The Burden of Self-Imposed Bureaucracy

When working alone, sometimes I was my worst teammate

When I have an idea to build something, I usually get caught up in my own bureaucracy. I set up a board with a backlog of features, I make a Github repo with a super detailed README, I spend hours creating beautiful wireframes, I tell all of friends about how cool my idea is, so on and so forth. But, what I don’t end up doing, is getting any of the real stuff done.

The problem is, I usually only have a few hours to try to nail something down, so instead of tackling the hard problems, I nibble away at building artifacts for myself to ogle over. I shy away from sinking my teeth into the meat-and-bones of a project because I feel like I’ll never get to finish the whole thing.

But here’s the thing, working alone means that most of that stuff isn’t even necessary, at least not in the beginning.

Instead of all of the fussy work, we can spend our focus on taking what we might consider a Minimal Viable Product (MVP), and shrinking it down even further. The question to help do this might go something like this: “what is the thinnest slice of this project that I can get done that will help me 1) validate my idea, 2) leave me with something to work off of, and 3) (most importantly) keep me motivated?”

Justin Searls at Test Double codifies this into what he calls, the One Weekend Rule in his talk, The Selfish Programmer.

…If I’m not able to release a project by Sunday night, I don’t do it… the One Weekend Rule is a liberating constraint, because it’s forced me to shrink down my dreams into something small enough that I can get done—with the side effect of also fitting inside my brain…

· process, teams