How to live an interesting life with side projects
Side projects are a great way to make your down time more productive and fun as an adult. These are projects that you spend 1-3 hours per day after you come home from work or from school. The number one complaint from all working people is that all days start becoming the same.
Get up, go to work, come home, watch TV, browse social media then go to sleep. Tomorrow is exactly the same. Doing personal side projects is the solution for making your days different, fulfilling and interesting. It is obvious that you will need to sacrifice the unproductive activities like TV and social media to free up these 1-3 hours.
It might feel like doing more work even after you come from work but it’s exactly the opposite. It’s impossible to relax by watching TV after staring at a computer all day. Most jobs are desk jobs and sitting in front of the TV or phone is not relaxing. Also none of them are creative in any way, shape or form, doing the same thing day after day. To combat this first you must do something physical for your health and then do something you are passionate about for your mind and sanity.
Gardening is a great hobby that is physical and get’s you closer to nature
How to choose side projects
It’s best to pursue as few projects as possible at a time, ideally one or two.
How to choose which ones?
Start with the project that will make all others easier to do or obsolete. For example you improve your health and all of a sudden you have more energy for everything else. Or you start a blog and now you have a platform to promote your other projects.
At the beginning it is so easy to procrastinate on side projects because they are not mandatory. No one is counting on you to finish them. That’s why you start That is why you start by committing to as little time as possible, 5-10 minutes. If you can manage to work 5 minutes on a project then the day is a success. Most of the time you will continue to do more once you get going. But putting in your todo list for the day a task that says, draw for 5 minutes or do 1 pushup, it makes it almost laughable not to do. This will build the habit of doing productive things instead of mindless consumption of media. Also choose exactly what you’re going to do those 5 minutes because you can’t afford to lose 3 of those minutes deciding what to do in the first place. So plan ahead and when the time comes just execute. I personally like to create my task list in the evening and then wake up early in the morning and work on my side projects before starting work.
Writing a journal is something all deep thinkers do, it helps to solidify your ideas and clear your mind
Structure and duration
I’ve had most success with short projects of 1 to 3 months duration. The short time commitment does two very important things.
Focus on the important things
Having a short deadline will force you to work on the bigger things and brush off the small details, they can be polished later. As the great Jim Rohn famously said: Don’t spend major time on minor things.
Easier to push through obstacles
After a few days you could already feel bored with the project or get stuck on something. It’s normal so expect it. But knowing that the project will end in 1 month will make it much easier to persevere and push through.
For example what do you think is more manageable:
- I need to do 5 pushups for 2 more weeks
- I need to work out for 1 hour every day for the rest of my life
In a sense you are building a habit by starting slowly.
These short deadlines are quite liberating and over time they will skyrocket your effectiveness i.e. making maximum use of that small time you have. This will for sure spill over to other areas of your life, especially your professional life and career.
Don’t know what to start with? Here are some ideas.
Extreme sports are a great way switch things up
Hobbies and Habits
When thinking about hobbies or positive habits, it is so easy to get overwhelmed thinking you must do them forever. That’s the reason for not starting at all, we think of it as a lifetime commitment.
Let’s turn this around and start thinking of them as month long projects. You don’t have to go to the gym 3 times a week for the rest of your life. Instead, go one month to the gym, the next month take up a martial arts class or a pilates class, whatever looks interesting.
Habits are the same thing. Let’s say you always wanted to write something. You don’t need to become a lifetime writer. Commit to writing for 2 months one page per day.
As you keep trying out different things, few of them will be so fun that you wouldn’t want to give them up. That’s a great metric for choosing what to do in your free time, something that’s fun and productive.
There is an actual list of ideas at the end of the article.
Share it with the world
This can sound scary but it’s important to share your personal projects with the world. The most obvious way is to share your journey on social media. Imagine doing a completely new thing every few months. You will have endless ideas for social media and blog content. It’s difficult at first but believe me it’s worth it. And not for the wrong reasons, don’t think this sharing is for egotistical reasons, not at all. When you know from the start of the project that you will share the final product then you will put extra care into building it and that’s what you want because that’s how you get the most benefit from doing it. If it’s just for you, you will become lazy and not put as much effort into it.
Another important point. Sharing the journey is much more interesting than taking a picture of the final product. Also most hobbies and habits don’t even have an obvious final product. So share the behind the scenes journey, it’s much more fun to watch anyways. This is the major reason reality shows and instagram stories are so popular, they give a behind the scenes look. A raw unedited perspective that feels fresh and fun compared to the polished things on TV and movies. These raw perspectives are also 100 times more relatable to our own lives and that’s why we like them.
Where to share
Other than the major social networks like Instagram, Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, Reddit there are others more specialized where you can connect with like minded people. Here are the most popular:
Software Developers: Producthunt, Betalist, Indiehackers
Become more interesting human being
The lessons from every project build your character and make you way more interesting. Imagine every 3 months having a new adventure. You get 4 adventures per year. You will discover a ton of interesting things, only if you build this habit of trying them out. After all a major part of our personality are our experiences. Would you rather be a person with 1 or 10 new experiences per year.
Painting is a great hobby and a therapeutic activity, doesn’t matter if you suck, you don’t have to show anyone, yet.
While doing these projects and get into different subject areas that interest you, you will develop a unique perspective and will detect some problems that these areas have. Solutions to these problems are startup ideas for you, unlimited. Did you know that most noble prizes are won by cross discipline scientists? They see the new area with fresh eyes, have more perspective and connect the dots much easier. Dipping into many hobbies, disciplines and continuous learning is a fun way to live and increases your chances of success in general.
List of personal project ideas
- Playing an instrument
- Making things out of clay
- Martial arts
- Ping Pong
- Start a Blog
- Start a Podcast
- Intermittent Fasting
- Learning stuff unrelated to your profession
- Reading on a single subject for a month
- Brewing your own beer
- Learning lessons from history
- Learn coding basics
- Learn marketing
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