Anyone who has ever lived through a Facebook update knows that sometimes projects move forward even if people don't want them. While you're working on yours, stop periodically to ask if what you're working on solves a problem people have.
Photo by Marco Arment
The things people around you complain about can be the biggest key to identifying where your time is best spent. If you're a manager and your employees are overworked, focus on improving the schedule before you set up the office bowling night. If you're developing an app, find the friction points that already exist, rather than creating yet another calculator. As productivity blog 99u explains:
Of course, in reality, new ideas don't always come about in direct response to an issue. If you have a creative mind, you might wake up in the middle of the night wondering, "Wouldn't it be cool if…?" Or, you might even deliberately sit down one day and think, "I'm sick of my job. I'm sick of this life. What can I build?" But even if your idea didn't result from a burning desire to fix something — especially if it didn't — you should run it through a rigorous test to ensure it's something the world really needs. And that process starts by asking, "What problem am I solving?"
While it's true that some people don't know what it is they want until they see it, most of us know what we don't want. Identifying the problem that your project solves is not only the quickest way to know you're spending your time wisely, it can help provide the blueprint for how to accomplish your goal.