A few months ago I started a new side project. I had finally finished some other tasks and decided my next priority would be a Udemy course. The process involved creating and organizing the content, designing the slides, recording the videos, launching the course and marketing it.
My goal: Do it all in one month.
During that time I learned the difference between successful side projects and ”side ideas” that never turn into anything: It really does come down to how you approach them.
Below are three of the biggest strategies I’ve learned from my side projects, my research, and talks with hundreds of people about the key to success. (Did I finish my project on time? Keep reading to find out.)
Clarity Creates Better Priorities
The first thing that helped me stay motivated was clarity. Why did I wanted and NEED to finish this side project? If I didn’t remember exactly why it was important, creating my course would continually be pushed to the bottom of the list.
Create a list of each reason you’re motivated to start your side project. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- I am starting this project so that…
- I will use the money to put towards…
- If I don’t start this I am going to feel…
- This project will help create…
- In six months this project will look like…
Don’t stop there, add as many reasons as you can to motivate yourself during the tough times. Write it down on paper and make several copies of your list. I’ve always found pen and paper much more effective than the computer.
Look at your list every morning, or at least every time you start working on the project. It will help get you fired up — especially when you feel like procrastinating.
When I first started my business, one of my greatest motivators was a new car. I knew I needed enough money to replace my current car when I drove it into the ground (over 200k miles.) It might sound silly, but I really didn’t want to have to take the bus to business meetings!
I knew the car I wanted. I read about it on forums after work, perused reviews, looked for deals, and drove by the dealership on Sundays when no one was there. My business partner at the time had a similar goal, and we were constantly discussing it.
The same idea can be applied to becoming great at anything: Immerse yourself in it. Total immersion creates genuine excitement. When you stop engrossing yourself in what you’re passionate about, you’ll lose sight of why you’re doing it and lose momentum.
When you stop immersing yourself, you also become jaded. You’ll create reasons why you shouldn’t complete the project or why it’s probably wrong. You’ll start to rationalize that the people you are learning from got there in ways you never could.
Don’t lose focus! Here are a few ways to get totally immersed:
- Find experts you respect the most in your field and follow them to learn everything you can.
- Subscribe to blogs, YouTube channels, and podcasts so you always have something to read or listen to on your topic. If you have extra time between appointments or a long commute, turn on a podcast and make every minute count.
- Find other people who share the same passions. You can connect in person at events through Meetup.com or online through Facebook groups and forums.
- Document what you learn so you can track your progress. Journals, blogs and voice notes all work great.
Make the Time
How many times have you caught yourself saying, “I just can’t find the time…”? Probably more than you can count. And you’re right — no one can find enough time to do everything they want. The most effective people make time for things that are most important.
You won’t ever be able to find enough time, but you will be able to make it.
When I started this course in December, I gave myself a one month deadline. My business was steadily growing as the holidays approached. It was a terrible time to work on a new project, but the deadline motivated me to trim the fat in my schedule and focus on what was most important.
“Will this activity or effort make the highest possible contribution toward my goal?”
– Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown
When I took a closer look at my calendar, I noticed there were many small detours (i.e. distractions) in my daily schedule. I was spending 10 to 30 minutes doing things that weren’t even on my to-do list. Upon closer inspection, I realized this was because I had way too many goals.
I decided to put everything but my business and creating the course on hold. While I didn’t finish within a month, I did finish shortly after and created this course months faster than previous ones.
One of my favorite blog posts from Seth Godin is just 10 simple words.
You don’t need more time
…you just need to decide.
Sometimes you need to make a decision more than once. Sometimes you need to make the decision to keep going every day. What decisions do you need to make to make your side project a success?