How to Make Time for Your Side Project (Without Waking Up at 5 am)

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A side project is a nice way to experiment with new things and to bring your ideas to life. Running a side project has several benefits and a study even shows that it makes people more helpful, collaborative, and creative. Some successful companies such as Instagram, Unsplash and GitHub started as side projects

But after the initial excitement, finding the time and being consistent are major obstacles. Sure, you could wake up at 5 am (or even stop sleeping) like many articles suggest, but there are easier ways. You mainly need to be motivated by your project and ready to change a few habits. 

I share 5 key points that allowed me to run my music blog for 8 years while working full-time.

1 — Find a purpose in what you do

Finding a purpose is the first condition to make time for a side project. If your project feels like a constraint, you won’t make time for it and procrastinate.

If you’re passionate about what you do, you’ll be looking forward to working on your project. And finding time for it will be easier.

This quote by David Hieartt is a perfect illustration of this point:

“This is a Labour of Love. You provide the ‘Labour’. And you provide the ‘Love’. So when you spend time on it, it is because you really want to. That keeps you coming back and pushing it on. That’s important. This thing will require you to keep plugging away at it, maybe, for years. ”

 David Hieartt — “Why side projects matter

2 — Use your time differently

Changing default habits is an efficient way to free up time. An example that everyone can relate to: how much time do you spend on social media every day? According to Hootsuite, the global average is 2 hours 22 minutes. By reducing this amount of time, especially the one spent browsing feeds randomly, you can find time for your side project. 

The idea is not to give up social media or your hobbies but to free up time here and there. That way, you’ll integrate your side project into your schedule and make things happen. 

3 — Set clear goals

You don’t want to come up with complex goals or business plans for a side project. But thinking about your expectations will help: is it a hobby? Do you want to build a business? Do you want to boost your resume?

You will then know what you need to do to achieve your goals and use your time accordingly

If you run a blog to practice your writing skills but don’t care about traffic, you don’t need to spend hours promoting your articles. You simply remove the pressure of getting traffic, by stating that it’s not one of your goals.

4 — Apply the motto “Done is better than perfect”

I like this famous motto, outlining the need to complete projects at some point. This is crucial for side projects because you have limited time. Spending a few more hours reviewing minor details may delay your project of a couple of days or even weeks.

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” 

Thomas Edison

The great thing about side projects is that there is no major consequence if you fail. You can experiment and progressively improve your approach. In some cases, you may even be surprised by one of your initiatives having results that you didn’t expect

5 — Use time batching

A side project requires to work on several activities, especially when you’re launching it.

Time batching is “a productivity system that helps individuals focus on a group of similar tasks during a dedicated time period without interruptions”.

For example, you can decide to spend 30 minutes scheduling social media posts every Monday. You’ll be more focused, write more and ensure a continuous presence on social media for the next days.

“Switching between various tasks can make projects take up to 50% longer to complete” 

John Medina, Brain Rules

You can use the same method for any other task: writing articles, sending emails, doing some research… 

Before launching a side project, think about how to make it fit in your schedule. Or launch it and figure out on-the-go. You should make time for it, but don’t put too much pressure on yourself. After all, side projects should be fun and simple. 

If you have a side project, how do you make time for it?

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