Side-Project Tips for 2024
Staying motivated and actually shipping your project!
In the summer of 2022 I started working on my side-project, Scavenger Hunt Plus, an app for creating, sharing and playing Scavenger Hunts, which I plan to release early 2024.
During my time working on this project, I've learned a lot about how to 'manage' my side-project to help me to stay motivated up to a point that I'm close to releasing it.
In this article I will share these learnings.
Focus on shipping your app. Focus should be your main priority and you will see it being mentioned multiple times in this article. Every decision you make should raise the question: "How would this impact the shipping of my project?".
2. Stick to what you already know
It might be tempting to try some new tech, languages, tools or frameworks, but if your goal is to ship your project, you should avoid it.
Learning something means you will make mistakes, and mistakes cost time. Something we don't have enough of is time.
If you want to make progress, try to stick to the things you are already familiar with, preferably the things you use in a day-to-day basis, like during your day-job for example.
3. The Most Viable Product
Try to trim down your idea to the most minimal version of itself by removing features that can be added later with updates, till all you've left with is the core of your idea.
Focus on building that first.
When I started working on Scavenger Hunt Plus, the idea was to have an app that supports all kinds of geographical games, show analytical data, has different tiers, etc. I trimmed it all down to a 'simple' Scavenger Hunt app for the MVP.
4. Plan your time
Time is precious and we never have enough of it. When I started out, my intention was to work nights and weekends on my side-project.
Soon I realized that most of the time I planned in the weekend would be interrupted by family-related things. This would often leave me bummed out and moody because I was already mentally prepared to work on it. This would have negative impact on me and my family.
I decided that weekends are for family, friends, etc. So I only work on my side-project in the evenings, right after the kids are in bed. I will spend an hour or two which often allows me to do at least one 'task' while also giving me some time left to unwind before going to bed.
5. Managing your work
It sounds boring, but for me this was a great improvement on my productivity and motivation.
Create a list of todo's, or even better, a Trello board. Don't worry about it being incomplete. Just put down everything that comes to mind that has to be done for your project.
Start out by writing 'big' tasks, like "Create a login screen", avoid going into detail too early. Once you get to a task, you start breaking it up in smaller tasks, preferably small enough that they fit inside your 'work window'.
For example, I can spend 1 or maybe 2 hours in the evening to work on a task. So my Tasks should be short enough to be completed in this time frame. Why?, well for the following two reasons:
Easy to start
Sometimes, after a long day's work, you might not feel like working on your project. If your todo's are big, it will be even harder to start.
But if you have 1 hour or even half-an-hour tasks, it will make it easier to tell yourself, "Well let's at least do this small one...", that's progress baby!
A sense of accomplishment.
Finishing a task works motivating! Just moving that task from doing to done feels awesome. I've had times that I felt tired and unmotivated to start working on my project. But after I've completed that 'easy half-an-hour task' I got kick-started with motivation and I almost always continue picking up the next one.
6. Parking work
Since we're now using a todo list, Trello board, or something similar to manage our work, it will become way easier to park incidental work.
Let's say you're working on a task. Then you realize this task need a new service of some kind. Instead of immediately starting working on this service, just create an empty class, with some hardcoded values. Then add a task to your list for later.
Now you can put it out of your mind a continue working on the task you had set out to do.
7. Share with friends/family/community
You know what is a great motivator? Compliments!
Share your work with the community, potential users, friends, family whatever!
It's a great way to get compliments as well as valuable feedback for your project.
These are my 7 tips on how to stay motivated for your side-project. I hope they will work for you too! Let me know if they do!
Happy programming for 2024!!!