What it takes to build a side project?

If are talking about building a side project it means that by definition we don’t spend fulltime building it.

If you have a day job you are probably spending most of your time thinking how to solve issues and complete tasks related to that job.

It is very costly to switch between trying to do both your day job and your side project during the day because switching between two projects that require creativity is very costly for your brain.

There are several tactics that can help in this situation:

1. During your day, while you are doing many different things, like working, commuting, taking shower, cooking and eating – it is common to have an “Aha!” moment when you get some idea for your side project. Instead of diving into thinking this idea right away, harming your productivity in what you are busy with now, you should try writing down that idea and get back to work. This will save you a lot of brain power by avoiding the fear of this idea being forgotten and switching contexts.

2. Consistency beats irregular hard work. If during the day you are highly constrained in time, then I’d recommend spending 15-30 minutes on make small meaningful portions of side project related activity. You spend this time by working on the better wording for your landing page, or move and colour buttons in your interface. Or you can review and research your ideas from your ideas notepad. The main point here is to actually produce something even if it is very small. Baby steps. Every day.

3. Switching contexts between work and side project can be made easier. To help your brain switch faster you can use different workspace(in the office, a room at your house, go to coffee shop, etc), use a different computer, or even you People functionality in Chrome browser for an account that is used to login to services related only to your side project. Using different tools also helps. For example, if you use Jira for your primary job you can use GitLab for your side project.

4. Find a dedicated time for your work on a side project. If you plan to work hard on your project during weekends, then you need to set a routine like from 11 am to 3 pm and you are in some coffee shop of your choice. Make sure you announce that schedule to your relatives and close friends who can appear randomly and distract you in any way. When planning this routine make sure that coffee shop is relatively quiet at the time of your choice.

5. Be ready to work on your project when the time comes. You can use your 15-30 minutes during the week to make sure you know what are you going to work during the weekend sprints. Write down a To-Do list and make sure it clearly states what should be done. Since working on a weekend is basically working 6th or even 7th day in a row, you maybe not ready to do the planning on Saturday morning. But you could easily do what you have written down during the week.

6. Don’t forget to rest. Your brain is your thinking muscle. It can do a heavy lifting but it also needs a proper rest. If you are tired after your 5 days of work, don’t start working on your side project on Saturday morning – sleep and then do completely different – go shopping, clean your house, workout, etc. Maybe sleep some more. Then later start working. Also, don’t get burned out by your productive weekend – you have another week of work coming, which you probably don’t want to screw up.

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