My mind wanders. It’s a problem. I have issues focusing on anything for long spans although I also have the ability to get an awful lot done in a very short period of time. But still, my mind wanders. I love the work I do but I find it very easy to become bored when I’m not working and becoming bored stagnates into an overall loss of creativity. When I’m not doing something cool, I’m wishing I could be doing something cool, which is why I try to do mostly cool things. And when I AM doing something cool, it gets my mind moving a millions miles a minute and I usually come up with some of the more interesting and innovative ideas that I’ve had.
Bored thoughts are things like “maybe I should get a pet lobster” while busy thoughts are things like “I should build an online network for local RPG players who are seeking more opportunities to play”. Now, while some of you may think that that first idea is pretty awesome, (I’m still not convinced it’s not) you would probably agree that the practical applications are limited. So I’ve been left with the idea that I always need a side project on the go. Something that will excite and inspire me and keep me away from all the nonsense that we fill our time with. Enter The 2 Personal Side Project Plan. Let’s break down each word in this concept (except for “the”) so that you can start to understand why I’m doing this and why it may or may not be the right idea for you.
2. Ok. Why 2? If you have 1 project that you’re working on, and you finish that project, how many projects are you working on? Anybody? Right. Zero. And at that point, having completed something really cool, it’s very easy to rest on your laurels and take your time before you choose that next project. By running 2 projects at a time, I ensure that I ALWAYS have a project going even if I’m having trouble selecting the next one which, if the list I’ve made it any indication, I won’t. Once you hit more than 2, at least in my case with work, 2 kids and other responsibilities, you have to question whether or not you’ll be able to actually focus on more than 2 projects without neglecting something else.
Personal. Pretty straight forward. The point here is not to do business activities as a way to relax or fill your time. If you need to step up the amount of time you’re working, step it up. Fine. But don’t use that to neglect personal projects. At some point you have to do something that’s straight up for you. Now, there are some projects that bring work and “life” together. My wife and I are planning a relatively large home renovation that would include turning our attic into a master bedroom, powder room and office for both of us. Still personal. I’m working on plans to convert our shed into a home office but I still consider this a personal project because long-term plans involve using it as a place to read, hang out and, eventually, a cool homework spot for my kids. Meanwhile, I’m currently enrolled in a couple of courses related to IT and Design. These are very much work related projects as I attempt to level up my game. So they would not count. I find it so important to balance a personal life with professional development.
Side. Ok, so this one might seem a little more complicated but I think you’ll get it. When my wife and I purchased our house several years back, there was a lot of work to do. There was so much work to do that I took some time off work to do the work. In the course of 11 days I did roughly 130 hours of work. That’s not a “side” project. A “side” project should not take so much time that it becomes your primary task. Also, remember that I’m going to do 2 of these projects at once so they obviously can’t be so enormous that they blot out my entire life. Life a side hustle, a side project is something that you plug away at, not something that becomes the focal point…for now anyways. Hey, maybe someday that side project sparks a desire to make it your full time gig. Awesome. Go for it. But for now, keep it as a side project.
Project. This is different than a task. A project is a long-term activity. Renovating my shed into an office? Project. Renovating our upstairs? Project. Putting up a clothesline? Task. If it requires planning, thought and thorough execution, it’s likely a project. If it simply requires a little bit of time to get it done, it’s probably a task.
Plan. Forgot about this one, didn’t you? For me, the idea of planning is incredibly important. I’m not doing this one a whim. I’m not winging it. I’m not just seeing what happens. I’m taking my time and thinking out what I want to do, what I have the skills to do and what I have the time and resources to do. I’m balancing large and small projects, thinking about next steps and how one project can feed into the other. Make a list. Think of ALL the things you might want to work on and then flesh them out. Make a plan. Execute.
So this is the 2 Personal Side Project Plan. Maybe you don’t implement yours in exactly the same way I’ve done mine. Maybe you have time for 3 or maybe you have time for 4 or maybe you want to use this system to help you with high-level organizational goals. Whatever the case, the really important thing is just to realize that doing something different, mixing things up and taking a new approach to the way you handle your “free” time, whatever the hell that is.