Even people with demanding and fulfilling professional lives can have a passion project waiting for them at home that they’re dying to finish.
As proof, look no further than Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who in his spare time runs the space flight company SpaceX, or Box CEO Aaron Levie, who has become an accomplished magician.
But while many of us have things we’d like to accomplish outside of our jobs, sometimes the sheer time and effort our careers require can prevent us from getting things done.
On Quora, users discussed the question: “How can you increase your productivity on side projects at the end of the day when you’re tired from work/college?“
We’ve collected some of the best answers. Here are some things you can do to make sure you have the energy and the focus to turn your pipe dream into a reality:
1. Work on your project at least once every day.
It’s important to stay on track. Quora user Paul Mulwitz spent six years building his own aeroplane and said he’s found consistency to be the key to finishing big projects. “It doesn’t matter if you spend just a couple of minutes or hours so long as you don’t have long periods of ignoring it,” he said. “I’ve recommended this approach to at least one other builder who managed to finish his project with this advice.”
2. Set up boundaries between your day job and your passion project.
Sometimes it helps to clear your head after work before jumping right back into your project. The Awl co-founder Choire Sicha suggested taking a short nap right after you get home from work, while fellow Quora user Aymeric Gaurat found success with a half-hour video game break. “The quick or moderately quick nap resets my brain, 9 times out of 10,” Sicha wrote. “Then I start my day over, and get to work on job number two.”
Though you might feel anxious taking additional time away from your project, physical activity can provide the energy you need to push through after a long day of work, Jen Canfield said. Quora user Greg Blome also recommends monitoring your carbohydrates and fat intakes to achieve maximum physical and mental energy.
4. Break your project up into a series of manageable tasks.
One of the best things you can do to complete any project is to create a set of goals, that way you stay focused and reward yourself for your progress. Quora engineering manager Kah Keng Tay suggests creating what he calls “near-term milestones,” with Erica Friedman adding that she tries to complete at least one small task on her project each day.
5. Get feedback on your work as you go.
Quora user Venkatesh Rao found that one of the things that most helped him write four books while working a full-time job was the input and support of other writers. By starting a writer’s group, he was able to create social pressure on himself to keep his project moving along.
6. If you’re using a computer, leave the tabs and apps you’re working in open at all times.
This decreases what are called “switching costs,” the amount of time it takes for you to resume work on your project. Tay writes: “I leave all my editors, browser windows, etc. exactly the way they are so I can pick up and resume where I left off. This means I usually never shut down my computer, preferring to put it to sleep or standby where possible.”
7. Experiment with different work times to find what’s right for you.
Quora user Rahul Shankar says it’s important to determine for yourself when you can be most productive. Try working on your project before work one day, and afterwards another. Tinker with different sleep schedules. Eventually you’ll find the system that works best for you.
8. Only spend your time working on projects you’re absolutely crazy about.
Otherwise, Chris Loughnane says, you’ll never finish. As fellow Quora user John B. Petersen III put it: “The best way to be motivated to work on your side project is to be doing something you can’t stop thinking about. If your side project is something you spend every waking moment thinking about, then you’ll find time to work on it no matter what.”
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