Fractal Garden Learnings – Part 1
Ideas on how to work effectively
This post focuses on learnings about the process of working on 1-month projects. Such as how to manage time, how to let go from a project and live with the imperfections and why marketing matters.
Part 2 on the other hand is all about the technical problems faced during the project and filled with details on Fractals and L-Systems.
- Marketing is hard and the fear of failure stands in the way of self-promotion and personal growth.
- Accepting imperfections in a project is a necessary evil. Perfect is the enemy of getting things done.
- Giving up control and letting projects take on a life of their own feels weird, because of egoistic tendencies.
- 1-month is a long time for staying motivated, but still not enough time to "really" finish things.
- Using time trackers and a process of accountability to others helps stay productive.
There is more down below, so keep reading.
The biggest learning for me was that, you should plan time for marketing work. Putting your stuff out there is as important as building it, and making good posts for HackerNews, Twitter and LinkedIn takes a lot of work and effort. But this work is necessary to gain traction and therefore it's worth the effort. Without doing it, the projects will never be appreciated by enough people, to make them worth the effort. And they won't grow after my initial one month push is over. For the next 1-month projects I plan to dedicate at least the last 3-4 days of the month to marketing efforts, only. This should include reaching out to other blogs and going to Meetups to showcase what I've built.
On the same note, I found that marketing efforts are for some reason very painful to me. Putting things out there, somehow, feels weird. Not weird... It feels. Well. Bad. Like I don't want to do it...
Which is confusing to me, since I love showing what I have built to my friends and get a real kick of dopamine from it. Yet at the same time I really dislike putting stuff out there on the internet for a lot of people to see.
Maybe it's the fear of failing openly that causes those feelings. There is a sense of shame, in publicizing my own work, knowing how flawed it still is because it was only a month long project. When my stuff is visible in the open, and people find all the things that are wrong with it, that just really really stings.
And even though this is something completely irrational, the feeling remains, this bitter taste of "hmm. I don't really want to do this". And this very feeling leads to procrastination. It produces a negative weighting on the neurons that produce action and motivation to do something. And therefore the chance of you doing it decreases by a lot.
People just shy away from potential pain, and hence miss the opportunity to improve their work. Because by sharing your work you gain much needed feedback. Feedback which in turn will drastically improve your work, if you act on it.
This fear of failure also prevents people from putting as much of their work out there as they could. This, is an obstacle to be overcome. Imagine all the cool stuff, that never sees the light of day, because people, including me and you, are too afraid of failing.
When creating a new open source project, it's kind of hard to let go. In a way fractal.garden feels like "my" site, and by making it open source and inviting others to contribute to it, I am relinquishing some of that control. And somehow that feels bad. There is a voice in my head that says: Hey. Wouldn't it be cool, to fix these things on your own? You should really implement this yourself. You know how it would work... Do it. But I try to ignore that voice because this is not the idea of 1-month projects and even less of open sourcing something.
1-month projects shouldn't start stretching out into 2 months or 3 months, because then the whole idea of exploring things for the sake of exploration is completely lost.
Also, I need to learn to relinquish that control, so that I can actually work together with other people. There is something deeply beautiful about the process of open source. Somehow a lot of people, freely getting together to create something awesome has a very empowering and noble touch to it.
And fully acknowledging this feeling is the antidote to not wanting to relinquish control. Once you start to see work from other people pouring in and simply accept "their" work on "your" projects, your ego will start to slowly dissolve away.
And then you can accept that you can't do everything on your own and that's why you made something open-source in the first place. Which means you can let go and relinquish control. You can empower other people and let the projects take on a life of their own.
I think that this is equally important in a company or management setting. This idea that the project itself is more important than you are... That – is a very powerful idea, but still something that I have a hard time to fully wrap my head around and accept. A sliver of ego still remains.
Living with the imperfections from the projects and moving on is really really tough. There are a bunch of little things that I would like to fix with the fractal.garden, and I've created issues for them on the project's GitHub, but I have to restrain myself from actually fixing them, because I want to spend my time doing other things. And this is really really tough for me. I know something is wrong, but I don't have the time to fix it, because I want to spend my time on the next 1-month project.
1-month might not be the correct amount of time for me. One thing I noticed is that 1-month is a "weird" amount of time. It's too long and too short at the same time!
The final state of the project after one month, is such that it still needs work and that there are still a lot of threads left open that need follow up. There are still a bunch of cleaning up tasks to do. There are still quality improvements to be made. There are features still to be built. Yet, I have to move on.
One month is not enough time for tackling all of those. And that's part of the idea of exploration. But facing this, I mean really living with these imperfections, accepting that they will remain there, is still tough. But necessary, otherwise the projects will take much much longer than 1-month to truly complete.
But... one month is way too long at the very same time. That seems like a contradiction but it isn't. The reason why I think that 1-month is too long for these projects is that I start losing interest in things quicker than that.
My time for being hyper motivated and focused on a project is around one to two weeks. After that, I start to grow tired of it, and my brain searches for other things to latch onto. And I start procrastinating. One thing I procrastinated this month with a lot, was to use Midjourney to produce a digital art portfolio. And building a newsletter. But it's still procrastination, and the Fractal Garden could have had a lot more features, had I spent time exclusively on it.
Something positive I found out is, that I can work really hard and self-motivated. And not procrastinate too much.
Time tracking helps quite well with being more productive (I use clockify and their chrome extension at the moment). Since using it I've become a lot better at staying on track, and there is something really rewarding of having a time sheet at the end of the week showing just, how much effort you have exactly put into something. For the Fractal Garden I spent around 65 tracked hours making it. Sometimes I still forget to turn the timer on, and at the beginning of the month, I didn't use the time tracking method at all. So yeah, there are still things to improve in the future.
Also the number of 65 hours is a little on the low end for a full month of work, it should be closer to something like 120+ hours (30+ hours per week?) if a project is sufficiently focused on. This is something that I would like to push for over the next months. The accountability of the process that Marc and I set up, helps a lot as well.
However there is one thing off with my working habits still: the lack of focus. There is a graspable tension between the 1-month projects and the work that still has to happen – here on trebeljahr.com. Last month it was the newsletter setup, this month it will be some SEO work, the month after some book summaries... and so on.
The crux of it is, that the amount of work that can be put into 1-month projects is limited by the amount of hours left over after I have spent time on working on other things. This includes my part time job at Ironhack. And this idea is only amplified because of the shifts in my motivation and the resulting procrastination.
As of now, still an unsolved problem... But I know that some of the 1-month projects have no chance of seeing the light of day if I don't fix this. So thinking about possible solutions for this problem will be on the back of my mind for some time to come.
Because this was the first 1-month project, the amount of learnings I took from it was tremendous. I don't think there will be that many "meta insights" to write about during the next projects, but let's see. This process, of sitting down after the project and reflecting and putting into words, what I've learned from it, is something that I want to keep either way.
If you are more interested in the technical learnings, go have a look at Part 2 of this series of posts. And either way, take care.