Keeping projects and goals public or private?

I do not feel as though I’ve been as productive in 2011 as I have in previous years. There are various reasons and excuses I could give you for this but I’ll save you the moaning and just explain what I’m going to do about it.

I always used to speak quite loudly about my projects, plans and goals – telling anyone in earshot about the next great thing I was working on. Some of them I’d see through to the end and some would drop by the wayside. I read a blog post by Derek Sivers a little while ago titled ‘Shut up! Announcing your plans makes you less motivated to accomplish them’:

Firstly Derek is an amazing writer, has an awesome book – but most importantly always says what works for him might not work for you.
After reading the article above I started to think this may be the reason why some of my projects fell by the wayside. As I’d been talking about them to friends and colleagues I wondered if I had fallen foul and tricked my brain I’d already accomplished something.

So in 2011 I stopped talking about my plans and ideas, and therefore undertook a number of projects/ideas and built them quietly by myself. Some were shared internally with colleagues, but very little made it out into the public gaze. Generally in 2011 I do not feel as though I’ve produced enough.

Over the past month I’ve been reading Prof Richard Wiseman’s books, and in particular :59 Seconds. For me it is one of the most interesting books I recently read as it talks about many of the theories that self help books cover, and then shows how actual experiments undertaken prove or disprove if something works. In the chapter on motivation it covers 5 steps to increase the chance of finishing your projects or reaching your goals. I won’t mention them all as hopefully you will buy the book, but the one for interest in this blog post is ‘Tell other people about your goals’.

It is interesting, as Derek mentioned in his blog post that ‘Keeping things secret’ is also backed up by experiments and data. So which method to choose? Well I think you should try both – I think different methods will work for different people. Consider where you find yourself at the moment – if you feel you’ve been letting your projects and goals slip but you’ve been keeping them quite, go public with them and see if that gets you up and going.

Changing tact this week and going public with a project has been quite eye opening. I’ve been working on a new project called Swan Sites (the name may change but I’ve not been able to think of a better one yet!) I’ve been posting on Twitter about the project and linking to posts actually on Swan Sites that contain updates and already there has been :
– feedback on features
– an offer to help

The feedback and offers of assistance are so motivating. You could easily spend 6 months on something like Swan Sites before revealing it to the public. Without feedback, ideas and even usage from friends, colleagues and the world in general I think I would loose motivation and drop the project. Six months seems an eternity to me to work on something behind closed doors, even a few weeks seems like a long time. And I don’t think there is an issue with putting ideas out there and risking them being copied. I mean how many ideas are completely original anyway – certainly none of mine have ever been. They might be a mixture of existing things and concepts – and I’m a firm believer in the theory that ideas are worthless and execution is key.

So 2012 is going to be the year of going public with ideas and plans, plus small steps and iterations. My main project that I’m going to be focusing my spare time on will be Swan Sites, but I’m also going to use this principle with any projects I work on at Lightning Tools.

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