How to fight with distraction problem?


I am a web entrepreneur and programmer. I am good at generating new ideas and refining them but now, my strength is being my weakness as when ever I am close to completing a a product, I get new ideas and loose interest in the project I am working on. This makes me confused and I can't be on one project for long. As I am a sole entrepreneur and developing my project myself, every project takes time to be developed and that mean time lead me to think about new more freaking ideas. How can I fight with this problem and make myself more disciplined.

Getting Started Founder Ideas

asked Dec 17 '12 at 08:35
288 points

3 Answers


This is probably the hardest question to answer for a sole entrepreneur, because there will always be a new shiny thing to chase after.

Here's how I try and handle it:

When the new idea bug hits me, I take a little time (in the evening) and work up some notes on it and maybe do a little research, but nothing major, we're talking at most 30 minutes. I have an Evernote notebook full of ideas. Many times this stops me from going any farther because I'll realize the problem I want to work on is too big or too hard. I will also use little pocket sized notebooks to jot down notes on ideas. Field Notes makes some nice small ones.

To keep myself on track during the day, I use The Action Machine. Yeah, it's one of those long form sales letters, but the software is actually pretty useful. You're basically blocking your time out for the day. So you work for a set period of time on a task. With this, I schedule 1-1.5 hour blocks of time to work on my real work, and then sometimes I will put in 30 minute breaks to spend time researching the new idea. That time boxes your research phase so you don't end up spending three hours on it when you only meant to look into it for 15-30 minutes.

Finally, it's helpful to have a good idea of what constitutes an idea that is actually doable by a sole entrepreneur. The best book I've read that discusses this is Start Small, Stay Small: A Developer's Guide to Launching a Startup.

The author also co-hosts a really good podcast called Startups for the Rest of Us. They've covered this topic before, so dig through the archives.

Hopefully that was helpful. There isn't a fool proof method unfortunately, but these tips may help you a little bit.

answered Dec 17 '12 at 11:53
Eric Brandel
160 points


Keep a small notebook on your desk. Label it your "idea journal". Write the idea in it an then move on.

When your backlog really is empty, revisit your idea journal. Organize it, evaluate the ideas with the most promise, and realize that a lot of your ideas seem much better "at the moment" than they possibly do a few days later. You'll see lots of duplicates and semi-related projects, after all the source is you.

Eventually, the ones with the most promise will become the things that your new ideas interrupt. Embrace how your brain works, leverage it, and you'll never run out of ideas.

answered Dec 18 '12 at 01:52
Edwin Buck
123 points
  • This is what I do. I keep my notes in my phone, even waking up in the middle of the night I'll write it in there and then go back to sleep, it helps me to get back to sleep too after writing it down, so then I'm not forcing myself to remember it and still think and keeping me awake :) – Scott N 6 years ago


Firstly I don't think this is a problem. It's natural to lose focus temporarily and think elsewhere, especially for we guys who are used to hyperlinks on internet. Hyperlinks changed our mindset.

You think about new ideas when losing focus. That's good, better than doing social networking or replying on StackoverFlow. New ideas come mostly from random thoughts, which arise mostly when doing related works. Otherwise what time do you think is appropriate to generate new idea? Scheduling two hours in the morning and sitting well then?

You don't get paid on hours and don't have peers sitting beside you, so you can handle inspirations better. After all inspirations are precious. As long as you could draw back in time and finish the works, it's worthy.

My suggestions:

  1. Adopting minimal Agile process even if you are working alone. Split your works on current project into small, visible chunks(stories), schedule one or several stories per day, finish them whenever you like in a day. If you finished you scheduled works in a day you will never feel regretful.
  2. Take Note. You get stuck in a random new idea because you are afraid of losing that idea and want to focus on it. That's wrong. New idea is not as important as current work and you won't lose it if note taken. My practice is to use plain text files to taking note, I use a special format in Vim but you can use markdown or textile or whatever you like, they are almost same. Plain text is better than any tool. If you have a piece of new idea, write it, and go back, you won't lose it. When you have more, add it to that idea, then go back. After you finished current project, several of new projects may be ready for you, isn't that nice?
answered Dec 18 '12 at 01:04
Billy Chan
1,179 points

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