Since I launched my first web app in 2006, I’ve had my foot on the gas. Since then, I’ve built, or been one half of building 13 other web and/or iOS apps. It’s only been 7 years. I guess you can say I have a lead foot.

For most of that time, I’ve been creating my own stress.

I’ve been stressed out for most of that time. Either I’m stressed out that I’m not building fast enough, or that something is breaking and I have to fix it, or that some customers are driving me up a wall, or that someone on a project isn’t pulling their weight and putting more of a burden on me. Some people are never going to be as crazy about building products as I am. I can’t expect them to be. I’m not going to spend so much time worrying about things that I can’t change. I’ve realized that the majority of that stress is stress that I put on myself. 

I’ve long known that if I took my foot off of the gas, not much would change. If I didn’t stress out about getting to every single customer immediately, not much would change. A customer will be almost as happy about getting a response from me if I get to them within an hour or several, instead of immediately, and I’ll be a whole lot less stressed out about having to immediately get back to people. Not everything is an emergency. It’s taken me this long to really internalize it, though.

Even though I’ve known for a long time that I shouldn’t be building my apps to meet every person’s needs, it’s been very hard to say no to people, because someone has a need and is paying me for a product, and I’ve felt a personal kind of responsibility and pressure to build whatever they want. No more. For the past year or so, I’ve still been listening to customer requests, but I’ve been considering the long-term ramifications of every feature, and prioritizing the development of feature requests that will benefit most, if not every user of my apps. It is helping to keep me sane. For awhile there, I forgot that the point of building products is to give me the freedom to build the things that I want to see in the world… to be able to say no to things if they don’t fit my long-term vision, and to not have thousands of bosses.

There was never enough time because I wasn’t making enough time.

I have been using a GTD app since 2008. Or maybe the right word is abusing. I’ve been using it all wrong. I separated things into projects at first, but then that devolved into a state where I was just dumping everything new into my Today folder, when I knew full well that I’d never get all of those things done in any given day, especially since I would remove 2 things and add 5. At the end of every day, I would feel like a failure, even though I had obviously set myself up for it.

When it got to 80 items recently, I said enough is enough, and decided to make time every day to sort out my to-do list. Every night I get a notification to review my list and get my Today list ready for the next day. Starting the day with 5-10 items is a lot more realistic, and sometimes I actually get to all of them now!

I’m giving myself permission to slow down. To get in the slower lane. To pull over to the side of the road, get out of the car, and walk around. I feel much better already. You should try it.

You will feel better too.