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Making Time for Side Projects: A Daily Habit

With so many other commitments to deal with, it can be hard to find time to work on side projects. In this article, I discuss the need for carving out a chunk of time to get work done – each and every day.

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Brian Gilham
| 2 minute read | 4

When I read Brian’s Be Kind story, I immediately subscribed to his Monday Mailer newsletter. A while later I asked him if he’d be interested in writing something for Pony Foo, which he kindly agreed to. In this article, he writes about side projects. How to do more — when you already do so much?

Enjoy!

Side projects are a great way to grow as a developer, both personally and professionally. They let get out of your comfort zone, learn new skills, and exercise your creative muscles. But it can be hard to get anything done while juggling a day job, kids, friends, family, and countless other commitments. In the past, I’ve tried to cram side project work into the cracks between other items in my calendar. It was frustrating at best; completely ineffective at worst. I constantly felt like I was shortchanging the projects I was most passionate about.

Over the last two months, I’ve taken a different approach. I’ve been cultivating a daily side project habit. Each and every morning, I do something to push my side projects forward – even if I only have 15 minutes to spare. I’ve seen great results, so far. And I’ve learned that a small, focused task, done daily, beats a sporadic effort every time.

1. It’s easier to get started

It’s hard to gather the energy to start a new project – and even harder to re-start one after an extended absence. Working just a little bit, every day, means you never lose momentum. It’s easy to pick up where you left off because everything is still fresh in your mind.

2. The pressure is off

If you work on just one task a week, it’s easy to feel like it has to be perfect no matter what. I’ve fallen into that trap with my weekly newsletter, the Monday Mailer. If I wait until the weekend to start writing, I spend the first hour freaking out. But when I work at a steady pace, writing something every day, it’s a lot easier.

Once you have a daily side project habit, the pressure’s off. If you have a bad day – and you will – it’s okay. There’s always tomorrow. I’ve become more relaxed which, unsurprisingly, has improved the quality of my work overall.

3. You stop relying on motivation & inspiration

You don’t need to get ramped up; everything is still fresh in your mind from the day before. You don’t need to remind yourself where you left off, or what you need to do next. It biases you toward taking action, making it possible to be productive even when you’re short on time.

You see yourself making progress each day, making it easier to have the confidence to do the work the next day. It cuts down on procrastination and self-doubt. You get over the idea that doing a good job requires waiting for a magical moment of inspiration to strike.

It’s up to you

Of course, a daily side project habit won’t change anything if you spend that time scrolling through your Twitter feed. Don’t sabotage yourself. It’s up to you to carve out the time your side project deserves. Find a quiet room, silence your phone, close Facebook, and get down to work.

After a few days, you’ll be surprised how much you can accomplish.

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Comments (4)

Ignacio Martin wrote

When we work full-time, got kids, and lots of commitments is really hard to get some spare time to improve our knowledge and skills, or to develop that app we´ve been posponing. It was always really difficult to me how to create and manage such time. Now is clear: do a little bit, every day. Ant work. But when constant, this work will get us to a nice anthill.

Maxi wrote

Everything is awesome.