Today is the day to stop neglecting your personal projects. Here’s why and how.

Today is the day to stop neglecting your personal projects.

Also referred to as self-directed, passion or side projects, these are those exciting ideas you’ll spend all of your time on, once your guardian angel or winning lottery ticket arrives.

For now, despite desperately wanting to work on these things, work and life always gets in the way.

But what if these very projects are the key to the very work and life you’ve been dreaming about?

3 reasons to stop neglecting your personal projects

1.You will generate new ideas, new audiences and possibly even new products and services for your core business

Let me share my story. I started my blog, Afri-love, around the same time that I started my graphic design business. At that time, the blog was purely for me. Sure, I hoped others would read it and find value in it but, it was not part of my business strategy. Over the years, the blog has been directly responsible for several clients, and has also helped me build relationships with several people who have gone on to recommend me for exciting contracts, speaking engagements and other opportunities.

Furthermore, the blog helped to establish me as an expert when it comes to African design. I’d always wanted the subject matter of my work to be within an African and diaspora context and indeed, thanks to my blog, this is primarily the kind of work that I’ve been commissioned to do.

From the beginning, I’d always wanted the blog to evolve to include a community, an educational element and events and initiatives that happen in real life. 2017 saw the beginning of several of these things. I launched the Afri-love Women community, that is now 450+ strong and I launched the Soulful Branding Challenge – an online course helping people create authentic branding that makes their heart sing!

Then there is the products side of my business. It’s something I’d been dreaming about for so long and never finding the time to work on. One day, I decided to make time. 3 and a half years later, I’m steadily building an international fan base, showcasing regularly at fairs and pop-ups, getting stocked at some great shops and venues and collaborating with some amazing brands that I have a lot of respect for.

2.These are the projects that set you apart

These projects allow you to think, create, experiment and test, without external pressure. If you’re working in the creative field, I’m sure you know how liberating it is to play and let your ideas take form, without worrying how a client or customer is going to respond. With these self-directed projects, you can almost fully do you and, in doing so – in being true to the muse within you – you are able to create work that is a true expression of who you are and thus, inherently unique.

This is how you can discover, define, develop and showcase your style.

3.It’s good for morale and business stamina

These are the projects that fuel your creative fire. The ones it’s a pleasure to lose sleep about. The ones where ideas keep flowing, faster than you can execute. The ones that make you look forward to mornings and Mondays. The ones that keep you inspired and energised to keep doing what you do.

I know you didn’t even need much convincing regarding why it’s important to make time for your personal projects

3 WAYS to prioritise your personal projects

Even big corporates are appreciating how these projects influence innovation (and thus, their bottom line). That’s why Google employees are encouraged to spend 20% of their working week on self-directed projects. Many new Google products have been born out of this time.

But you’re not Google. You’re a small business, or perhaps even a business of one. While you have more freedom as to how you spend your working time, you also have so many different hats to wear. Between the admin, the marketing, the business development AND the creation and delivery of your products/services, it’s so hard to justify spending time on these other projects. It feels indulgent – especially because they bring you so much joy!

Here are some tips to help you make personal projects happen.

1.Change the narrative

Perhaps we first need to change how we refer to them. Adjectives such as “personal” and “side” imply that, in the business context, these are extra toppings or nice-to-haves. When in truth, these are the very projects that can totally transform your business, in the most positive of ways. I like to use “self-directed”.

2.Always keep referring to the bigger picture

This year, as part of my daily journaling, I write down my 3 big goals for the year, and then I think about what actions I will take that day, towards those goals. It means I’m able to prioritise my to-do list accordingly. It’s so easy to get caught up with distractions and with what seems urgent. Too easy to let these keep us so busy that, we never get to do the work that will actually have the most long-term results. But when we’re constantly writing and thinking about our big goals – and this is assuming your self-directed projects are linked to them – it’s harder to ignore working on them. In fact, with a practice such as journaling, you will actually come up with ideas of how to make time and space to work on them.

3.Make a sacred block of time, each week 

Again, this is something I’m trialing this year. I have half-day slots for my self-directed projects. One for my Soulful Branding course, one for creating products and a slot for working on content which, covers time for Afri-love and for marketing everything. I’ve assigned the blocks to certain days but, to keep things flexible, I’m allowed to move them around if absolutely necessary. But no matter what, the block must happen, every single week!

When the block comes around, I tackle my to-do-list for that specific project and get as much done as I can, in the time allowed. It requires a lot of discipline to not get carried away and spend the whole day on the project. It also takes patience – I have to remind myself that small, incremental achievements will, in time, lead to big accomplishments!

– – –

I’m still calling my self-directed projects that but, the aim is for them to become my core business. At that point, I guess I’ll need to find some new personal projects :).

How do you make time and space for your self-directed projects?

I’d love to hear – please share in the comments below.

Digging this inspiration from Skinny Laminx: she reflects on a year of what she calls “Making Fridays”.

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