Don’t Quit Your Day Job, Take A MakeCation

Actually Getting Big Things Done is a series of guests posts on how to make things happen from those who know how to… well… actually get big things done. Today’s post comes from Bryan Clark, one of the creators of Threadnote, a note-taking app for the iPhone. I first got to know Bryan when he reached out to ask if I’d try the app out. I was instantly impressed by the personal touches in the pitch as well as the app itself. After getting to know him better, I’m persistently impressed by what he’s working on and what he has already created.

This past March, I was stuck.

For the better part of a year, I’d been working on my first iPhone app, Threadnote. It was nearly done – my buddy Ryan and I had gone through weeks of beta testing and a few minor redesigns, and we thought we were very, very close to being finished. However: as anyone who’s shipped a product will tell you, the last 5% of a project will take far, far longer to complete than the first 5%.

The last steps of turning our project into a product felt pretty grueling: fix the big bugs, stop writing code and start preparing your marketing materials, nudge pixels, and go through the hoops of getting your app in the App Store. This is work that requires a lot of uninterrupted time, and that’s not always easy to find.

When you’re stuck on a project, there’s only one way out: push through it. I was finishing up a year-long project at work, so I put in for two weeks of time off. Normally I’d relax, but this wasn’t a vacation: I wanted to finish the tough bits and ship the app. As cheesy as the name is, I called it my “MakeCation”.

I woke up at the usual time, headed to a cafe, and worked on our app as if it were a full-time job. I only needed three things: Wi-Fi, Xcode, and OmniFocus. Those ten days led to an app that was nearly done, and a few weeks later, Ryan and I launched our app.

We’re often told to “just ship it”; there’s a notion that quality can be built in later. With an app, though, you only get one launch day.

For us, the MakeCation was a way to refine the product without delaying our launch. It’s not that we launched the app earlier; it’s that we launched the app better.

The extra time led to some great things. The focused time allowed me to fill holes in the app that I hadn’t seen before, and add in big features like geo-tagging notes, clustering pins on the map, refining animations, adding search to every list, and the ability to share notes to other apps. Threadnote became a far better app as a result.

If you’ve got a project that you want to get out there, and you’re fortunate enough to have a job that allows it, take a bit of time off and get your project out there. Michael’s doing exactly that with his project, and I can’t wait to see what comes out of it.

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