How do you all come up with ideas / things to tinker with?

I like that motto. I find the forum is extremely helpful for “Journaling” my thoughts. I have a written one as well for more personal things as well but the forum is nice for having constructive input or checking myself if I am going off course.


As others said, “solve a problem”. However, reading between the lines, I sense that there is some other un-asked question here.

My grandmother has evidence that I have been doing projects to solve problems since at least 4 years old. It is just the way that I look at the world; problems are not things to STOP progress, they are things to be overcome.

To be fair, not all problems have easy solutions. I suppose that most problems that have turned into projects have been “problems that I am confident are solvable”. I may not know how to solve the problem NOW, but I usually feel confident that someone else can solve the problem, and I can learn how they did it.

You would not be on this forum if you did not share at least some of that philosophy.

So my question to you is, “Where do you get stuck (in the problem-solving process)?”.


This is a very good question. I think it’s a core motivational issue. I haven’t had the “spark” to learn something new in a while. I just graduated college, but before college and in the early days I was spending a lot of time learning Linux, programming, sysadmin stuff, all of that outside my Comp Sci coursework.

Now that I’m a developer full time, I often feel too drained to work on programming things in my off time, even though I want to do it. So maybe there’s some mental work I can do there.


Do you exercise at all? I find that when I get in a mental rut that often physical activity helps to get my creative juices going again.


I do (mostly strength training), I started a good exercise routine when COVID hit. However it’s been off the last week, had wisdom tooth extraction surgery and that’s thrown me off for sure.

I spend a lot of my time just mindlessly consuming information, but not applying. I’ll watch videos on programming concepts, psychology videos, a myriad of things but never put it into practice. Think I’ve just also been lazy outside of work lately.

Part of it is probably environment, I work from home remotely and play / sleep all in my bedroom


The separation of bedroom and work is a big thing. If there is a way for you to change that situation I would encourage you to.

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This is a normal thing for engineers. If you’re feeling mentally drained, means you’re actually being productive at work.

Everyone handles this various ways.

Some older engineers (ie, Dad and co-workers) handle this by explicitly avoiding tech stuff for personal projects and instead taking up more physical hobbies and projects, ie, building a desk or other furniture, boating, etc…

I certainly don’t have mental energy for super technically complex personal projects that require big chucks of dev time; I focus on little QoL things and look for ways to remove barriers and friction points where I can.

I certainly admire people who feel energized to spend all their free time doing something like contributing to the Linux kernel while working normally, but I don’t measure myself against them.

Everyone is different and not everyone is Elon Musk or Steve Jobs or Wendell or Linus…just figure out what makes you feel more satisfied in how you go about your day.

Might I propose that you might enjoy building and setting up and managing a home lab setup? Don’t think about anything complex just use it to setup something like adblock pi-hole, self hosting and backups for files, etc…small QoL improvements that you can expand on in scope and complexity over time.


Also, I can empathize on remote work screwing with work-life balance and separation of concerns. Wife has suggested I try working from a library or cafe, before when I start having issues. I find having a stricter work schedule helps, so I’m not inadvertently working 12h without realizing it

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Yeah that’s probably one of the biggest improvements I could make. Not possible in my current living situation though; got a couple of roommates. May try getting my own place without roommies when this lease is up, just been doing it as a cost savings so far.

I appreciate that call out, I compare myself a lot of different people, even though in the case of Elon / Steve, I would not want the stress that their jobs bring / brought them haha.

This is a good idea, I thought about starting small and setting up a pi-hole just the other day. Along the lines of what you said before, I wouldn’t mind learning about containers more (since I use them at work extensively, and some of the two big players Docker / Podman, are written in Go which I use for my job), obviously not solving a problem but could teach myself a lot about how they are implemented.

Haha this seems like a dumb thing maybe, but I recently learned how to make homemade pizza for the first time (never baked before, never knew how to make dough from scratch) which was a lot of fun and felt rewarding. Probably worth keeping perspective and being happy with those “smaller” victories.


Yeah, it’s a problem my wife faces as a hard type A personality; constantly defines success by measuring herself against others instead of what actually makes her happy.

Well, I think you’re contemplating that wrong; do ads annoy you? Would you like there to be a simple way to avoid them on all devices on your network?

There you go: a small, solvable problem.

I do the cooking in my household, so I don’t find this dumb at all. I actually enjoy cooking and think it’s a wonderful (also healthier) way to spend your free time. It’s not a “smaller” victory. It’s simply doing what you enjoy; it doesn’t require being measured on a scale and certainly shouldn’t be looked down on.

Wouldn’t you rather be excited by your cooking adventures and sharing that with others? Would you look down on, say, your boss wanting to share his sowing project with you, when he obviously put time and effort into it?

edit: Mostly, I think you just need a change of perspective and how you define some things in your day to day.


Since I have a universal interest for anything technical, I find “inspiration” in various tiny things, want to know how or why they work and dig myself a rabbit hole.

For small electronics projects, drawing up plans and/or running a circuit simulation only takes an hour or so. That time is still covered by the initial high of excitement for something new.
When that works good enough, I compile a partslist (wich will then age like wine for a couple of weeks).
“Forcing” yourself to continue working on a project when it physically sits around in its box or bag judging you on a daily basis is easy.

For the occasional software project, I find they get archived just after becoming vaguely functional for lack of them being physically in my way.

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If your life is a steady grind, day in and day out with nothing new all day, it will be draining to your energy and creativity really fast.

New ideas stems from being exposed to new environment and new situations. Try a different route home. Cook a new food. Demand novelty in your experiences.

Also, little bit of randomness and chaos can bring out new solutions and better efficiencies in the long term. If your process has always been A-B-C-D-E-F-G, how will you know if A-B-D-E-F-C-G actually results in a faster process?

Try out stuff. Monotony is the death of ideas. But do temper it with reason. Dont do drugs and shit, no not that far.


OK, so you are young. Your brain does not stop growing until 25-ish. Make sure you are eating fatty fish (salmon, sardines, mackerel, herring, trout, anchovies) and/or taking fish oil. Your brain needs them all your life, but they are especially vital when your brain is growing.

Not necessary. When the mood to create strikes, you will wonder how to make time for sleep and friends. :slight_smile:

That is actually a good solution! When you do not have the spark to do a project, the best fall-back is to learn and think (and exercise). Inspiration will come.

Those two may be linked. First let me say that learning to make a professional-quality pizza is complex, and it is a skill worth learning.

Now, consider stopping eating pizza,as well as other simple carbohydrates. Flour and sugar are the main culprits. Also, throw out seed oils; they are toxic (low-grade, but they do damage over time).

Insulin resistance and micro-inflammation is killing most people over 40 or 50 in the USA. It is the basis of most cardiovascular disease. It also is the leading cause of mental decline in older people.

This is probably a topic for a different thread, but the sooner you learn to eat for your brain, the longer and happier your life will be.

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These cost money and time (food prep). You can buy cheaper, readily available foods, but there are non-monetary, non-temporal health costs.

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Not really. Eating right doesn’t cost any more than eating junk food. It’s more about understanding what your body does with various nutrients. Prep time can be minimal as well.

A can of salmon costs about as much as a sandwich. Prep time: zero.

A dozen eggs costs LESS than a sandwich. An egg contains all of the nutrients required to build a chicken; it is nature’s perfect food. Hard boil in 13 minutes then chill: now you have portable near-perfect nutrition. For a few bucks.

It is even possible to eat semi-well at fast food places: throw out the bun and skip the ketchup (and fries, of course).

EDIT: But, yeah, if you are saying that you, “pay now or pay more later”, then I agree!

EDIT 2: It’s really more about what you do NOT eat.

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I’m a sysadmin, so I can’t really contribute code. What I do contribute is documentation. I write a lot of how-to’s and tutorials, in the hope that people who need them, find them and use them. Sharing is caring and I apply it especially when information is concerned. I want to see more free flow of information, we’d all be better-off if we’d all have easier access to information. If I can automate stuff, I share it with people. If I find myself doing something I don’t know, I document what I’m doing and share it with people.

That’s just what I do in my free time. Not sure if that helps, but that’s my routine (for better or worse, sometimes to a fault, because I need to take care of more important stuff - I usually don’t let important stuff for too long, but some things I tend to deprioritize if they can wait).


I appreciate everyone’s insights!

One good motivator would be to make a thread to journal some random stuff I’m working on, once I come across something interesting enough.


Simple… I try to do what I would like to use…
When I was tinkering with game development I was trying to make games I wanted to play. Now that I want to try some software development - I am trying to make software that I would like to exist so I can use it.
Everything I do is teaching me something. The thing is I am not cut for a developer, but I am stubborn and I don’t learn that particlular lesson…

As a married dude, my wife complains about something… and i think if will be fun to solve it or if i actually need to hire someone to do it.

I didn’t like to tinker with house stuff before being married because i would do something really fucking ugly and sketchy and would stay that way forever, but if i make something ugly she will just throw it away and hire someone to do it, so she keeps me in check and is really nice.

My current project is solving the mess that is my CD collection


This is what a few members of the forum already do. You’d be surprised what cool things you’ll find on some of these pseudo-blogs.

There are a lot of stuff popping up on the forum that puts me in “I want to learn more” mode. This exposes one to new environments, so one can get new ideas for stuff. You don’t have to try and do everything that comes up, but you can study, do some reading, get a general idea and it’s enough to maintain a healthy level of cerebral activity exercise.

I like personal blogs the best.


Sometimes, it comes from a need. Other times, it’s because you just need a creative outlet. Mine is a bit of both :slight_smile: