Process for personal projects

Some people have troubling starting personal projects. Some others have trouble finishing these personal projects. I am of the latter category.

This is the way it works for me: I get started with one project. And about the first third mark of the project, that project spawns a few more side project ideas, which I will jump into enthusiastically, immediately. And those projects, at their one third mark spawn more – and so and so forth.

And the first project languishes unfinished. All these unfinished projects haunt me day and night. And this leads to the other problem I have – the inability to quit these projects which are not useful, which I am not interested in any more.

I realize that this is not an uncommon problem. And the way to deal with this is to go on with the first project and not sidetrack into these branches. So simple right?

But some of these side projects, in the past, have been awesome and were the most useful, fun. So what to do?

To deal with this, I am experimenting with this approach / process:

When I get an idea for the first project, I

1. First create a new folder especially for this project
(OneNote notebook section or Evernote notebook or a section of a paper notebook – whatever I am using at the moment).

2. Write down, in this notebook, before I start the project – what is this project about (the description), why am I doing this project (the motivation), what will I gain from this project (the benefits), and what will I lose by doing this project (the cost).
(Preferably I write longhand in pen and paper first, and the copy it out to the digital notebook. This cements my thoughts about this project even before I start out)

3. Before starting work on my project, I split it into 3 parts, mark the one thirds part, the two thirds part and the three thirds part. I put this in my notebook.

4. Assign timelines – write down how long do I think it will take to finish this project
(I try keep timelines real, not ideal)

5. Then start work on the project.

6. As I start the project, any links and thoughts about this project – I write down diligently in this folder – in a section called links and thoughts. Each link and thought is dated.

7. As and when new ideas for side projects come up, they will first be written down in a section of this notebook called “Side Projects”. These ideas will also be dated.

8. Then the important step – go back and check the timeline of the current project. Am I at the two thirds mark? Yes, then decide if I am going to quit this current project or am I going to finish.
If I am going to quit, then quit and go do the side project. If not yet at the 2/3rds mark, just shake my head at myself and continue with my current project.

9. At the end of the project, I am then free to follow the side projects.

So this is the process I will follow from now on.

I am hoping that by this process, most of the thinking and motivation is done BEFORE I begin the project. At any time in the project, if I am undergoing a motivation slump, then I can go back and refer to my initial motivations. Also, this process helps deal with the fear of missing out on my side ideas – all side ideas are documented in detail, dated and resources linked, so I can go take a look at them later.

So why divide the project into thirds and not quarters, you might wonder. That is my psychology. I generally give up projects at the 1/3 mark. If I reach the 2/3 mark, I generally finish them. So it is quite important to know yourself when coming up with your own process.

So that is it for my process. Do you have your own process? Do you even need one?


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