The Happy Coder is an indie developer blog written by Bruno Godbout.  Posts are on a variety of topics related to software development and indie developer life.

The Wilderness

Gus Mueller just published a great article called "The Wilderness". This is a must read for all indie developers. The following exerpt particularly spoke to me:

However much time I've been doing this for, and no matter how much practice I put into it, there's one thing that always sneaks up and pulls the rug right from under me. It's usually between major releases, but not always. It's a period of time where I'm pretty lost, and I don't know what to do. I have feature lists, I have open bugs to fix, and I have an outline of where the app is going. But I feel mentally incapacitated, like I'm getting nothing done.

I call this "The Wilderness".

Before becoming an indie developer I worked over 20 years as an employee for a big software company. In that environment there was usually no question as to what to do next. There would be regular communication with my team and manager as to our priorities. Even though there were sometimes too many items considered to be first priority :-), I don't recall too many situations where I was paralysed with indecision.

Now that I am on my own, this happens to me a lot. I don't have the daily interactions that remind me what the most pressing things are. With no manager, I have to manage myself. It wouldn't be too bad if all I was doing was writing code. I've been doing this for a long time and know what to do.

But there are many new things I have to do as an independent. New things that take time for me to learn. New things that I end up spending too much time on before I decide to delegate them. New things that take time away from moving my product forward.

I spent two years in the wilderness before I admitted to myself that I needed help. About a year ago I started working with business coaches that were recommended to me by a friend. This made a big difference for me. I initially setup weekly meetings. My coaches would get me to set goals for the coming week. At the next meeting I would show whether or not I had accomplished my goals. We would also talk at length about longer term goals and how to reach them.

This was what I needed. Those weekly goals force me every day to ask myself what was the next step to accomplish that goal. This took away the indecision, helped me avoid going down rabbit holes and allowed me to constantly move my business forward. As my ability to focus grew, I was able to reduce the frequency of our meetings (we now meet once a month).

Today I am more focused than ever and planning a fall release of my first app.

This may not work for everybody, but I encourage all indies lost in the wilderness to at least give it a try.