On Finishing Projects

September 20, 2021

Edit: This used to be a tongue-in-cheek post about not knowing how to finish personal projects, but I think there are useful things to be said about what the goal of projects should be.

We all struggle following through on personal projects sometimes. It can be hard to focus on the current task when the next fun idea presents itself.

Honestly, I think that's fine.

Why work on personal projects

There are different reasons to work on personal projects. For me, the two biggest motivators are:

  • To have the end result
  • To learn new skills

Obviously, the reason I start some of my projects is because there is some end product that I would like to have. I may build a website, like this one, so that I can share content with other people.

What motivates me more, however, is using projects to learn new skills. I built this site to have a public-facing blog, yes. More importantly, I built it so that I could play around with JavaScript and static site generators. It will never be "finished". There will always be more posts to write and more features to add.

What counts as "done"

In my opinion, it's fine to call a project done when it has accomplished its purpose. If that purpose is to gain an understanding of how a particular piece of technology operates, I won't lose any sleep if I didn't finish the product I had intended to create.

When I look back over my graveyard of half-finished projects, I see the tools and techniques I learned, not the apps that sit unused.

I've gotten exposure to a wide variety of topics, from web technologies to data science techniques. Some of these have proven to be useful at work (where I do actually finish projects, because that's the point).

I learn by doing, and I will continue starting more projects than I can finish. I think this makes me better at my job, and I also just find it more enjoyable.

I'm still hoping to finish that DAG-based todo list, though. One of these days...