(Not) Working on Side Projects
Over the years, we tried to fit our side projects into different time slots. Nothing felt right to us, so I tried to find out what works for others and asked on Twitter. I want to share a few of the replies with you. We hope that helps a few of you to find the right time slot.
We write a lot about our side projects and hope to help you with a few of our insights. If you don’t do as many side projects as we do, or none at all, that’s no reason to fear missing out. Don’t fall into the trap to think you need to work on side projects.
Some people like to work on side projects and have enough time to work on them, but it’s okay not to do that. You have to recharge and shouldn’t feel bad for doing so. For example, Alex Muench is a designer for Todoist and Twist, both excellent products, but you know what? He isn’t working on a side project.
Alex Muench: “No energy for side projects at the moment”
In the morning
Marcel Bachran, a fantastic designer, is having a 4-day-week. Though, he seems not to work on his side projects on the fifth day.
Marcel Bachran: “Before work or directly after work during the week because then I’m already in productive mode.”
We’re currently doing it like Marcel and work on our side projects before 10 am and after 5 pm. It’s great to start your day with a fresh mind and focus on your side project right away. The downside is, you have to stop at a certain point to start your day job.
In the evening
I like the discipline of Stefan Zweifel, who has built his Software as a Service over months, with 4 hours/week or less.
Stefan Zweifel: “At max, 2 evenings per week for 2 hours. Not too short, not too long.”
It’s also a good point that you shouldn’t choose too short time slots. Half an hour is sufficient to answer messages or do some smaller tasks, but it’s probably not enough to tackle a complicated task. I also like what James wrote, another excellent user interface designer:
James: “Late at night.”
What I like about night shifts is the quietness. No phone that rings, no notifications, no meetings. There is no interruption, and it’s (more or less) open end. On the other hand, it can be hard to come to an end. And don’t forget, the best productivity hack is eight hours of sleep, don’t sacrifice too much of it.
What if you’d work on your projects on weekends? Depending on your lifestyle, you probably have plenty of time, and maybe less interruptions then. That’s is what Jethro is doing:
Jethro May: “Mostly on weekends, specifically Saturdays”
I like that he focuses on one day of the weekend, so there’s still one day to recharge. For me, working six days per week is too much. I can do that for two or three weeks, that’s all. I need a few days off then.
For a few months, we tried to work four days for clients and work on our side projects on the fifth day. We struggled to find the motivation to wrap our heads around a new topic on Friday. It felt like starting to dance right before the music stops.
We also tried to take another day of the week. A few of us work on Skara, but only on Wednesdays. It feels more like a regular project like that. On the other side, interruptions are more likely in the middle of the week.
We all respect that day very well, don’t schedule meetings for that time and wait with questions regarding client work for a day. It’s probably more challenging if your employer or your clients don’t know about your side project or don’t respect that day off.
We had some fun hack weeks over the last years. We even switched environments and moved to other countries to focus on the thing we want to work on entirely. We hope to do a few hack weeks next year, with the whole project team in the same room, wholly focused on one project, and enough time to hang out with each other between the working sessions.
Life isn’t predictable, and for some, there is only the chance to work on their side projects whenever they can grab time.
David Hill: “After Baby: Whenever I can grab time”
It’s great to have something to fill the gaps and work on smaller tasks, but it can be hard to work on complex tasks where you need to be in the flow for a while.
Some of you probably hope to make your side projects your day job, and yes, that’s possible too. At least, it’s what Marcel does:
Marcel Pociot: “Always”
Marcel is one of the few people releasing multiple projects per month and making a living from a few products. Don’t forget that people like Marcel worked on tons of projects for years without earning enough money to make side projects their main projects. There is no such thing as an overnight success.
It’s all about making tiny steps regularly for a long time. We hope you can find a healthy time slot for your side projects, but if you don’t: No worries, don’t rush it.