Time Distortions of a Bootstrap Developer

Do I suck at this?

I’m bootstrapping Spreadless. That means I’m doing this while being a full-time father, having a full-time job. I only get to work on this thing in my “spare” time. As a father and husband… that’s a rare commodity. There are times when I wonder if this all worth it.

This weekend was one of those times.

I’ve worked on this project almost for almost three months. When I started I made a sprint backlog of what I thought was about 3 weeks of work. I’m just now to the end of that backlog. And it’s been 12 weeks. I missed this by 4x. Not good. My thought was “I must suck, I’ve been at this a looooong time.” I needed to know if I sucked. Because if I do, why not quit now?

Luckily I had some data

I’ve tracked my time with a handy iOS app called Hours. I haven’t looked at the log. I was too scared to know the truth. No more denial. I squinted, tapped the total and came up with…

~98 hours.

That’s it. For a full-time employee that barely 2-1/2 weeks of work. Not far what I’d guessed would be 3 weeks of work. I actually nailed the scope. But I blew the time. Had I accomplished this much in 2-1/2 weeks I’d been very happy. But I’m not a full-time employee. I’m a bootstrapper. For this bootstrapper… finding 98 hours of “free” time takes about 12 weeks. So maybe I don’t suck.

Tracking my time saved the project

I came very close to quitting this weekend. It felt like the project wasn’t going anywhere. It’s actually close to being on track. It was my expectations that were off. With progress coming slower than expected feelings of futility and inadequacy set in. Bad place to be.

The hardest part of being a bootstrapper is overcoming one’s own negativity. Slower than expected progress feed that negativity. If you’re experienced in project management already–it’s worse. You’re good at estimating the workload for the full-time employee environment. But, that isn’t the world of the bootstrapper. In the bootstrapper’s world… progress comes from slow and steady chipping away a the project. It’s vital to remember that the work habits of a bootstrapper distorts our perceived performance. Makes it seem far worse than it is.

Tracking my time kept me from quitting. Knowing that I don’t suck is valuable weapon for keeping negativity at bay. It’s an invaluable tool to have. So much that from here on out I’ll be keeping track of the time and money I spend right here on this journal.

Written by Dave M

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