As a naturally curious person, I find I’m often researching new subjects, learning new skills, and trying new things. (I’m sure you can relate, but Wikipedia is like a big giant black hole of time.) This typically means I have a lot of half-developed talents and unfinished projects.
I actually did finish a (small) project lately, and it got me thinking about what the difference in motivation is between projects I start and finish and those I abandon.
In this instance, the small project happened to be an engagement website (for myself and my new fiance! I guess this is what happens when engineers get married…) Now I wrote an article a while ago about the difference between academic vs. “real” programming, and I’d been meaning to learn some web development lately. Learning to program “real code” was sort of a vague, ephemeral goal, but the engagement website and server was a tangible, defined thing, along with a “client”, so to speak, and that’s what gave me the push to finish something.
In general, I’ve found that having a tangible goal as the outcome is the key to success. For example, as a mechanical engineer I’d like to be a better machinist, but I need to have specific things I want to machine or I won’t develop the skill further. I’d like to be a better web developer, but I need specific projects to work on.
Of course, I’ve noticed that at work, where we have clients and due dates, things tend to get finished as well. What do readers do to motivate themselves? Are do they start a lot of projects and not finish them?