So you’ve learned how to write code with Swift, but you have no idea what product to build.
Let me assure you that this is a pretty common experience. Few begin learning a language with the intent to build a product. The good news is that you’re well ahead of the pack. I assume you have a few books under your belt, example apps written, and a hunger to build something. The key now is to keep building.
Break away from everything to give yourself space to think
It’s next to impossible to form new ideas if you mind is churning against the daily grind. Give your mind space to breathe. There are a few good ways to do this. Meditating in the morning can give your mind the space to pause. This can help you focus, raise your energy, and lower your stress levels. A lack of focus, energy, and high stress kills any hope to come up with new ideas.
Going for walks also provide ample time to rest your mind. Observe nature, follow the random thoughts that show up, and just relax. What you’re aiming to do is disconnect. Get away from the screens, the wife & kids, work, or whatever else causes daily stress in your life. You want to find the best way for your mind to relax. If you’re mind isn’t grinding on problems then it can spark curious thoughts to explore.
Write down every idea that crosses your mind
The worst thing you can do is not write down your thoughts. Our mind isn’t so great at record keeping when it comes to this. It won’t take long before you forget what you were thinking about.
I’m often at my desk working on contracts or product development, so I have a stack of 5×7 blank note cards that I keep at arms reach. This makes it easy to sketch thoughts that pop up during the day.
If a thought strikes when I’m about to fall asleep, I send myself an e-mail. If I’m traveling I carry a small moleskin notebook. If I’m out for a walk or run, I have my phone with me so I toss an e-mail or write details in the iOS notes app. Find what works for you.
You don’t need anything complicated to do this. Just be mindful that thoughts are fragile and lost easily. If something strikes write it down.
Leaning on others in the market
While you’re waiting for an idea to strike you need to keep moving. Find an app that you love and then rebuild a version of it. This will keep you frosty until it’s time to use those skills. The iOS SDK is massive. Find pieces that you like and continue exploring.
Leverage this as a way to build your own product. Do you think you could do something different or make an existing app a much better experience? Don’t be afraid to leverage an existing idea and make it even better.
Your Own Behaviors & Likes
Some of the best ideas are born when someone recognizes that something is missing from their life. They tried to complete a task and the product just didn’t exist or the existing solutions were too cumbersome. So they set out to fill the hole. Watch your own behaviors and identify when you’ve told yourself, “I wish this was easier to do.” At the same time, what can you simplify in your own life? Have you caught yourself performing a manual task several times? Consider making an app to simplify your own processes.
So maybe you’re not oozing ideas left and right. While we all are capable of becoming idea people, it just may not be your moment. If you’re finding it difficult to generate ideas consider collaborating. A friend could be itching to build an idea they have in their mind.
If you’re already senior enough and are contracting for others, hello! Contracting can open so many possibilities. You get direct insight into how a company operates. This can lead to bottleneck discoveries that could warrant optimization.
Have fun and enjoy the process
Don’t take this stuff too seriously. If you sit and obsess about every detail of an idea nothing will get done. Find ideas that bring excitement into your mind. Find ideas that sound fun. Find ideas that let you explore and doesn’t stress you out. You don’t need a $100m exit nor do you need an exit at all. You just need to build something you felt compelled to build.
It takes time to turn your mind into one that observes the world in an opportunistic way. The key is to keep a fresh and open mind. If you don’t let your mind stop then it’ll make the discovery process much more difficult. So go out for a walk, be mindful of what’s going on around you, and write everything down.
Finally, don’t feel like you need to answer everything at the onset. Ideas themselves rarely morph into a final product directly. What usually happens is that you begin working on a product and evolve it overtime as you learn more about the customer and the problem you’re actually solving. So dive in!