our personal lives. This comes in part from the startup mindset that projects must be completed yesterday lest we risk losing market share to our competitors. It's easy to get sucked into this mindset. There are a lot of companies who behave this way, and, as a result, spend countless nights and weekends working extra hours in an attempt to perpetually stay ahead of everyone else.

There's a glimmer of hope surfacing these days, though, and that is that it's possible to rethink your strategy. Rather than competing on features or being first to market, it's still possible to succeed by differentiating yourself. By building a unique product and providing a superior level of service to your customers, you provide additional value that may not be matched elsewhere.

As someone guilty of taking an extended time working on my own personal projects, the above could very well just be an excuse for not getting things done more quickly. But that's my choice to make: I could get more done, but only at the expense of time with my family. If you're single and can afford to spend every waking moment working, then that's fine; pursue your passion. But, if you have a family (or would like one), then you'd be wise to better prioritize your time. I know how easy it is to fall into the trap of working late nights at the expense of sleep. That's easy to justify when, for your peers, that's the norm and not the exception. I'd argue that it doesn't need to be this way. At least, I'm hopeful it doesn't.

Here's Moll again:

I'm learning, rather forcibly I suppose, to be okay with things taking time. I'm also learning that often you end up with a better product when you take your time to get all the big and small details just right. It's time well-spent.

So, while there's no substitute for blood, sweat, and tears, there's also no hard and fast rule that says you need to kill yourself in the name of productivity in order to succeed. Through a steady pace and incremental improvements, you can produce something meaningful.

I've made a goal this year to create a product and make it profitable. It's something I began mulling over last year after learning of Buster Benson's 90 day challenge. I like the constraint of limited time combined with a goal of profitability. This is my first public statement of this resolution, and is an attempt to keep myself accountable. Let's see if I'm right: if you really can build a successful product and still have a life.