Ideas and Validation July 15, 2020

Option Overload?

Mohammed Hayat @mohayat

I remember reading Eric Ries' The Lean Startup a while back and encountering a pretty interesting quote by Shawn Carolan that said: "Startups don't starve, they drown."

oddly enough, this concept has scaled down to the side-project level, where every time I start planning for one of two projects I have in mind, I find something interesting to add to the other, shifting my focus away from my current work.

to those who have been in the same dilemma, what factors helped you get out of it?


  1. 2

    Why are you building the side projects?
    Fun: Jump around as you please
    Money / in service for others: What would they thing of that?...

    Really think, why are you in it?... personally...

    1. 1

      answering these questions definitely helped clarify the project to start out with. I think what I found interesting while using this approach was taking different perspectives to answer the questions and evaluating which one made sense to spend my time on.

      one of my projects is a simple way to share and keep track of a person's reading lists, and while it is simple and fun to work on, I keep running into validation on twitter for my second idea, which serves as an introduction to due diligence on stocks for beginner investors, and realizing the need and opportunity (and market) for the latter idea made it clear which one I should be focusing on.

      Thanks for your answer!

  2. 2

    Best thing I do for everything I start:

    👉 Write down the problem you are working to solve.

    Unless you find the problem isn't worth it anymore, do not solve another problem until the first one is solved.

    Always solve things one problem at a time. Writing it down prevents you from easily changing or getting distracted.

    1. 2

      I'd agree with Jay. When you drop the focus on features, and really get absorbed by solving a customer problem, you won't have the time to get distracted. We usually get distracted because of the novelty of some kind of technology or the excitement of building a new feature.

      When you define the problem you want to solve, you can always ask yourself if what you're working on is the best way to solve this issue now. Get your users involved and you'll get even more energized!

      In case you're interested, I'm working on to help developers validate their ideas (and stay focused!) and I'm looking for a couple of alpha testers. You might be a good fit, in particular for the motivational/focus part. I use similar methodologies as you do (lean startup, agile, product mgmt best practices...). Let me know if you're interested!

      1. 2

        I think perceiving the project on a macro scale of a target you are trying to hit can definitely help one focus on the issue instead of small details like a feature or mod. Mixing this with Jay's suggestion of thorough documentation of your actions and plans can definitely stick you on the right path.

        validator sounds like an awesome service! I am in the process of working with a friend who has experience and a network in the field but I've bookmarked it in case I need some more help!

        1. 1

          Always happy to hear from you later! :-)

    2. 1

      Thanks for the advice!

      for some reason, I always used to start projects on hunches with no documentation but as I went through ideas in the past I learned to refine that and ensure that things are written down and even versioned out in order to avoid the overload of feature ideas that overwhelms you at the start of work on any project, the current obstacle in my way is convincing myself of the importance and "worth" of one idea over the other, and focusing on it regardless of new features or ideas that might pop up for the other one, that's a problem I hope to solve with detailed documentation of the main focus to force myself to act on it and ignore any thoughts of jumping ideas.

  3. 1

    I think jumping around is healthy. It means you’ve not found the right thing for you.

    Note - that doesn’t mean you’ve not found the right thing; as in a product that could become profitable. It just means you’ve not found the right fit for yourself yet.

    I can only speak from personal experience but when you build the thing that you believe in and care about then you’ll stick with it.

    Again from my experience that doesn’t mean you won’t build other things too, for fun and a bit of respite. But you’ll keep the main thing in your focus.

  4. 1

    Have you read The One Thing? I have ideas for side projects but what keeps me going is setting a goal for my first project. For example, $10k MRR that is running pretty much on its own for my agency, then I can move on to focusing more on affiliate marketing for my blog, which I haven't set the "accomplished" goal for yet. I keep a log of long-term ideas but I won't start working on them until I hit this goal.

  5. 1

    I think about this alot. One of the biggest problem creative people have is the ideas problem. I'm guilty of it too, I have endless streams of ideas. Couple that with an inbuilt need to create (anyone else get that?) I end up going in 100 different directions on 100 different projects. It's the creative curse, the more creative you are the harder it is to focus.

    What I do, is keep an ideas board on trello and every project that comes to me goes on that. I make a rule not to work on it if it's new. I have another board for the current project with todos before shipping then move them into in progress and then complete etc. I find it helps to not only remind me what is next but keep me focused on the one project.

    One project at a time. Open that trellis everytime you sit down to work.