Personal Motivation Driven Development

June 10, 2013

I wanted to feel like I’ve done something cool. You know, something I might be known for. Even if by only a few people outside of my usual network. And I’m a software guy, so I thought I might try making a piece of software. And my most recent kick is mobile apps, so an iOS app is the obvious choice, right? Everyone buys/downloads those!

So I set off trying to come up with the next big thing. I started on a few different ideas that I’m sure could have made it off the ground had I put in the time and effort. The problem was that I just didn’t feel motivated. Every time I came upon some difficult decision or unclear requirement, I would find a distraction. Then a week later I would realize, “Oh crap! I haven’t worked on this thing for so long! What was I doing again?” Then I would have to reacquaint myself with the project, which would add yet another demotivational pressure.

The problem, I figured out, was that I didn’t really care about the product I was working on. Might I make money from it? Maybe. Might people be interested enough in it to try it out? Maybe. Was it something I would use? No.

There it is. I had no personal stake in the product. I was working on something I really didn’t care about. I needed to be building something I wanted. If I was going to act as my own product owner, it had to be a product I wanted to own. So I stopped and waited for a software void in my life I wanted to fill.

One day, as I was trying to set up some cloud storage accounts to share with my family, I realized that the service I was using couldn’t do what I needed it to do. I wanted to have one account to share photos and such with my family and another for my own personal stuff, but the service supports only having one account on a computer at a time. As it turns out, this is a fairly common complaint. Also, the service happens to have a really nice web service API. I found my project!

So I found something to work on that I had personal stake in. I was motivated by the notion that the end product was something I wish I had. Every day I didn’t work on the project was a another day I had to wait before I would get that thing I wanted. Something new was driving my development. Not fame, not fortune. It was my own personal motivation. And it worked.