This week has left me in an unexpected posture of regrouping and re-figuring out some of my life goals and short term objectives as some plans have completed and some have fallen apart. This year has already had a lot of priority shifting and malaise due to the virus and I wasn’t hoping for more, but August for me always brings along some form of miniature mid-life crisis. I blame the Texas heat.
It started last week after I finished a talk on managing backlogs called “Log Jams”. It’s one of my favorite talks so far. I think every developer eventually finds themselves pinned beneath a weighty backlog, so it’s a topic worth talking about. And the portmanteau between a real physical log jam and my matched experience with backlogs was too good to pass up.
I handed the talk off and almost instantly felt a weight lift off my shoulders and a vacuum of free time mysteriously appear. Suddenly, I wasn’t over-busy and I had spare time and mental energy. I’ve had a similar weightless feeling before when a heavily-involved client project deteriorated on me. Unfortunately, I’ve learned over time that rather than convert all that spare time into sitting on my back patio with a cocktail and a book, my brain chemistry desperately and immediately tries to fill that void with more side projects.
I’m accepting this and trying to healthily manage my malbehavior, but preparing this backlog talk had an impact on me. I’ve started to see my side projects list as a backlog. Same with watchlists, reading lists, and even wishlists. I’ve unwittingly pre-occupied my time and money. Each backlog item containing a little backlog. I’m drowning in ideas and aspirations and clogging up my potential. There’s a lot of truth to the #NOBACKLOGS viewpoint; good ideas will naturally resurface and over-planning will weigh you down over time, but I also see the value in getting brainworms out of your head and documented.
As I was tending to my personal backlog and figuring out where to apply my hands next, I got a bit of deflating news about one of my more secretive side projects. Over the last decade of prototyping new product verticals for clients, I’ve collected quite a few thoughts on the value of prototypes. I even started prototyping a book on prototypes by upcycling parts of my talks I paid to have transcribed. Around May, I got wind of a call for authors and I decided to “shoot my shot” as it were and to submit a book proposal. After a few months of expectant excitement, a response came back from the publisher this week letting me know it’s not going to work out. Rejection is never fun, but was a potential outcome I had accepted before embarking on the journey. I learned a lot from the whole proposal process and am thankful for that. As a bonus, my thoughts are even better collected than before through iterations on my outline.
I only mention the book thing because I had softly budgeted time this Fall to be chipping away at a book. Now that project has evaporated. That uncomfortable spare time void I was experiencing is ten times larger than before. I still have the outline and a lot of the content for the book, I could fill my time by deciding to self-publish… or… maybe… not. Maybe I’ll prototype one of those video games I’ve been thinking about for years. Maybe I’ll productionize one of those prototypes I have. Maybe I’ll better maintain a project I’ve already released. Maybe I’ll finish digitizing my grandfather’s POW memoir. Maybe I’ll play video games instead. See? There’s no shortage of void-filler in this ol’ brain. I think I need to reprioritize and focus on what’s worthwhile.