After putting one of my other solo startup ideas on hold (Clerk.ai) for a couple of months, I had enough energy to revisit it and think about how I finally could get a public beta up for others to try.
I had spent over three years (part-time) coding, researching and pitching the idea without ever arriving to a public beta phase, and the TODO lists that had accumulated over the years were so massive that if felt that it would take yet another three years to get a release out of the door.
I wanted to make something available for a smaller target market quickly, without having to realize the grand vision (fully automated accounting prep automation for freelancers) which would take years to accomplish.
Having failed figuring out what was the most important things to do using TODO lists (despite heavy use of detailed sub-lists, high level lists, urgent/important-flags, GTD approaches etc), I used a spreadsheet to pair possible marketing messages with the required scope/work necessary to implement the promise in each potential marketing message. The idea of matching these two aspects were very useful, but different marketing messages required walking quite different paths implementation-wise in order to realize them, and it was hard to write such insights into a spreadsheet grid.
It then hit me - I needed to visualize this in a network/graph structure to understand what was going on.
The next day, after spending 1.5 hours adding and connecting potential milestones and the required scope/work in a network/graph visualization app (Cytoscape), I was amazed at the clarity the visualization brought to the process. I made more strategic insights in the following days than in the last year, just by having the visualization clear in my mind. (One of the most impactful insights was that I had been working on trying to make two very different target market groups happy using the same technical approach, while in reality their needs would be much better of met by creating two separate solutions! This showed up very clearly in the visualization, but I hadn't though about it that way. By realizing this I could also choose one of the target market groups and double down on getting something ready for them, without having to care about the other (potentially much smaller) target market group.
This was powerful stuff. At least for me. The idea for GoalCanvas had been born.