2 Productivity Lessons I Learned From Building Simpletext


If you have a project that you’re passionate about but never got around to it, this post is for you.

Let me start by saying that I’m not a productivity expert by any means. I’ve started many side projects in the past, only to abandon them when the busyness of life sets in. But in 2016, I decided to build a writing app, and somehow managed to pull it through despite not having any app development experience. Simpletext was released two years later.

Looking back, what made Simpletext possible comes down to two lessons, which I’d like to share in this post.

Small Steps Do Add Up

I have a full-time job which I spend close to three hours commuting to and from the office every day. I’m also raising a young family — by the end of the day I’m so exhausted I just want to crash into bed and sleep. I’m excited about Simpletext, but I just don’t have the time to really sit down and work on it. And with the commitments I have, it seems like I’ll never be able to find time.

Instead of feeling despair, I decided to start small. I made a commitment to myself that I’d spend just 25 minutes a day to work on Simpletext. So after all my responsibilities for the day are done — usually an hour before midnight — I’d start a timer for 25 minutes and get to work.

Most of the days I’d get very little done, like going through Apple’s documentation or writing just a few lines of code (which I’d probably end up rewriting them). But sometimes I’d get into the flow and work way past 25 minutes to complete a particular task. I have since learned to trust the process — just show up for work every day and do what I can.

The small steps may seem insignificant at the time, but when repeated day in, day out, they do add up. At least that’s how I managed to build Simpletext and two other apps. Because life’s busy, and whether you take action or not, another year will soon pass by. So why not start small?

Don’t Work Hard. Instead, Work Joyfully

I may have missed a few days here and there, but on the whole I’ve been able to stick to the 25 minutes a day routine for over four years now. I even brought my MacBook along on vacation! That’s quite a feat for me, because I’ve never stayed on a project this long before. It’s one thing to say I’ll do it, and another to actually be doing it.

In hindsight, it’s clear that I stuck to the routine not because of self-discipline, but because I don’t view it as “work”. If it’s yet another work to be done, I’d certainly rationalize my way out of it after the initial excitement wears off. After all, I’ve already spent the entire day fulfilling all sorts of responsibilities, surely I deserve a break, right? Instead, I actually look forward to these sessions every day.

In other words, I found joy in doing the work, and that kept me going regardless of the outcome. And I realized when you work joyfully, you’ll naturally put in the care and attention required to produce a good work. So the idea is simple — just do more of what makes you joyful.

These Are What I’ve Learned So Far …

The two lessons above are what I’ve learned on my journey so far. What worked for me may not work for you, but at least I hope you find this a good read. Thank you for dropping by, and I wish you a wonderful journey ahead!