Why You Should Have a Side Project

by Francisco Saez

This chapter is a free excerpt from The Pursuit of Mastery.

April 1, 2013

It often seems that side projects are only an entrepreneurial thing, that they are done just by people who seek a new or alternative way to get money and make a living. Of course, that might be the target of a side project, but you don’t need to think about working on a side project only in terms of starting another company. Having a personal side project, apart from your usual work, has many other benefits:

  • They are fun. Side projects allow you to invest your time doing what you love. Isn’t this a definition of happiness?
  • They facilitate learning and experience. Side projects allow you to experience and learn new things that your daily work might not. They help you learn new techniques or, through deliberate practice, improve your current skills.
  • They encourage your creativity. Side projects allow you to work without any constraints. There are no deadlines or specifications imposed by anyone except you. You decide your schedule, your pace of work, your priorities.
  • They are a huge source of training and self-development. You can read many books on any particular subject, but there is nothing like getting down and actually participating in the subject itself to gain self-confidence and grow.
  • They can benefit your career. You will have more chances of getting a job if you can show a variety personal works that are real, interesting, and meaningful, rather than a simple résumé.

Okay, at this point, it’s clear that everyone should have a side project, but is that really possible? Is there any room in your life where you can also fit in a personal project?


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April 1, 2013

It often seems that side projects are only an entrepreneurial thing, that they are done just by people who seek a new or alternative way to get money and make a living. Of course, that might be the target of a side project, but you don’t need to think about working on a side project only in terms of starting another company. Having a personal side project, apart from your usual work, has many other benefits:

  • They are fun. Side projects allow you to invest your time doing what you love. Isn’t this a definition of happiness?
  • They facilitate learning and experience. Side projects allow you to experience and learn new things that your daily work might not. They help you learn new techniques or, through deliberate practice, improve your current skills.
  • They encourage your creativity. Side projects allow you to work without any constraints. There are no deadlines or specifications imposed by anyone except you. You decide your schedule, your pace of work, your priorities.
  • They are a huge source of training and self-development. You can read many books on any particular subject, but there is nothing like getting down and actually participating in the subject itself to gain self-confidence and grow.
  • They can benefit your career. You will have more chances of getting a job if you can show a variety personal works that are real, interesting, and meaningful, rather than a simple résumé.

Okay, at this point, it’s clear that everyone should have a side project, but is that really possible? Is there any room in your life where you can also fit in a personal project?

It’s important to know how to stay away from your regular, everyday work. To be more creative and productive, you have to get enough rest and devote enough time to other things to allow yourself to live a balanced life.

When it comes to balancing work and personal life, it’s common to think primarily of the time we have to devote to our families, but personal life also includes your individuality, the knowledge of yourself, your inner development. You can’t succeed in your relationships with others if you don’t have a good relationship with yourself.

The question now becomes, how can you have the time to do your job, have a personal life, and also work on a side project? Won’t this require you to work incredibly hard, all the time, which will end up stressing you out more than anything else? It is certainly true that working hard is not sustainable over time. But you can work smarter and, of course, have good personal organization. This is why you are practicing some sort of organizational system like GTD, right?

One final note on the importance of side projects: keep in mind that having a side project is not the same as thinking about having a side project. I know many people who constantly talk about what they want to do when they have time. Do not make excuses. Having a side project means doing it. Fantasizing doesn’t count.

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