Personal Project Sprint

Here’s the deal — I’m really good at making lists… but in quantity not quality. I can make a dozen or more to-do lists between assorted notebooks, sticky notes, email, Evernote, Trello, and who-knows-what-else. (I’ve created a super simple list tool that I’m hoping will help combat that problem)

But I’m not always very good at following through with the tasks. Lists from 6 months ago might be the same as a list I jotted this morning. That’s right, I still haven’t cleaned up my worktable, or fixed that bug in that code…

Some I’m issuing this challenge to myself:
get as much done on my projects and to-dos as possible during April.

Here are a few principles I’ll try to follow to help me stay on track:

1. No time-sinks

Of course, that’s how we want to be all the time right, crossing stuff off our list(s)? But I’m sure even the best of us have been procrastinating on a few tasks. So for this month, the plan is to be especially vigilant about avoiding the things that steal away time without giving anything useful in return. Naps okay, Imgur bad.

2. No new projects

Similarly, I want to avoid starting anything new (I may start a separate list *uhoh* for reference later). New is exciting, but it doesn’t help cross things off.

3. Make progress every day

Putting things off to tomorrow is easy, but if I’m going to really get things done, I have to make at least a little progress every day. I’m also planning to document my progress so at the end of April I can look back and be impressed with myself :). I’ll add updates to this post as I’ve completed tasks and share highlights on Twitter.

And in the end, build better habits

If all goes well, this sprint will help me to see the value in not procrastinating. And maybe I’ll be able to fully remove those time-sinks from my life, or at least May.

Join me

If you also have lists older than the bottle of mustard in your fridge, you’re welcome to join me. Or maybe you’ve tackled your todo lists already and can share your tips and offer encouragement!


  • 4/1 – Finished and published a blog post.
  • 4/2 – Taxes done (finally).
  • 4/3 – Renewed my tabs. Fixed a bug in the mobile display of this site. Made improvements to my site’s backup scripts.
  • 4/4 – Installed Redis on my server. Updated a friend’s WordPress site.
  • 4/5 – Fixed an old Twitter robot. Figured out some git hooks.
  • 4/6 – Cereal for dinner and watched a movie!
  • 4/7 – Moved some stuff to GitHub.
  • 4/8 – Boring chores, but they must be done.
  • 4/9 – Made biscotti 🙂 Okay, I really need to refocus.
  • 4/10 – Got more stuff added to GitHub.
  • 4/11 – Friday night! BBQ with friends.
  • 4/12 – Yard work. Vacuumed car.
  • 4/13 – Computer cleaning. Freed up ~30GB of space.
  • 4/14 – Learning about puppet.
  • 4/15 – More learning about puppet.
  • 4/16 – Hacked on
  • 4/17 – (oops)
  • 4/18 – (oops)
  • 4/19 – Garden stuff, manicure with mom.
  • 4/20 – Cleaning. Brother’s anniversary / family dinner.
  • 4/21 – (oops)
  • 4/22 – (oops)
  • 4/23 – (oops)
  • 4/24 – Recorded ‘git basics’ video.
  • 4/25 – Wrote the “Be Nice” post.

4 thoughts on “Personal Project Sprint”

  1. I have this same problem myself. The only practice I have found that reduces the stale todos on my task list is to:
    – use a paper-based system with daily todo lists.
    – everyday rewrite all undone next action task items from the day before.
    – add any new next action tasks (from in-progress or new projects) below the previously undone tasks.

    This process results in me continuing to move projects forward mostly out of frustration with rewriting the same task into my list several days in a row. I love the computer based systems (Trello, Omnifocus, todo.text) but they make it too easy for me to overcommit.

  2. I was really excited when you announced your personal project spring on Twitter! Lord knows, after a full day of client work it can be difficult to keep motivated for your own stuff. Ok, so for me the issue is laziness, there are so many ways to be lazy that it’s hard to resist!

    I salute you, encourage you, and join you!
    (Maybe you should start a hashtag? Not that spending more time online is going to make me more productive but it could be encouraging to kick things up a notch and it could be super satisfying to it grow!)

    1. I was considering a hashtag, I just didn’t have a good idea. Maybe I’ll add that to my todo list 😀

  3. I have never had this problem. *

    (* this is a lie)

    I’ve thought about this. The problem is like that of trying to fill a leaky bucket … If you want to get fancy, in calculus it’s called a related rates problem. Basically, adding items to the to-do list is usually faster than accomplishing them. Then there are distractions, which are so natural, fun, and — sometimes through serendipity — may even allow us to cross things off in bulk or realize that certain things are not important (the fancy name for prioritizing).

    After almost 40 years on this planet, I suck at prioritizing. Also, I’m actually awesome at it. I follow (and at times when prioritizing is not working for me, disregard) two rules:
    1. Have fun (a positive way of phrasing Marshall Rosenberg’s “Never do anything that isn’t play.”)
    2. the buddhist principle of perfect action: if an action helps someone and hurts no-one, it’s a perfect action.

    I doubt anyone on their deathbed said “I wish I worked more, had less fun, gave myself more guilt trips and spent less time with people I love and also didn’t do those things I felt passionate about.” (Yes, I realize I stole this from somewhere.)

    I personally have to thank you for some lovely wp-cli tips (which I hope will allow me to spend less time online, and more time, you know, with the people I love and the hands-on stuff I’m passionate about).

    You know about being nice. Have fun.


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