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4 Steps to Actually Finish Your Side Project

We’ve all seen the graveyard of abandoned projects folders. Desperately competing for attention but failing in the glow of a new adventure or app that will change the world. I use to do that all the time, now I finished 4 apps, and 2 other projects within the last year by applying the following steps.

1. Cut it in half

The best book to read if you want to finish side projects is "Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done" by Jon Acuff. In it, the author goes on about taking your goal and cutting it in half, or for programmers going for the minimal viable product.

Earlier this year I started to build an Etsy store that sold programming posters. Initially, I had a ton of designs that I wanted to make, there was nothing like it on the market and I thought it would be great. I have yet to sell a single one. Why is this important, because instead of designing all 20 plus posters, I made 6. Promising myself that if they sold I could do the rest, but now I know nobody buys them. This killed my motivation to make any more, and have since moved on.

2. Schedule the Time

The only way to finish is to complete progress every day. Personally I don’t put a time limit on how long I can work on a project or when its “due.” This is a fun side project, not a deadline for my Boss. Instead, I work on a project for about one hour every morning, and if life gets crazy I take a week off. If I didn’t sleep right the night before I take the day off, but aim to stick to the two-day rule. This way I’m slowly making progress without burning out and when I get to a good part I end up working on it for even longer in the evening.

3. Essentialism the Project

Perhaps the largest contributor to half-finished projects is working on multiple projects at once. I have to be extremely strict with myself on this rule or else I’ll start a new project and completely forget the last. I even get to the point where I go on strike with myself when I get to the boring phase of each project. Part of me refuses to work and the other part refuses to start something new until I cave in and finish.

4. Stagger Learning

Early on I realized that with each learning curve comes a pit of despair (usually where I have to go on self-strike as mentioned above). If there’s too much in a project I don’t know how to do, it becomes harder to get through all that despair and finish. My first app on the App Store took one day to build, and three to publish. Why? Because I had never published an app before, I didn’t know how to upload a package, let alone write a privacy policy. But with a little new-ness to keep me engaged and other finished projects acting as motivation I was quickly able to figure it out. Now I cruise through the publishing requirements and spend more time focusing on better app design.

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