Jacques Mattheij

Technology, Coding and Business

Those niggling last little bits of a project

I’ve been trying very hard to enumerate my shortcomings so I can work on reducing or eliminating them. Of course you can only know yourself so much, so in order to get a better grip on this I decided to ask the people nearest to me to be frank and to tell me what I should improve.

One thing stuck out, not because it was a ‘big thing’ but because it was mentioned several times.

I never actually really finish stuff. Oh, it’s good enough for government work, it makes money and for the most part the people using it are happy. But there are always these loose ends that still need tying up, sometimes even years after finishing the core of a project.

And I think that’s where my shortcoming lies. The core of a project is an interesting thing. Datastructures, all sorts of complicated logic, maybe even a few really tough nuts to crack. In short, great stuff, the kind of thing that makes this work interesting and fun.

But once you’ve done that and things start to work and you reach a 90%+ satisfaction level with the people using it then somehow my stamina fails me. The work gets less interesting, there is less goodwill to be gained from fixing something (because it affects a smaller number of users, or maybe nobody will notice at all), or it will not affect the bottom line in a way that is directly measurable.

And I’ve noticed I have this tendency in real life as well. That one little corner in the room where the carpet doesn’t quite sit right, I’ll get around to it someday. Or the plinths in the room, that look great but are not actually fixed to the wall and a million other small jobs that would be the finishing touch, the time when you can really cross that item of your to-do list instead of having it sit there at 99% complete.

Once I was alerted to this I tried to think of things that I had actually really completed and the list was terribly short. And not for a lack of candidates either, so I still have a whole pile of small (sometimes as short as 10 minutes) jobs lying around that would push these projects from ‘almost complete’ to ‘done’ and out of my head. That way I can stop worrying about still having to do all that stuff too.

So, for the last 30 days, my mission has been to finish stuff. It’s amazing how much change this one small item has made, every day, both ‘in real life’ as well as in all the online stuff it looks like there is a way to reach that 100% complete state after all.

Starting stuff is fun, then the meat is somewhere in the middle. But I’m finding out slowly that finishing stuff can be fun as well, the satisfaction of knowing something is really ‘done’, complete and off the list.

Especially with programming there always is the distraction factor that tends to find a way in, new things are so much more interesting than old things. But even the new things will suffer if there are enough old things that would like that last little bit of attention. So from now on before a new thing gets added to the list, some old things will need to be finished first.

That way I’ll get it under control, and hopefully it will stay that way.