Go without food

For the last couple of years, I’ve been squeezing work out of every free moment I have to build Clipstart and Wii Transfer, and every six months or so I’m just completely burned out and need to take a break. I was in North Carolina for work meetings last week and after coming back I took the opportunity to sleep 10 hours a night for 3 days. I seriously needed rest and to spend some quality time with family away from the computer.

And now I’m making some coffee and ready to get back to work.

A lot of people ask me how I’ve been able to dedicate time to side projects when my life is already pretty full with a regular job and kids. The truth is that most of us have small pockets of free time, and it’s just about how we prioritize and use that time.

Gus Mueller says that the secret to building VoodooPad 1.0 was simple: he didn’t own a television. Gary Vaynerchuk, in his upcoming book Crush It, puts it this way: “Someone with less passion and talent and poorer content can totally beat you if they’re willing to work longer and harder than you are.”

So it’s about setting priorities and pushing yourself. Pretty straightforward. But recently I ran across a forum post on the community site ConceptArt.org that took this even further — that success comes not just from priorities and working hard but also with real sacrifice. The members of ConceptArt are passionate about improving their art and helping others, and there’s an obvious pride there that comes from the shared challenge of becoming a better artist.

In a comment on attending a $95 painting workshop, the first commenter said:

“I honestly don’t care if I have to go a week with practically no food to be able to afford it.”

There is something in that extreme comment that just nails it. Go without food? We’re still having trouble with the trivial sacrifice of not watching TV over here!

The advice I’ll give to myself and to anyone else who needs inspiration on finding time: rewrite that comment for yourself, replacing “week”, “food”, and “afford it” with what your sacrifice is going to be. Examples:

“I honestly don’t care if I have to go for a year without watching TV to be able to build my product.”

“I honestly don’t care if I have to go for a week without sleeping more than 5 hours a night to be able to ship on time.”

“I honestly don’t care if I have to go for a month without reading blogs to be able to focus on my own ideas.”

New projects aren’t going to magically finish themselves. If we’ve been tinkering with a project for a year and it seems like it’s never going to be done, the reality is that it probably cannot be finished without making a scheduling change. Even a tiny sacrifice to open up an extra hour a day might be enough to make it happen.