Tuomas Jomppanen

How to Destroy Your Productivity and Have a Side Project Burnout

18 Jul 2013

I made a new year resolution to build a side project that generates revenue. My plan was to blog about it every week and write heroic stories about my progress.

I have very limited hours to spend on my side projects per week due to the fact I have a day job which is the best job I have ever had. I like building digital stuff so much, that I have mana left after work to spend on my own projects. But since I already work with software products and projects at my day job, my hobby projects need to be fun. If they start causing me any pain, what’s the point having a hobby related so close to my day job?

I need to spend my scarce hours on tasks that help me reach my goal. I cannot work hard, so I need to work smart. I want to maximize my productivity through positivity. There is no room for negativity.

I promised to myself to write a blog post every week because it would be fun. Now, blogging does not come naturally for me. I can force myself to write couple of blog posts, but when I have to repeatedly force myself to write a blog post every week, the “fun”-part starts to fade away. Yes, I envy people who can write every day. Why on earth I thought forcing myself to blog every week would be fun?

Every time I had spare time to work on my hobby projects, my productivity plummeted. I wasn’t focused anymore. I kept thinking about my blogging. I stopped working smart. I forgot to commit my code. My commits became a ugly big ball of mess, with stupid commit messages. Things I currently worked on started to feel disgusting, old and bloated. What is the smartest move in that situation? You start building another idea into a product!

After few weeks you realize that it is a beast of it’s own and you start second guessing. What if I had focused on the original project, would it be almost ready by now? That is the feared “grass is greener on the other hobby project” illusion.

Once you have several small projects going on at the same time, you start paying the price of a context switch. It just takes too much time and energy to pick up where you left last time and get into full speed. I think forcing myself to blog and several small projects going nowhere were the factors that caused my little burnout.

Luckily, my little side project burnout did not affect on my work or my personal life, I just forgot to do the right things right and I wrote bad code, slowly.

Setting some boundaries in the beginning was a very smart move. As soon as I realized things were not fun anymore and how it was affecting my hobby project, I had no problem of making some cuts. Blogging was one of the major sources of my agony, so I decided to take a break from it. Since I had decided the boundaries, I didn’t had to fight it with myself. I was allowed to take break from blogging and I abandonned the projects.

I haven’t stopped my hobby projects but I have slowed my pace a bit. I still want to create a side project that hopefully would make some revenue and learn cool stuff while doing it. But I cannot do it if I am not smart about it. What I have understood more clearly is the inspiration is the king. When it kicks in, stop messing around and work smart. Maximize the effect of your inspiration.

This blog post was powered by inspiration and it was written in one sitting.