I have a tendency to take on too many projects.
I can't resist. If there's something new to learn, or a new idea that I want to build, there's a new project right there waiting to be worked on. The siren song is intoxicating.
But as 2023 started, I couldn't help but look back on the previous year and feel like I barely got anything done on my long-term projects.
That's not strictly true. I definitely wrote code. I definitely built new functionality.
And if you look at the macro-level – at every project I touched – and add up all the changes, then yeah, stuff got done. At the per-project level however, it really didn't feel like much changed.
So in January, I tried something different. I focused on one project – a website for a university student group I used to run – and worked exclusively on that, every day. I even put my money where my
mouth hands were and set up a goal on Beeminder.
This was directly from reading Ryan Holiday's book Discipline is Destiny. In the chapter "Keep The Main Thing The Main Thing", he writes:
Here is the inescapable logic: Everything we say yes to means saying no to something else. No one can be two places at once. No one can give all their focus to more than one thing. But the power of this reality can also work for you: Every no can also be a yes, a yes to what really matters. To rebuff one opportunity means to cultivate another.
Turns out that when you focus on the one thing that matters, you get a lot done. I made more progress in one month than I had in a year.
Not just on the one project, but on all of my projects in general. By moving between all of them, my focus was split; there was simply too much cognitive overhead.
Focusing on one project means juggling fewer things in your head, which means more brain power for actually delivering something of value.