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Sometimes starting projects is really fun and easy, but other times it can be quite intimidating, if not outright scary. Particularly if you need to use a new machine or software that you have never used before. I am often worried that I won’t be able to make it work, or that other people will laugh at me if I can’t make it work. Luckily, I know that this is just in my brain. I start new projects all the time, and I am not afraid to ask to ask for help.

While I generally don’t have a problem starting projects, I sometimes have problem finishing them. Finishing projects takes hard work! But nothing – absolutely nothing – beats the feeling of a successful project! That makes it worth every moment of blood, sweat, and tears.

How to get started?

If you can’t get around starting a project, or not even decide what to make, here are a few tips:

  • Pick something that you find really exciting!
  • If you are not really sure what you find exciting, search online for ideas. There are literally millions of ideas for different project. A quick look at Instructables or Make Magazine, for example, will get your creativity flowing.
  • Pick something simple. Don’t start planning to build a spaceship if you haven’t even made a paper airplane.
  • Ask people for help, but don’t pester them. Prepare questions in advance, so you can be efficient with the person’s time. If you are polite, prepared, and don’t waste their time, it is very likely that they will help you again!
  • Don’t spend a huge amount of money directly. Dig through your stockpile of stuff, then decide what parts you need to acquire. Buy the ones you need immediately, wait with the parts that you maybe want later (unless you are getting a super-bargain that won’t come back, like on an auction). Read more about Where to get stuff here.
  • Set a timeline, and stick to it. Plan to have your project finished within a year if it is a larger project, and within a month if it a smaller project. And even within the same weekend if it is a really small project. That will also restrict the size of the project, and the cost of it.

How to finish?

It is fun to start new projects, but sooner or later the project becomes hard, or at least tedious. You may have to make multiple identical items, or spend a lot of time on boring things such as sanding or painting. Suddenly your project isn’t so much fun anymore, it just feels like a burden. While you know it will be worth it in the end, it doesn’t feel like it at that moment. But this is just a phase you have to get through! I have some tricks I use when a project gets to this phase (and trust me, there was a lot of that in the building of the KillaJoule! At several instants, I was ready to just pour diesel over it all and set it on fire, because I was so tired of it).

How to actually get done with a project, particularly when it comes to a phase that is hard and boring:

  • Work on your project at least 5 minutes every day! How can 5  minutes be enough, you might ask? Well, 5 minutes isn’t really enough, but if you get starter, you will typically continue working for much more than 5 minutes. The trouble is to get started. If you plan to work for an hour, it is difficult to get started because it looks like so long time. Perhaps you can fit an hour of work before dinner or before your favorite TV show starts, so you won’t get started. If you plan on only working 5 minutes, it is so much easier to start.
  • Schedule your “vacation” from your project. The general rule is that you need to work on it every day, but you can schedule a break. For example, you can say to yourself “I will not work on my project on Saturday and Sunday”. If you plan it this way, you won’t feel guilty for not working on your project. On Monday, you get back to “5 minutes per day”.
  • Remember that the boring and difficult phase is just temporary, it will soon be easier and more fun again, and it will all be worth it in the end! There is no more powerful feeling than seeing your idea materialize.

Lastly, remember one of my favorite sayings: Good things don’t come to those who wait. They come to those who work their butts off and never give up!

Cover photo: The KillaJoule at the finishing line at a record attempt at the Bonneville Salt Flats with the brake chute deployed. Photo by Doc Harley.