5 Tips to finally get your side project done

17 Aug 2020 / 5 min read

As a software engineer, I’ve always looked for ways to create cash flow andmaybe have some cool projects to highlight in my portfolio. Therefore I’vestarted building side-projects. In case you're wondering what a side-projectis, it simply means a project that you're working on outside of your full-timejob.

5 tips to get you side-project done

And I want to highlight the word started because that’s the statein which most of my side-projects ended. Most of my innovative ideas diedafter a few days of excitement and hard work.

At first, it didn't matter much that I was leaving things unfinished but aftera while I've started realizing that I was wasting a lot of time and I wasgradually building a horrible habit: starting and not finishing things.

But as with any bad habit, you can reverse it in the same way you've built it!It took me a good chunk of time to finally come up with a framework that willhelp me start and finish a project but it was definitely worth the time.

It's really not that difficult to take a project from start to finish, nomatter the size and scope of it, but you will need to work on your discipline. You will need to calculate each step and execute it accordingly. You will need to train yourself to get things done the same way you would train a muscle in the gym.

Here is my framework for starting and finishing side-projects. I hope it will help you the same way it helps me every day!

1. Define a roadmap

Having a strategy before going to war is crucial! But yet, it is the veryfirst mistake that almost everyone makes when starting a new project.

What happens most of the time is you do a bit of thinking in the beginning, then build and adapt as you go. You might manage to put some good work in the first two days but as soon as you take a break from your project all your cool initial ideas are going to vanish or they will change every time you re-visit the project. Having an initial plan will save you a massive amount of time and it will always remind you of your initial vision in case you'll ever have second thoughts. How detailed you choose to write your roadmap is up to you. My advice is to make it as detailed as possible.

As an example, let's say you're about to start building a personal blog website. You can say that by date X you will have the layout done, by date Y you will have your first post done, by date Z you will have a newsletter, and so on.

Make sure that you document each step as detailed as possible. Eg. How will the layout look like, why did I choose to put the sidebar on the left? etc. All these little details will make your life a lot easier after you'll come back from your job and you'll want to pick off where you left off the day before.

You can write the roadmap on a piece of paper or on your computer, it doesn't really matter as long as you have it down somewhere.

2. Agree on a minimum viable product (MVP)

One of the biggest mistakes I've made with my side projects was trying to get everything PERFECT before even releasing the first version. Now I have a word for that philosophy: Bullshit!

If you look around, you will see that none of the products that you use todaywas packed with shiny features on their initial release day. They wereprobably very minimalistic and that's ok. In fact, that's the strategy mostsuccessful entrepreneurs recommend taking when building a new product: buildthe MVP first, get feedback, build more.

The same approach can be adopted when building a side-project. The formulastays the same regardless if you're building a SASS product, an e-commercestore, a YouTube channel, or a blog.

After you've created your roadmap of steps, ts is time to put your finger on astep and say: this is the minimum I need to build before I can share myawesome project with the world! An MVP should have just the basic features,the foundation of your project that can be shared, and receive feedback on.

3. Set a 1-hour work time slot per day

The best way to fail at finishing something is inconsistency! If you want toset yourself up for success you'd better make sure that you can work on aconsistent basis. That way you will build discipline and you will be able towork even if you don't feel like doing it. It will become a part of your life,just like brushing your teeth in the morning.

I find that one hour per day is the sweet spot for a side hustle. More than that and you will get burn-out, less and it's just not enough.

Find a time when you are sure you won't get interrupted and you will have just enough energy for one hour. I prefer to not start immediately after work and allow my brain some time to reset from my job tasks. Mark it on your calendar and set a reminder for each day.

Don't feel guilty if you do miss one day. Instead, do your best to prevent it from happening again and learn from what went wrong on that day.

I always find myself amazed at how a few minutes of something on each day can change your life for the better.

4. Have fun!!!

Probably the most overlooked factor when starting a side-project. Chances are, you are already not very happy with your full-time job. The last thing you want is one more hour of doing something you don't enjoy.

Start a project that you know you will enjoy and it will yield good results at the end of the road. Sure, there will be hard, frustrating, and boring moments but when that happens take a deep breath, relax, and think of your vision for a second. Then and ask yourself the following: Will this roadblock really stop me? You will instantaneously get a burst of motivation and with time you will learn how to look at these moments as a fun and rewarding challenge.

Conclusion

In order to finish the project you've started or the one you're about to start, you'll need some discipline. None is born with discipline, it is cultivated more or less without us knowing about it.

But the moment you realize that you can cultivate discipline by doing some daily tasks, you will feel like you can accomplish anything, and most likely you will!