Execution is one of the most valuable skills in the world.
It’s the difference between getting that promotion you always wanted or staying at the same position. It’s the difference between having a positive life changing experience or living a lifetime of regret. It’s the difference between building the life you’ve always wanted or keeping the status quo.
“Ideas are just a multiplier of execution”
— Derek Sivers, Anything You Want
Unfortunately, a lot of people have trouble executing on their ideas.
Some spend weeks stuck in the planning phase, fantasizing about “what could be” but never actually make any progress. Overplanning often results in projects ending up in their graveyard of ideas.
Others may whip up what they believe to be a great idea and begin executing immediately. These projects usually end up the same way — in the graveyard. Without enough planning, people tend to get lost in their ideas by adding unnecessary features and eventually lose the motivation to keep working.
Everybody has experienced both of these scenarios at least once. You either never actually start building or sprint too early and burn out.
Have a clearly defined goal
Take out a piece of paper or open a Google Doc. I want you to write down your answers to these questions:
What are you trying to accomplish?
Explain what you want your project to do. Describe what core features you plan on implementing and how they relate to each other. Cut out unnecessary stretch goals. You don’t want to overwhelm yourself to the point of fearing even starting. Follow the KISS principle: Keep It Simple, Stupid.
What do you need/what do you have to learn?
Break down your features into basic lists of components you require. Figure out what you already know and what you have to learn. This will keep you focused as you know the exact steps you have to take to complete your project.
How much time can you dedicate each day?
You may be unemployed, working a full time job, or still a student in school. It doesn’t matter. What matters is how much time you are willing to invest in your project. Time is your most valuable asset. Bear in mind that more hours is not necessarily a good thing. You’re going to burnout if you have too much on your plate. So start small with twenty minutes, thirty minutes, or an hour a day. If you enjoy what you’re working on, you’ll keep going.
Why are you working on this project?
Achievement happens when we pursue and attain what we want. Success comes when we are in clear pursuit of why we want it.
— Simon Sinek
Really understand why you want to build this project. Are you building it to help people? Are you building it to make a profit? Maybe both? Hopefully you’re passionate about whatever problem you’re trying to solve. Passion is a powerful emotion, and it’ll make it a lot easier to stay motivated when you hit a roadblock.
When are you going to start?
Jot down a date (hopefully tomorrow or within the next few days). Put it in your calendar. Set reminders. This is critical in ensuring that you actually start your project to build momentum and not let it fall by the wayside.
Remember to refer back to this document in the future. Feel free to revise your answers throughout the course of your project. Your answers will serve as your north star.
Consistency is key
I have no doubt that you’re going to execute. The main worry is that you’re going to burnout. Burnout sucks. You become fatigued, irritable, sad, stressed, etc. You feel a constant weight on your shoulders that follows you everywhere. It’s not fun. You don’t want to burnout.
So how can you avoid burnout when it comes to your project? Consistently take breaks.
If you answered the questions above, then you already planned to work a certain amount of hours a week… and that’s great! Stick to that. Change it as you please. But if you ever feel the need to take a break, do it. Working an hour when you’re feeling crummy isn’t going to remotely compare to working an hour when you’re excited to work. So don’t beat yourself up for relaxing. You’re human after all. There’s no reason to overwork yourself.
Remember that it’s your responsibility to hold yourself accountable. Nobody else is going to do it for you. However, telling family members and friends about your project will help you stay committed to it. You’re more likely to follow through because you created social pressure for yourself. As long as you keep consistently chipping away at your project, you’ll finish it.
Learn to love roadblocks
Roadblocks are inevitable.
You’re always going to face them in everything you do. You can either give up or start dismantling them. Break the problems down to make them easier to solve. Get creative with your Google searches. Ask for help. You’re probably not the first person to have encountered that specific problem.
Keep a positive mindset and remember that the amazing feeling of figuring out a tough problem is right around the corner. It’s not going to be easy, but always take a step back to remind yourself why you are working on this project. Refer back to the document to stay motivated.
Learn to enjoy the emotional roller coaster of building a product from the ground up. Love the highs and the lows. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows. You’re only going to get out as much as you put in. So, power through the roadblocks to reach completion.
“I don’t have enough time to work on a project”
Everybody has time.
We all share the same 24 hours a day. The only thing standing between you and your new life is your mindset. If you genuinely are passionate about your project, you will find time to build it. If you want to learn something new, you will find time to learn it. Start a daily log of what you do to find free or wasted chunks of time throughout your day. You’ll be surprised how the time you thought you didn’t have just magically appears before your eyes. Use those moments more efficiently.
“I’m afraid of what people will think of me if I fail”
“If you are insecure, guess what? The rest of the world is, too. Do not overestimate the competition and underestimate yourself. You are better than you think.”
― Tim Ferriss, The 4-Hour Workweek
Chances are, people don’t care about what you’re doing as long as it doesn’t affect them. Many are dealing with their own stuff in their lives and are too busy to care what you’re spending your time on. Sure, some people who have nothing better to do might stop for a second to judge you. But if you don’t place value in their opinions, their comments won’t affect you anyway.
Remember that you’re investing your time into something that you are passionate about. You’re doing something that you believe is worthwhile. Building your own project is an invaluable experience that results in your learning many new skills and possibly impacting others for the better. In this context, failure should not exist for you.
Now you’re ready to finish any project you set your mind to!
Say goodbye to your graveyard of ideas — you won’t need it anymore.
Good luck and enjoy the ride.