5 motivational books to help kickstart your next project

Getting over that initial hump

Making a go of it as a web professional is all about learning to love projects. Regardless of how good your technical chops are, your career will be a limited one unless you’re comfortable swimming in project management waters. Particularly when it comes to freelancing gigs, you’ll be expected to help move projects smoothly through planning to eventual execution – all while juggling team, budget, and communication issues along the way.

However, as anyone who’s been involved in more than one project in their life knows, the road is not always a smooth one – particularly at the outset.

These motivational books will help you get started.

In this piece, we’ll help you get a leg up on preparing for your next project by introducing five classic tomes that will help you both navigate those tricky early stages, and power on to a successful conclusion.

Let’s start by taking a brief left field detour inside your head.

1. The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

War of Art Cover

Some of you might be wondering what a book about creative writing is doing at No. 1 on this list. The answer is simple – The War of Art is really a book about life and what to do when you’re having trouble starting a project. Though the focus of the book is around creative pursuits, the lessons to be learned are enormously applicable to any software project.

Of particular interest is what Pressfield refers to as “Resistance” – a sneaky interior mental handbrake that stops you actually making any progress. If you regularly struggle with getting out of the starting blocks on projects, this book will change your life.

2. Getting Real by David Heinemeier Hansson, Jason Fried and Matthew Linderman

Getting Real Cover

As most web professionals are aware, Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson know more than a thing or two about delivering successful projects. In addition to knocking it out of the park on a host of side projects of their own, the duo have devoted the majority of their working lives to producing one of the most highly regarded project management tools available in the form of Basecamp.

Getting Real was their first book, and in many ways remains their best.

Speed through its pages and you’ll find practical advice on every stage of the project lifecycle. In particular, pretty much the entire first half of the book is a goldmine in terms of how to stay focused, make intelligent decisions, and not get lost or sidetracked in the early stages of your work. The book’s also available as a free downloadable PDF, so there are zero excuses for not adding this to your reading list.

3. The Dip by Seth Godin

The Dip Cover

Seth Godin has made his name as a marketer, but he also boasts an impressive track record of getting things done in the cutthroat worlds of New York publishing and software development. Long story short, he’s actually lived the advice he’s preaching, and The Dip is one of his most essential works.

This is a super-slim volume you can get through in little more than an hour. That thin sliver of time will be worth it though – you’ll get a crystal-clear breakdown of how to know whether to stick or twist on a project when the going gets heavy. Whether you’re a developer, designer or entrepreneur, this is one of those classic “I wish I’d read this sooner!” books that you’ll be recommending far and wide.

4. Difficult Conversations by Douglas Stone and Bruce Patton

Difficult Conversations Cover

As you’re probably already painfully aware, the early stages of a project are generally not all beer and Skittles – hard conversations have to be had in order to keep various plates successfully spinning.

This can be a particularly challenging area for many technical folk, and with good reason. Getting the job itself done is tricky enough – having to navigate treacherous emotional waters on top of that is a genuinely big ask much of the time.

Regardless of what role you’re playing on a project, Difficult Conversations gives you a framework for dealing with much of this madness, and a roadmap to follow while you’re at it. Think of it as an excellent plugin for your ability to handle the messy human realities of projects at early stages and beyond.

5. Ship It! by Jared Richardson and Will Gwaltney, Jr

Ship It! Cover

Let’s close things out in a nicely pragmatic fashion. Ship It! is your one-stop resource for actually hitting a home run on your next software project. There’s no marketing waffle, corporate speak, or touchy-feely homilies to suffer through here – just hard-won wisdom from programmers and project managers who’ve been there, done it, and bought the T-shirt.

Starting a new project always brings its own set of challenges and concerns.

The motivational books we’ve highlighted above are ones you’ll find yourself coming back to time and time again, and taking away new insight from each rereading. Let’s recap them one more time to close:

  1. The War of Art will help you name, face, and conquer your inner demons on projects.
  2. Getting Real will get you focused and clear before you commit so much as a line of code.
  3. The Dip will enable you to distinguish between temporary scuffles and genuine crisis.
  4. Difficult Conversations will teach you how to communicate when the chips are down.
  5. Ship It! gives you the power to tie all these themes together and get the project out the door.

Got any favorite motivational books you rely on when things are tough at the start of a project? Get in touch via the comments section below and let us know!

Image by: Syd Wachs via Unsplash