Always be making

January 13, 2024

Magnetic domains in a ferromagnetic material aligned by an external magnetic field

By MikeRun - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

I like to think of myself as a maker. I like to learn skills and construct things. But all too often, I get so discouraged by my daily busyness that I forget to want to make something. When I get an unexpected stretch of discretionary time, I sometimes don’t know what to do with it: I spend it doing random chores, playing games, or just resting—all very good things to do—but I leave a lot of potential on the table.

We often complain we don’t have time to do what we want. But the truth is, even the busiest adult has some time at their discretion; it just comes in tinier chunks. An hour here, 15 minutes there… but taken together, it adds up to a lot. The question is: when one of these precious opportunities falls in your lap, would you know what to do with it?

“Luck favors the prepared”, as the saying goes, and time favors the maker who’s always prepared to make. Often, the difference between a prolific maker and another who’s always too busy to do much is that the former has figured out a way to mobilize their fragments of opportunities so they all contribute to a common goal. Here are some tips to help ensure that you will find some measure of accomplishment when you look back on your day, month, or year:

Always have one or two projects in mind. Pick the top one or two projects that you want to make progress on, and think deeply about them. Keep them close to your working memory. When you do this, your unconscious will masticate on the problem even while you tackle your busy day—it’s free multitasking! When you come across 30 minutes of free time, you will likely know exactly what you must do to make some tiny progress. Keep doing this, and you’ll be amazed at how much progress you make.

Focus on creating artifacts. It may sound obvious, but focus your energy on making something that you can show someone else. I’ve spent countless hours mulling architecture and philosophy in my head, but unless I actually write code that compiles or a document that I can share, I haven’t actually made anything. Artifacts are evidence of accomplishment. Make them.

Always have one unfinished book or tutorial. Have 15 minutes? Do that next step in the tutorial. Have 30 minutes? Read that next chapter. Make progress in your learning journey.

Good luck!