As of November 20, 2020; I have finished 81 "side projects", at least since I've started tracking my throughput in June 2020.
Here's the breakdown:
18 Blender pieces (there are 4 overlapping with code projects)
5 Blogs (I've written more than that; the "Project" ones just required research)
62 code projects (there are 4 overlapping with Blender projects)
Direct revenue: $26.56 (Gumroad + Medium)
Indirect revenue: $2990.51 (Projects I landed with clients as a direct result of my work)
~400 new Twitter followers (I'm not sure how to check what number I was at back in June)
Three separate projects with >10k video views on Twitter
I'm really happy with what I've been able to achieve this year. With all that's going on in the world, my projects have been a great way for me to always be learning something new.
My brand has grown a ton, and I've been able to talk to new people much smarter and cooler than me, and for the first time in my career, I understand what people mean by "becoming indispensable by being unique".
Briefly, I'd like to address what worked, what didn't, and leave you with some parting thoughts that hopefully get your mind's wheels turning.
Organization is Key
The Pipeline is basically a suped up metadata capture system, where I plan the marketing blast, what resources I'll need, what roadblocks may occur in the project, etc. before I take on a project.
This has saved me so much time, while simultaneously giving me a way to revisit projects when I have more resources (time, money, etc.).
It also allows me to turn my brain off after a hard project and not have to think of any witty taglines. I just copy paste the marketing material I wrote in the pipeline!
A good project management system will allow you to capture thoughts and notes to learn once, use forever. Future projects go faster and faster as your personal knowledge graph expands. A few of my projects this year were just Frankenstein'd code from older, archived works!
There's no one size fits all solution, but a good place to start is a lightweight system that allows you to capture ideas, keep resources in a centralized place, and to have insights flow from project to project.
It's Okay To Drop Projects
"The last 10% of a project takes 90% of the time."
Leverage your project management system to capture any and all resources you used, and know when to let a project go. Some projects just aren’t worth seeing to the end. There is no science to this, but you’ll know when dropping a project feels like the right call.
Perfectionism is an ugly beast wrapped in a nice package. Don't let perfectionism rob you this brief, beautiful journey called life. I've found it's best to leave projects in a state right before the optimization/tweaking phase. The implementation phase is where you learn the most.
If your project management system is on fleek, you should be able to learn something new for every single project, even if you can't bring it into "reality" the way you envisioned it.
Embrace Deep Work
Ruthlessly cull noise. If completing projects is a priority for you, you must be able to block away parts of your time to code, write, think, woodwork, paint, or anything else that requires attention.
I've followed the Cal Newport Deep Work philosophy, and have found great success with it, as well as planning out my days in my journal the night before.
The trick here is to be quite jealous of your time, and to be as mindful of how you choose to spend your hours as much as possible (specifically the hours you haven't already promised to someone else).
Chase Curiosity, But Embrace Discomfort
One thing I see a ton of people fall victim to is the idea that curiosity and motivation need to persist through an entire project.
This is false.
Here's a way to think about it.
It's easy to say yes to something, but it's difficult to follow through.
It's hard to say no to something, but it's easy to follow through (because you're not doing it at all!)
Motivation is a trap. Every project will expand in difficulty, and motivation alone is not enough to foot the bill.
Choose projects you're curious about to start, but use persistence, tenacity, and a mindset of "this discomfort will help me become a smarter person" to fight through.
I think the best part of finishing projects is the minor confidence boost you get when you finish something. They start out small, but they compile over time, and you soon start to see yourself as a person who gets shit done.
That is the real reward.