Knowing when to start something new

Knowing when to start something new

One of the biggest challenges that I have faced in my life is finding a balanced way of doing all of the things that I want to do. Whether it is a software project, entrepreneurial venture or something more personal, the questions that come to mind are always:

  1. Do I feel inspired?
  2. Do I have time to do this?
  3. Am I willing to sacrifice other things in my life for this?

Too often I forget to really give these questions thought, and I end up starting something that likely will never get finished. While I believe it is crucial to answer a strong yes to all three of these quetsions before embarking on a new challenge, I want to look at each question individually first.

Do I feel inspired?

Never start something simply because you have an idea. I think Jason Fried put it best when he said "Inspiration is like a time machine". When you're inspired you're able to get superhuman amounts of work done. You think clearly and passionately, and most importantly, you love the work you do.

I'm constantly blown away by how much work people can do when they're feeling inspired about something. Very solid MVPs (minimum viable products), which could take days, can be produced in hours.

Being inspired is a wonderful thing, and there's really no point in starting a new project unless you're feeling it from the get go.

Do I have time to do this?

For most people, it is difficult to focus on a new project full time, so we need to consider if we have enough time in our day to nurture our idea enough to give it a sure shot at survival.

I can't begin to count the number of ideas I've been excited about and started working on straight away only to neglect them terribly in the coming weeks because of a busy schedule.

The best way to avoid this happening is to take a step back early on and figure out objectively if you have enough time to work on a new project. No matter how small the idea, it's mentally taxing to take on a new project, and it's going to require work. Don't start something if you don't have the time to do it.

Am I willing to sacrifice other things in my life for this?

This is a tough one. If you're an entrepreneur or a maker of some sort, chances are that you have more than a single idea. Chances probably lean more towards you having dozens of ideas, so even if you've answered yes to the first two questions outlined above, you need to realize that for every new project you take on, you miss out on other parts of your life.

New ideas are often all-consuming, and even if you regulate how much time you're spending working directly on a new project, it will still be on your mind more than this.

Are you willing to a) spend less time with your significant other; b) see family less; c) have less time to relax and unwind; and d) have less time to yourself? If not, then you should seriously reconsider starting on the project at all.

Entrepreneurship is a wonderful thing. We get to try out new ideas and build businesses from the ground up, but this freedom and experimentation doesn't come for free. We need to invest time, effort and ultimately ourselves into a new project.

But, when the right idea comes along, and you're able to confidently answer yes to the above three questions, you need to get started.