Finding Focus, Cancelling Projects

Wed 11 November 2015

In the space of 20 minutes, I’ve closed out two personal projects, that combined represent hundreds of hours of effort. And it feels wonderful.

I started CalgaryHub with the idea of being a one-stop shop for quirky Calgary comings-and-goings. Over several years the idea was polished and went through several platform shuffles. But despite the effort, it never managed to get a regular viewership, and after several months of neglect, I’ve pulled the plug.

Closing out was fairly simple, just having Apache give the 410 Gone return code:

RewriteEngine On
RewriteRule (.*) / [G]


sw3m was my response to the stagnant text-based browser environment. The idea was to fork w3m, clean up the internals, and start updating it to the most recent RFCs. The problem became clear that the internals were so brittle that eventually I came to the conclusion that to get what I wanted, it would be faster to start from scratch, even taking into account all the hours that have gone into sw3m already.

Closing it was just a matter of disabling the issue tracker and putting an "abandoned" note on the repository description. Since several sw3m patches have ended up in w3m, I’m leaving the codebase around in case any further patches are wanted.

So… Why quit now?

I’ve started a new thing with Jonnay and Mo where we have weekly discussions about our personal projects, keeping us honest so that we actually get things done. And in doing so, it’s become clear to me the power of focus. Even just a few hours a week, when fully-focused on the task at hand, can make a huge difference at doing what you want, and making an impact.

sw3m and are just a few of my many projects that suck up time, create distraction, and have little impact. Sure, I could just ‘not work on them’. But just leaving them open leaves the possibility of them derailing current and future projects (it’s happened before). 1 hour of time is 1 hour of time whether I’m working on a cutting-edge OS that could change the face of computing, or updating a restaurant’s phone number on a site that few Calgarians ever visit.

The cold reality of "I have X amount of hours before I die" makes a sober, compelling case to work on things that matter to one’s self. Time is a limited currency, and save for diet, exercise, and flossing, there’s not much you can do to stretch that currency further.

So looking at what sorts of activities you can accomplish in an hour (or several, if your lucky), you can start looking at what’s the most effective use of your time. You can start breaking down activities by attributes, such as ‘makes money’, ‘good for career’, ‘relaxation,’ etc. Watching an episode of your favourite television show is a great way to unwind after a hard day of work. Spending an entire day mainlining Netflix is probably not the best use of your time.