At some point I realized I had way too many pairs of flip-flops, so I proceeded to build software to solve this problem for good. I’m a software developer, after all, building software is what I do.
Wait, what? Let’s start from the beginning.
I love traveling and whenever I can, I travel lightly. It feels great to be able to leave the airport carrying just a backpack instead of a big suitcase which I’d have to lug around.
Even though one-bagging has a lot of benefits, there are also some drawbacks. One of them is this minimalistic, additive packing model. Because of the fairly limited volume of a single backpack, I have to deliberately choose what to take with me instead of deciding what to leave at home. When there’s no room for any just in case items, it’s easy to forget about some useful yet not absolutely necessary stuff. For instance, for some reason I used to forget about flip-flops and ended up buying multiple extra pairs. Had I traveled with all my worldly possessions, I wouldn’t have to worry about it. But as you can guess, that’s not a feasible solution. Whenever possible, I want to be able to quickly pack all I need into a single bag, so that I can travel lightly without depriving myself.
I tried making packing lists in Apple Notes, but they didn’t cut it. Depending on the nature of my trip, the list had to vary, so I found myself creating an entirely new list before each trip, what was time-consuming and error-prone.
Then I searched for an app that would enable me to create custom, reusable packing lists.
It turned out there wasn’t any app that’d satisfy my requirements. It seemed that I found a niche. So the obvious next step was to build an app to serve it, right? I’m a software engineer, I can do it.
Fortunately, before diving deep into coding I asked myself a very important question - “Do I really need to build a custom app for that?”.
I knew what kind of experience I wanted. I wanted to feel prepared for my trips. I wanted to feel calm while packing. And I wanted all that to be quick and hassle-free.
Nowhere on my list was “I wanted that to be provided by a custom app”.
So I created a Google Sheets spreadsheet. If you’re interested, you can watch a video introduction to my Reusable Packing List on YouTube.
Does it mean I overlooked the User Experience? By no means! I carefully designed, prototyped, and tested it. And how did it go? Better than I’d have imagined! Below are some of the things people said about it:
“That spreadsheet is a work of art!”
“It’s insanely amazing.”
“Awesome! It is quite beautiful!”
“I love the spreadsheet!”
“What a fantastic spreadsheet!”
“I’d like to marry that spreadsheet.”
It turns out people love it a ton. And building it didn’t cost a ton.
Just because I was able to get myself busy with building a custom piece of software didn’t mean it was a wise thing to do. It could even be detrimental! It’d mean slower prototyping, slower testing, much later release and a greater risk of abandonment. Or, as Timothy Ferriss writes it in his book titled The 4-Hour Work Week:
“Doing something unimportant well does not make it important.”