Internet Self Improvement

What A Busy Day: 10 Savvy Ways To Find Time For Your Personal Projects

Saikat Basu 01-04-2014

Lisa Sugar worked in advertising but loved celebrity gossip.


Ray Chen was a university student who just wanted to share funny images.

Craig Newmark was new to San Francisco and worked for a brokerage and banking company.

These three sound like everyday people. They also created little websites — PopSugar, 9GAG, and Craigslist in that order. These were all personal projects of the three founders while they were busy earning their bread doing something different. Dig deeper. You will find many success stories that came from following large passions with tiny first steps.

Do you have a passion that is secretly throbbing inside your head? Even an idea? What is holding you back? Maybe, the clock runs out after a grueling 10-hour workday and an hour of commute. I know the feeling. I have been there. In many ways, I am still there like you. Let’s not make that an excuse anymore. Let’s steal some time.

Make It Personal

Personal Project & Commitment


Start today. Make a personal commitment.

A personal commitment will flow from passion. Passion is the sauce that will keep your energy on simmer. Bring the passion you have for a hobby to your personal project or turn your hobby into a long-term personal project. If you persist with your hobby today, the Web can help you earn from it tomorrow. As we have seen, the Web makes it so easy to start a hobby for fun Learn Today & Earn Tomorrow: 8 Hobbies the Web Can Help You Start for Fun You can learn literally anything on the Internet -- and one of those might just go on to pay your bills someday. Sharpening your skills online is an open door to improving the quality of... Read More .

Keep taking baby steps – it solves the conundrum of time and fear of failure. Think big, but start small. Joel makes an excellent case for this old maxim with tips on how to start a creative project Think Big, Start Small: 6 Tips To Start A Creative Project On The Web So you have plans for a creative project and you aren’t sure where to begin? Start off on the Web. Here are some tips to keep in mind to help stave off failure. Read More .

Get Organized

Personal Project & Organization


It’s the lynchpin for productivity.

They say a creative’s desk looks something like the one above. I think it’s a recipe for wasted time. We spend 30 percent of our time looking for things. That’s why someone invented the filing system. Start by organizing the tools needed for your side project. If it’s digital, spend a day organizing your computer Creating Order From Chaos: 9 Great Ideas for Managing Your Computer Files It's frustrating isn’t it when you can’t find that file? When you’ve searched every folder imaginable on your computer, and somehow it got lost….or worse, deleted. Now, there are excellent search tools for Windows that... Read More . Any personal project will require an information gathering routine. Aaron proposed some standout research tools Conquer Your Next Research Project The Easy Way With These Tools Whether you’re in school or you have a job, you likely have or will have to research at one point or another. And if you’re like most people, you will have to do it several... Read More . Hit Pinterest for some desk organization ideas.

Spend Some Time To Save Some Time

Rescue Time

Time comes with an opportunity cost.


Last year, NBER published a research paper that showed the amount of time Americans spent online. Business Insider gave the story a frame by saying –

Extra time online comes at a cost to other activities. That makes it exceptionally difficult to figure out how much of our time on the Internet boosts productivity versus sapping it.

NBER tracked the patterns using a Time Use Survey from 2003 – 2011. You don’t need to track your time spent (and wasted) over such a long span. You can use simple software like RescueTime (our review Accurately Keep Track of What You Do on the Computer and for How Long With RescueTime If you spend a considerable amount of time working at your computer with no Corporate Big Brother to monitor what you're doing, you may find yourself spending a bit more time than you should be... Read More ) or Toggl to find out for yourself. The point is – a lot of minutes and hours slip between the cracks. Some of which we can easily divert to our personal projects. Even twenty minutes a day adds up after a month.

If you are a frequent air traveler or commuter, then all those miles can easily translate into some productivity with the help of digital tools like smartphones, tablets, a podcast app…or just the brain for cooking up ideas and to-dos.

Carve It On A Calendar

Google Calendar


Commit the personal project to the calendar.

A calendar is the only “time machine” we have. A calendar overview helps us “see” the future and free time for personal projects. Take to a calendar schedule and take up the well-advised time management idea of following rituals in your life. Rituals are time savers simply because they put you on autopilot for the things you do every day. You don’t have to waste time on thinking what to do next. If rituals are the structure, a calendar can be the tool. Create a personal strategic plan for your project and use the calendar to set up the waypoints that get you from launch to landing.

A calendar can be a huge time-saving device with all the automated tasks you can put on it. Read about these nine IFTTT hacks to superpower your life with Google Calendar 9 IFTTT Hacks To Superpower Your Life With Google Calendar Your calendar is a big part of your productivity, and managing it right can make a real difference. The right IFTTT recipes can help you take charge of your Google Calendar, and make it perform... Read More .

Gamification When Self-Motivation Flags

Gamification for Personal Productivity

Think play. Think fun.

It’s the rage. If gamification can be used for fitness, it can easily be used as a spark plug for personal projects. I am sure you have never been tired of playing video games after a busy day or catching a movie. Justin tried productivity with gamification Points For Everything: How I Tried to Win At Life With Gamification My brain is stupid. It thinks I can get done tomorrow what I need to do today, and that I can do this afternoon what I need to do this morning. It puts everything off.... Read More . His game of choice was HabitRPG and he is still using it. When you make productivity about rewards, it can help you level up for your personal projects.

Tune It Into Your Everyday Work

If it’s a labor of love, you can do it.

Tina Roth Eisenberg stresses on the importance of not only investing ourselves in side projects but also trusting in them. She is a mother and a wife, but she is also known as the “queen of accidental businesses”. Watch the Do lecture, it is very inspiring.

Writing this blog post is a perfect example of inserting some bits of a personal project into my everyday work. It is helping me think strategically about my own personal project, while I also publish this post for MakeUseOf. You too can merge your learning or practical experience with your day job. You could be learning coding best practices in college, and using that for a side project. You could leverage a business problem into a side project that solves it for everyone. Instapaper came from the simple problem of not being able to read web articles on the go. It was a personal project for Marco Arment, while he was working for Tumblr.

The Time Value Of Outsourcing

Outsource for productivity

Estimate your time in terms of efficiency.

Your personal project may not require it. Outsourcing is a great way to free up time for your personal projects. These days, you can outsource everyday tasks How To Become Super-Productive By Outsourcing Your Day-To-Day Tasks Get more done in a day. By learning what you can outsource, plus a few 'best practice' tips for delegating your day-to-day chores, you too can become super-productive. Read More like laundry, cooking, shopping, financial accounting, making a business presentation etc. and actually get more than 24 hours a day. You can find local help on sites like Craigslist or go for remote with sites like Fiverr or any of Fiverr alternatives 4 Alternatives to Fiverr Where You Can Buy and Sell Services Online Every few months, a web application or a particularly unique idea hits the Internet and captures the attention of everyone. From that, a waterfall of copycats and alternatives pour in. Fiverr is in that same... Read More .

Network With Like-Minded Minds


Collaborate for endless possibilities.

Twitter came from the failure of Odeo. We know it was Jack Dorsey’s side project, but it wasn’t a single-man operation by any stretch. Collaborating with others also accelerates your personal projects, and frees up time for tasks you can focus on. Crowdsourcing and collaborative communities make it easy to find like-minded people who can help you bring you passion to life. Go to r/sideproject on Reddit where people are talking about their side projects and discussing ideas. Working or even discussing it gives every project a dose of commitment and makes it feel more real.

Lack of funds? Collaborate with the global community on Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and RocketHub. If nothing else, you can share your personal projects through social media or a blog. However, not every project needs to be shared publicly.

Never Stop Capturing Ideas

Capture ideas for productivity

An idea in time saves time.

I have a swipe file in Evernote for capturing ideas, life hacks, time management tips, keyboard shortcuts, and whatever else that helps me become more productive. Ideas that help my personal project go an inch further also find a place. Capturing ideas almost daily helps me to keep my the idea of my personal project front and center. I may not make progress on the main project every day, but if I can capture a microscopic idea on it, I call it a fulfilled day. Don’t depend on your memory. Note it. Store it. You can engineer a universal tool like Google Drive to capture and ferment your ideas How To Use Google Drive To Capture Your Great Ideas & Never Lose Them Move over Evernote -- here's how you can use Google Drive to keep and grow your ideas. With the Google tools at your fingertips, put them all to good use for nurturing your ideas. Read More .

Give It Time

Remember, the tortoise won the race.

A personal project usually isn’t about money. If we make it about the process we take the high stakes out of it. Personally, I am not looking for perfection. It’s just the joy of creating something from scratch.  I know I will learn a lot from my failures. A little work on my personal project makes the day worthwhile even if all that came before it was waste. One day, I probably won’t even put it on my to-do list…but just do it.

This post came to be because of this excellent post by Paul Jarvis. He talks about treating your side projects as experiments. He says self-projects can seem intimidating and the fear of failure stops us in our tracks.

To get over my own fear of failure with them, I started picturing these ideas as simply being experiments. Experiments don’t “fail”— they simply prove or disprove a hypothesis.

Tell Us About Your Personal Project

If you are among the few who recharge your tired mind with a personal project, then you are among the lucky ones. If you are not, then it’s about time you put your creative goggles on and thought up a personal project. Do you have one? How do you find time for it? Do share your personal project with us if you want, and any tips that you use to eke out time in the midst of a busy day.

Image Credit: dougbelshaw; Business Hand (Shutterstock); Group of businessman (Shutterstock); Business Mind (Shutterstock); vancouverfilmschool

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

Whatsapp Pinterest

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Shiva Edrami
    April 3, 2014 at 11:53 am

    +1 :-)

  2. Aarceegiri
    April 2, 2014 at 11:26 am

    So here is no "Like" button to like this article !

    • Saikat B
      April 2, 2014 at 11:30 am

      Ah, no! But your comment is a +1 for me :)

  3. Saikat B
    April 2, 2014 at 4:30 am

    Agree completely there Caroline. There have been times, I haven't come back to a project for days because of busy schedules. But as long as I come back, it's okay. Now, I have reconciled with the attitude of making a teensy-weensy progress each day, even if I am not able to give it a substantial hour. Sometimes that teensy-weensy effort does put me in the flow to spend a few more minutes even if I am dog-tired!

  4. Caroline W
    April 2, 2014 at 4:05 am

    Hi, great and an important article! I'm in agreement with 'Paul Jarvis' and look at personal projects as "What have I got to lose?", if I didn't keep that mindset, I'd see the project as a chore and would endlessly be in turmoil along with feeling failure leading to a confidence nose-dive (you get the gist). Yet, it is still, to a degree, difficult in keeping with that mode of thinking; but he is right.

    And a problematic area for me is actually focusing (or getting in the zone) to work on my 'babies': I've got three writing ones on the go - a short story telling blog, a non-fiction project and a fresh novel I've just started working on. I love all three of them but I, as nearly all, get afflicted with writers block all too often and that hinders progress.

    What's worked for me, not just with writing but things like cooking from scratch and going to the gym, I literally have to turn my brain off, not think and do it in almost auto-pilot mode turning the over-thinking mind off to get the task done. As well as not make excuses along with seizing the moment when it hits me.

    Still, even with every practicality in place, it's hard to follow through on a daily, consistent basis. Nonetheless, it's still doable with exerted effort and focus. You get back up basically. 'Stops and Starts'...