Side projects are an excellent way to express yourself creatively and build up your tech stack. But how do you find time to work on your side project when you have a full-time job and other responsibilities at home? In a recent episode of the Ladybug Podcast, we discussed some useful strategies for giving your side projects the attention they deserve.
Ask yourself some important questions: what needs to be done right now and what can wait. Also, what do you actually want to do? Most of these side projects are completely optional, you get to decide if you want to spend your time on them or not. You need to find your why with your side projects, why are you passionate about them, and why do you want to do them. You don't need to do everything, find the things you love doing and focus on them. It may not even feel like work if you really love it!
When you’re thinking about these projects, you also may want to think about future time commitments for them. When you're starting things, they're shiny and new and fun. But will you still care about the project a year in the future? What is the time commitment still, then? How much time do you have consistently to spend on these it? These questions can really help you decide what is important to prioritize and to decide what is actually realistic for you to take on. Is it just something that’s super one-off that you can do in a night or two? Or is it something that’s bigger that you still want to be working on in a year?
It may help to have your side projects should align with your ultimate career goals. "Atomic Habits" discusses the idea of not having finite goals, and not focusing on one finite point in time as your goal. Instead, position yourself on a trajectory to reach an outcome. For example, if I want to have a very successful soccer team, and I’m a soccer coach, my goal shouldn’t be to win 10 games, my goal should be to hire or to hire to have the best players on the team and build a good team dynamic. That’s pointing out a trajectory to succeed. If focusing on winning 10 games, you’re not positioning yourself in any sort of way to be successful.
Make sure that you know your why, and that you’re putting yourself in the right direction. So, if you want to become a senior engineer, blog about code instead of knitting cat sweaters. Position yourself in such a way that you’re always working towards a goal.
Productivity systems are very different for everyone. Some people block off work times on their calendar, other people do whatever they feel like at the time, other people set three goals per day. Try different systems and see what works for you and makes you the most productive.
In addition, different people prioritize different things, and they also need different things. Some people need more social time, other people need more rest time. That is totally okay! Do what's best for you, and don't put a ton of pressure on yourself to always be working. Everyone needs downtime.
We gave a ton more advice for balancing side projects, and we also did a deep dive into what we're working on in our episode Side Project Balancing Act.