The Working With... Podcast | Episode 07 | How To Motivate Yourself To Do Side Projects


In this week’s episode of the Working With Podcast, I answer a question about motivating yourself to work on side-projects.

Hello and welcome to episode 7 of my Working With Podcast. A podcast created to answer all your questions about productivity, GTD, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show. 

Before we get into this week’s show, I would like to thank all of you who have bought Your Digital Life 2.0. The response has been tremendous and I am honoured to have such wonderful people supporting me. Thank you all. Also, for those not wishing to buy Your Digital Life 2.0, don’t worry, I have two videos on my YouTube channel that show you how to set up Todoist and Evernote in the way I recommend in the book. 

Oh, and one more thing… If you have a question you would like answering on this show, please let me know either via email or DM me on Twitter or Facebook etc. All the links are in the show notes.

Okay, let me now hand you over the mystery podcast voice for this week’s question. 

This week’s question is from Sophie and she asks…

How do you motivate yourself to work on side projects in the evenings and on weekends. 

Thank you for your question, Sophie

Another great question! Thank you, Sophie. 

Before we can talk about motivation, we need something to be motivated about. I am sure there are many of you listening who have things you would like to do but for some reason or other are not doing it. This could be anything like reading more books, starting a blog or a podcast or learning to ride a horse. There are so many things, and for many of you, I am sure you feel there is no time. 

One thing I have learned over the years is if something is important enough, if something is burning inside me, I will find the time. We humans always do. Usually, when I find I attach the excuse “I don’t have time” to something, it is a sure fire indicator that something is not important enough for me and I will re-evaluate that thing. This is a great test to evaluate something’s importance. If you’re finding excuses, then I can guarantee it is not important enough to you. Recording and editing my YouTube videos each week takes about six hours. Most people I know would never try and find six hours to do something every week, week after week because it isn’t important enough to them. But my YouTube videos are very important to me. So I always find those six hours every Saturday to do the recording and editing. 

So, what do you do if something is really burning inside you. You can’t stop thinking about it and you can’t wait to start? 

the best way to start this is to take a look at your calendar and find an evening when you are not usually busy. It’s no good saying you will spend 1 hour every evening learning Spanish when you do Yoga on Tuesday and Thursday nights and go to the Super League game every Friday with your friends. There are three identifiable nights where either you are going to be too tired or too late to sit down for an hour to study Spanish. You have to be realistic. 

But we can go back to do what I mentioned earlier, if something is not important enough to you, you will always find an excuse. Is this thing you really want to do more important than your Yoga or Super League game? 

Learning a language, for example, needs patience, action, consistency and time (there’s that good old PACT again) If you are not willing to study three nights a week because of something else, you probably need to go back and question your motivation for doing something in the first place. 

A huge reason people fail to achieve success at anything is that they spread themselves too thin. If you want to win an Olympic gold medal for the marathon at the next summer Olympics, you are going to need to run every day. You will have to spend hours and hours pounding the pavement. There will not be any time for friends, socialising, Yoga or rugby. It would take your complete focus and dedication to win that gold medal. But if that was important enough to you, you would find a way to make the time to do the training. 

However, imagine you want to start your own side business as a contributing writer for a major magazine. You can’t just send an email to the editor and ask if you can become a contributor. They wouldn’t even reply to you. You would need to create your own blog, you would need to be writing blog posts week after week and be able to demonstrate you are consistent. That would mean you would need to set aside some time each week to sit down and write. In my own experience, it takes around two to three hours to write a blog post and another two to three hours to edit. That’s up to six hours to produce one blog post. That would mean you spending two hours on a Monday writing the first draft, two hours on Wednesday doing the first edit and two hours on Friday to do the final edit and publish. Would you be willing to sacrifice that much time week after week for four to five years? 

If it’s important enough to you, you would. 

But let's say you just want to start a side project to see if you could turn an idea into a viable business. Perhaps in this instance you are not sure whether you will have the passion for the project or not. You just want to try something out. 

In this case, I would set aside one or two nights a week to try these things out. Again, use you calendar and set aside one or two hours to play. 

The thing about using your calendar to schedule these sessions is that you are much more likely to do it. If you do not schedule it, you will always find an excuse when you come home after a horrible day at work. Those nights, the TV becomes a temptation that cannot be resisted and before you know it you are in the middle of Elementary desperate to learn how Sherlock and Watson solve the mystery. 

One way I have found that works is if you schedule Monday nights as “side project” night. There’s usually nothing exciting on TV on a Monday night so you could schedule 8pm to 10pm as your side project night. If you treat your calendar as a sacred place, you are going to be much more likely to do what your calendar tells you to do. If Monday’s are buy for you, then by all means find another night when you are regularly free. This is your side project play night. I use late Friday night as my catch up on YouTube videos night. Throughout the week, there’s always a few YouTube videos I want to watch, but don’t usually have much time during the week. So I set aside an hour on a Friday night, around 11pm to catch up on these. It quiet, there’s nothing else for me to do and I really enjoy that time. 

The truth is though, if you are not excited about doing something, then the motivation will not last. I remember back around 2005 I got in to a video podcast called Photoshop TV. I love photography and I have always enjoyed taking photos, and I had a very old version of Photoshop in my computer. I found this podcast and began watching it right from episode one. The format of the podcast was fantastic. Three presenters each doing a quick tutorial showing you how you could create better pictures using Photoshop. The podcast came out every Tuesday evening and I used to rush home, watch the episode and then spend an hour playing around in Photoshop practising the techniques I had just learned. It became one of the highlights of my week. All told I followed Photoshop TV for about 3 years and really came to learn how to use Photoshop properly. I also got to know other teachers such as Terry White, who I still follow today to learn more about Adobe’s suite of software. 

So the sum up:

If you are not really excited about something then getting motivated to do something regularly every week, week after week is going to be really difficult. When you do find something you are excited about then the motivation to do it will last. My YouTube channel, for example, will be two years old next month and today I am more excited about planning, recording and editing the videos than I ever have been. It still excites me. That’s what you need to feel if you are going to really develop those side-projects. 

When you do find that excitement, then use your calendar to schedule one or two evenings a week to play. And I use that word carefully. If it does not feel like you are playing and you are not enjoying yourself learning about or doing your side-project, then I am afraid you will not maintain your passion or your commitment to it. 

Hopefully, that answered your question, Sophie. 

Thank you very much for listening guys. Don’t forget if you have a question, please send me an email, or DM me on the usual channels. All the links are in the show notes. 

Oh and if you have time, please check out my latest book, Your Digital Life 2.0. I am sure you will find it compelling reading over the holiday season.

There won’t be a show next week (Christmas day) but we will be back in the new year so I would like to wish you all very happy Christmas and a fantastic New Year! See you in 2018




Twitter: @carl_pullein


Your Digital Life 2.0