Developing Perspective

#32 - Cycles of Attention


00:00:00   Hello and welcome to Developing Perspective. Developing Perspective is a podcast hosted by me, David Smith.

00:00:05   I'm an independent iOS developer based in Herndon, Virginia.

00:00:07   Developing Perspective discusses news of note, interesting things related to iOS, Apple, things like that.

00:00:13   Things of note to someone who maybe is an independent iOS developer or Mac developer or just interested in these types of things.

00:00:19   This is show number 31. And today I'm going to be talking a bit more on a, I guess, maybe a more personal side rather than a

00:00:26   more technical thing.

00:00:28   So one of my favorite podcasts that I listen to a lot is build and analyze which is a five by five show with

00:00:34   Marco Arment and Dan DeBenjamin and one of my favorite episodes is from way back when it uh

00:00:39   Was first starting out and was called cycles of motivation and which I'll have a link to in the show notes

00:00:45   Which is a great episode. It's a fairly timeless one. It's not one of the more topical shows they've done and

00:00:50   The I remember about it specifically as he was talking about Marco that is was talking about how

00:00:56   Now, he goes through on a more daily basis different cycles of motivation, different

00:01:02   levels of engagement, interest in what he's doing, how he's doing it, and how that kind

00:01:08   of impacts and focuses on how he chooses to work, how he tends to work, manages time in

00:01:14   his day, so that if, for example, he gets really engaged and interested over late at

00:01:20   night, he'll work late at night, and if he's not really interested in the morning, maybe

00:01:22   he won't rather than kind of being like, "Oh, well, I'm going to work 9 to 5 because that's

00:01:26   what I always do."

00:01:27   I always thought that was an interesting thing and kind of very true, I think, for a lot

00:01:31   of creative work.

00:01:32   And what I was going to talk about here is rather than sort of cycles of motivation,

00:01:37   maybe it's even taking one step up and kind of building on that concept and saying cycles

00:01:41   of inspiration.

00:01:43   And specifically, it's something that is topical and timely for me is the way that I kind of

00:01:49   find myself, my attention, maybe it's even cycles of attention, is even better, is as

00:01:55   I work on something for a long period of time, you know, say an app that I've had in the

00:02:01   store for a long time or a consulting project or something, once I've been doing that for

00:02:05   a certain amount of time, I find myself less interested in it than I used to be. And maybe

00:02:12   it's just a short attention span, but it's an interesting thing that I've found, pattern

00:02:16   that I found over and over and over again. That after I've been working on something

00:02:22   and for a couple of months, I become less interested in it. And I think the hardest

00:02:27   part of that is that I become less motivated to do a good job on it, which sounds like

00:02:34   an awful thing in many ways. But the problem is it no longer doesn't have that thrill of

00:02:41   excitement. And some of it has to do with often you're working on the tasks that aren't

00:02:45   is interesting. It's like the fun part of building an app is building an app. It's not

00:02:49   really maintaining an app. And so I think that that plays into it. But I think, moreover,

00:02:54   there's just something exciting about the creative, about taking something that doesn't

00:02:59   exist and making it new, or about the freshness of coming into something and sort of hitting

00:03:06   it afresh after a break or something like that. And so this is topical and timely for

00:03:11   me because I'm wrapping up a consulting project that I've been doing for probably about five,

00:03:18   six months, depending on how you count it, which is a longer project than I've almost

00:03:22   always worked on.

00:03:23   Typically, my projects are much closer to about three months, which is usually my attention

00:03:28   span.

00:03:29   This one went a little longer, and I'm kind of heading into a place now where it's like,

00:03:32   "Okay, I'm going to transition back from consulting and focus on my own apps."

00:03:38   I've done some work on my own apps in the interim, but primarily I've just been focused

00:03:42   on this consulting work, and that's, you know, fair enough, that's what they pay me for.

00:03:46   And I found this to be a very healthy pattern for me, and it's something that I wanted to

00:03:50   share here in case it would be helpful for other people who, for a while, I would always

00:03:54   think, "Okay, I want to make my own apps.

00:03:56   I want to make my own apps.

00:03:57   Like, that's my dream.

00:03:58   I want to be an independent app developer."

00:04:00   And I kind of hit there, you know, like I make a living from the apps I have in the

00:04:03   app store.

00:04:04   And that's great, and that's fun.

00:04:06   But what I found is if I just did that over and over,

00:04:10   I'm just so focused in there, I lose perspective

00:04:14   about what's important, what are the things

00:04:17   that I should be focused on in building apps.

00:04:20   I get pigeonholed into certain technologies,

00:04:24   the things that are related to my app.

00:04:25   So I have an audiobooks app, so I know the audio stuff

00:04:28   in iOS backwards and forwards,

00:04:31   but I haven't done other stuff.

00:04:34   I haven't done Mac development.

00:04:35   I haven't done all kinds of other places where these are skills that'd be very helpful and are good for me to learn,

00:04:40   but I've just never learned them because they're not related to my projects.

00:04:45   And so a pattern that I kind of found myself getting into is,

00:04:49   "Okay, I'm going to work on my own apps for a couple of months, and then I'll do a consulting project."

00:04:52   And even if you're an iOS app developer of sort of any skill,

00:04:56   it's fairly easy to find consulting these days.

00:05:00   And then I would do that for a couple of months,

00:05:01   Basically what I'm looking for in that consulting project

00:05:03   is to work with an interesting team,

00:05:05   which combats some of the problems of working on your own,

00:05:07   that you're only as good as,

00:05:10   you're learning from yourself,

00:05:12   which is often not nearly as good

00:05:14   as learning from someone else.

00:05:15   So it combats that by working on a good team,

00:05:17   and then working on a technology and a platform

00:05:20   that I'm not as comfortable on.

00:05:22   So it's working on something that deals with text,

00:05:26   where I'm used to dealing with audio,

00:05:27   or working on the Mac rather than the iOS, or whatever.

00:05:30   doing something that's different.

00:05:32   And it's kind of fun to be able to play around and learn

00:05:34   and kind of build interesting things

00:05:37   and be paid for it in a non-risk way.

00:05:40   Or in a non-risky way, I guess.

00:05:42   And so, when I'm building an app, I'm not taking a risk.

00:05:45   I'm going to put in several, several hours,

00:05:48   several dozen hours, 700 hours, whatever,

00:05:50   I'm going to turn it on the app,

00:05:52   and I'm hoping that other people

00:05:53   are going to like that and buy it.

00:05:54   With consulting, you're selling your time, essentially,

00:05:57   and you get paid for it kind of either way,

00:06:01   in the sense that you're being paid

00:06:03   for that time and that attention.

00:06:05   It's not this kind of thing that you're building

00:06:07   and you're making an investment

00:06:08   that you're hoping to be paid off later.

00:06:11   And so I find it to be a great pattern

00:06:12   for me to learn things, to stay engaged.

00:06:14   And then what often happens,

00:06:15   I mean, it's incredibly predictable,

00:06:18   is about three months later, I'm like,

00:06:19   "Hey, you know, maybe I want to work on my own stuff again."

00:06:23   And I kind of wind myself down off a project

00:06:25   and focus on my own apps,

00:06:27   and then kind of switch back and forth between them.

00:06:30   And it's a pattern that I'd really recommend

00:06:32   if you're an independent iOS developer,

00:06:34   or would like to be, or those types of things,

00:06:36   to kind of view it as a good way

00:06:37   to kind of structure this business in a sustainable way.

00:06:41   So if my app income started to fall off, for example,

00:06:45   I have this consulting base,

00:06:47   both in terms of income on a yearly,

00:06:49   it's like if I'm spending, say, half my time consulting,

00:06:54   that's a good amount of money that can kind of provide

00:06:56   for me and my family.

00:06:58   And on the flip side, I have those relationships,

00:06:59   those experiences, those marketability things,

00:07:01   of being able to say, yeah, I do consulting.

00:07:04   If I ever needed to, like my apps just collapsed

00:07:07   and I started making no money from them,

00:07:09   the next day I could be like,

00:07:10   call up a couple of people I've worked with

00:07:12   and be like, hey, I'm looking for work.

00:07:14   And I'd be able to fairly easily, I'd hope,

00:07:17   sort of pick that up and keep my income coming.

00:07:20   And the flip side, it still creates that opportunity

00:07:24   that if I, one of my apps does well.

00:07:27   I've had the best app success for a couple of my apps

00:07:30   that did much better than I would ever have expected them to

00:07:33   and it's the benefit of, okay, I've been able to do those

00:07:37   and sort of benefit from that income in a passive way

00:07:40   while I'm doing other things

00:07:42   and while I'm focusing on other things.

00:07:44   I mean, it's one of the most remarkable things to me in iOS

00:07:46   is I have an app for like audiobooks, for example.

00:07:49   It's been in the store for about three years now.

00:07:52   in various forms, and it still makes up a good part of my income.

00:08:01   And I don't work on it very much anymore.

00:08:03   Like the concept and the implementation is fairly stable, and at some point I'll probably

00:08:07   do maintenance updates and add content to it and things, but at its core it's been fairly

00:08:12   similar for a very long time.

00:08:14   And as an investment, I mean, that's huge that I put in that time early and now it just

00:08:19   keeps paying back while I'm working on other things.

00:08:23   And so that's kind of what, it's nice to have that balance,

00:08:25   is something that I found.

00:08:26   And I think even more for me, that I am now,

00:08:29   it kind of gives you the best of both worlds.

00:08:32   That I used to not,

00:08:34   like when I was working for a normal line to five job,

00:08:38   the challenge I often had is, you know,

00:08:40   even if you work on a project,

00:08:41   and say it's the same in the last three months,

00:08:44   you're often then kind of, okay, well that was version one.

00:08:48   Now you're going to go work on version 1.1.

00:08:50   Now you're going to work on version 1.2.

00:08:51   And that really, I think that my attention suffered

00:08:56   as a result and my ability to focus on something.

00:08:59   And some people I know, they can really just work

00:09:02   on something forever.

00:09:03   And they'll polish it and polish it and polish it

00:09:05   and keep working on it, and that's great for them.

00:09:08   I just find that I'm not that kind of a developer,

00:09:11   that kind of, you know, my mind just doesn't work that way,

00:09:15   that I get very frustrated by that.

00:09:16   I kind of find myself being like, you know,

00:09:19   this is kind of boring.

00:09:21   Can't I do something else?

00:09:23   Can I find something fun to do?

00:09:25   So this is kind of the pattern I found into

00:09:27   where I have these cycles of attention

00:09:29   where I was like, okay, I'm going to work on my own stuff.

00:09:30   Okay, I'm going to work on consulting for someone else

00:09:34   for a little while and so on.

00:09:36   And the interesting thing that I find

00:09:37   that is a sort of markers for this activity

00:09:40   that is so consistent is I know it's time

00:09:44   to start working my own apps when all the time

00:09:47   I'm thinking about cool apps and things and ideas

00:09:49   and things that I can do.

00:09:51   It's like I'm taking a shower and I'm like,

00:09:53   wait, what if I did that?

00:09:55   What if I did this?

00:09:56   And my mind is just racing with those types of things.

00:10:00   It's almost like to escape the consulting.

00:10:02   And I know the flip side, I know it's time

00:10:04   to sort of stop working my own apps and get some perspective

00:10:07   when that stops, when that creativity's there.

00:10:10   And it's like, OK, I need a change of scenery.

00:10:12   I need a change of pace.

00:10:13   I need to start working on a project for someone else,

00:10:15   where someone else is saying, hey, build this

00:10:18   with these features, X, Y, Z, and it kind of

00:10:22   takes that creativity out of the process a little bit,

00:10:25   where I'm not thinking constantly about,

00:10:27   how would I do this, what features could I add to this app,

00:10:30   what would it do?

00:10:31   Someone else is doing that and it kind of pulls back

00:10:33   and gives you some perspective.

00:10:35   So it may not be for everybody,

00:10:36   but I just kind of wanted to share about it.

00:10:37   It's kind of timely for me, like I said,

00:10:39   'cause I'm transitioning back into that.

00:10:40   At this point, I'm really looking forward to it.

00:10:42   I got all these ideas and things that I'm looking forward

00:10:43   to building, and then I'll probably in a couple of months,

00:10:46   or a month or whatever, and I find that I'm bored

00:10:50   with it again or wanting to look for something else,

00:10:52   I'll go back and do some more consulting,

00:10:53   and kind of that cycle will continue.

00:10:56   And like I said, it's been good for me,

00:10:58   and definitely something I'd recommend at least trying.

00:11:02   If you're an independent developer,

00:11:04   you're like, "Oh, I don't want to be a consultant."

00:11:08   It's like, well, maybe try it.

00:11:09   Just do a project for a couple of months.

00:11:11   It's not like you're, you're not buying a house.

00:11:13   It's not something you're investing in.

00:11:14   It's like, okay, well, if you don't like it, don't do it.

00:11:17   Or simply if you're a consultant, it's like,

00:11:18   hey man, can I take a month, two months,

00:11:21   and just work on your own app?

00:11:23   And that experience is far,

00:11:26   its value is far more beyond the financial.

00:11:28   I think it'll make you better at what you do,

00:11:30   and more motivated and focused in what you do.

00:11:34   All right, that's it for today's show.

00:11:35   I hope that's interesting.

00:11:36   Happy Friday.

00:11:37   If you like the show, best things you can do.

00:11:39   Tell a friend, I'd love that.

00:11:41   that. I'm rated on iTunes. Apparently that's a helpful thing. And otherwise, if you need

00:11:45   to get a hold of me, I'm on Twitter @_davidsmith, underscore D-A-V-I-D-S-M-I-T-H, and my website

00:11:52   is david-smith.org. I've been blogging there a fair bit recently. I'll probably be picking

00:11:56   it up a lot as I move off consulting and can focus on my own things. One of those projects

00:12:01   that I'll be focused on is my blog and probably this podcast. So if you like it, expect more

00:12:05   of it. All right, thanks. Happy Friday and happy coding. Bye.

00:12:08   Thank you.

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