I’ve become known as a prolific doer of side projects. In the last few years, aside from my responsibilities at TWG, I’ve released six apps, served as technical reviewer on a book, published a weekly newsletter about Apple Watch development, designed and sold the first icon set for Apple Watch apps, spoken on a variety of topics, and published more than 40 blog posts, articles, and tutorials. Phew!
That list isn’t meant to impress you. If anything, it might just illustrate an unhealthy disregard for rest and relaxation. I’m not here to shout HUSTLE MORE! at you. I’ve been that guy before. That guy sucks. If you’re happy with your output, by all means, you do you.
But I get asked about my productivity a lot, and if you’re like me – always looking for the next project, never able to sit still, always wanting to do more – I have some advice.
Work on one project at a time. Work on one task at a time. You probably have a list of 50 different ideas you’d like to work on. And another 10 or so rattling around inside your head. It can be tempting to jump from one task to the next, particularly when things get hard or boring. Resist the temptation. The more you focus on a single task, the faster you’ll get it done.
Set a Deadline
Release to the App Store in April. Put the sales page up by the end of June. One blog post, every week. No matter what. Set an ambitious deadline. If it feels like you won’t make it, cut scope. Then cut it again. A deadline is a little promise we make to ourselves. And it feels like shit when we break that promise. Wanting to avoid that feeling helps me get stuff out the door.
The idea that you’ll magically “find” the time to work on your side project is silly. Between your day job, friends, family, and just plain ol’ crap-hitting-the-fan moments, life has a way of eating up every spare second. By scheduling time for your side project – in your calendar, along with all your other commitments – you protect it from being overrun by something else. Even if it’s just 15 minutes on Saturday morning.
Most of my productivity advice is pretty boring. Focus on one thing at a time. Set deadlines. Have a schedule. I don’t mean to undersell passion or excitement – those are important too. But, in my experience, what ships side projects is time, dedication, and a little bit of practice each day.
Be boring in your life, so you may be fearless in your work.