Keep some of your life boring to do exciting stuff

There’s a great post written by Dan McKinley that advises to limit the number of new technology you pick for a project. The premise is that if you adopt too many new concepts you will spend most of your time learning and debugging instead of building value.

I find that to be true and I’ve been reminded of this recently while looking into React Native — it started off as a really exciting project but then quickly my enthusiasm dropped as I had to spend a lot of time understanding basic concepts.

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Happiness cycle from building Futurospective

So when it came to picking the stack for Squadlytics we tried to keep it as familiar as possible (Rails 5 API, React, PostgreSQL) to direct most of the excitement towards delivering value to our customers and less about discovering new tech. It’s hard to do in practice because there’s so many great frameworks, languages, and services being built every year. But limiting yourself to 3 innovations will still provide a lot of great opportunities for self-development.

One thing I did not realize though is that this advice should be applied to life too. You need to limit the number of new initiatives you take.

When the whole is lesser than the sum of its parts

Here’s a list of significant things that happened in my life in 2017:

  • Packed up life in Sydney with wife and baby #1 and moved to a country where we don’t speak the language (Portugal).
  • Stopped working for Atlassian (meaning stop getting regular income).
  • Explored the world of retail businesses.
  • Baby #2.
  • Got back into serious coding (built a time-capsule app!).
  • Began teaching Product Management at SheCodes.
  • Started Squadlytics to help teams understand productivity issues.

Each thing in itself was pretty exciting and I’m lucky enough that we’ve been able to do all that. But in hindsight this was too much and the stress induced by the amount of changes definitely impacted my ability to enjoy the journey.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I was far from being miserable and it’s been an awesome year. Just look at this baby.

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Baby A. is definitely the highlight of 2017.

What I mean is that having so many new things happening at once in my life definitely took away some chances for celebration. For instance, it can be a bit hard to enjoy the nightlife of Lisbon when you’re 3 months into a pregnancy, expecting a baby can be (extra) challenging when you struggle to communicate with doctors and starting a business can be complicated when you also have to figure out your residency status.

Keep some boring stuff to make room for celebrations

The purpose is not for you to lead a boring life. On the contrary the goal is to be able to fully experience the adventures you are taking. You need to reduce your options to take some pressure off and you need some downtime to realize how far you’ve come. Boring should also not mean that you’re doing something you despise. It’s simply about leaving some things that do not require brain power. For instance moving to a country where you already speak the language means that communication won’t be a novelty exercise. Starting a business in a domain that you know will reduce the amount of new skills to learn.

This is definitely something that I’ll be wary of in 2018 as my plate is already full with the 2 kids and bootstrapping a startup. But it’s the same dilemma as with technology choices because there’s always something new, something exciting to do.

I invite you to join me in downsizing the bucket list. Maybe we can keep each other in check.

(Cover credit: Niklas Hamann / Unsplash)