Side-Project Spring 2019

I started a tradition for myself last year, “Side Project Spring”.

The idea is that in the last 3 months of the year (Spring in the southern hemisphere) I would take a scattershot approach to new projects.

You get an app, and you get an app, and you get an app!

This achieves a couple of things:

  • Diversify/feel out markets.
  • Learn new things and experiment.
  • A bit of fun!

It can all be a bit too serious for my liking, and I wanted to take some time to try out all those little ideas that flit in and out of my head over the year.

Had a “Hey, that’d be cool” idea?

“That new feature looks interesting” moment?

“I wish I new how to” thought?

This is the time to put some hours into some of those things knowing that they don’t need to lead anywhere, while learning what works and what doesn’t along the way by allowing yourself to fail.

“Yeah, this idea was dumb.”

(For the record; I strongly recommend allowing this throughout the year also)

Last year, this lead to the release of Year in Pixels, and then Bullet Journal Touch. The latter of which is proving popular. There were other experiments but they never saw the light of day (and that’s alright!)

The first step in this is to tidy up any lose ends. I was in the middle of updating Easy Writer, Bullet Journal and needed to fix a bug in Kanban Ink. So these needed to be done first. Surprisingly easy to motivate yourself when the reward is playing with cool new things!

Note; this doesn’t mean that I stop work on everything else. Just that I’ll raise the priority of my more hair-brained ideas.

That took me up until today, so I have a little over 2 months of Side Project Spring left.

Have you been writing down all your ideas through the year?

Bookmarking a million tutorials and web pages?

Now is the time to brutally cull that list.

I find doing this in rounds is the most effective. Do a speedy skin-deep look through and try to pick the top 10-20. They need to be interesting, different and plausible to get to proof-of-concept in well under 10 hours.

Now halve it, then halve it again.

Two projects enter, only one leaves…

Keep going until you have just a few projects you’re excited about left.

We now have our short list. How do you now pick from this exciting list of options which to do?

I’m glad you asked.

Take your favourite medium (OneNote, Whiteboard, pen and paper) and start laying the ideas out. A wireframe, purpose, key points and what you’ll achieve/learn for each. Doing this may well give you your answer. If not, it will still have given you a really good idea of what would be required and your scope document.

If you still have too many (what you consider too many is up to you) then I recommend you sleep on it.

The next step is fun; Start! Don’t over analyse, just do. Take that first step and then keep going.

At some point, you’re either going to feel it’s worth continuing with an idea or not. Do so without judgement and move forward with that idea or the next one respectively.

Whether any products come from it or not, you will have learned and hopefully had a bit of fun.

I’d love to hear from you if you try this. If you do, let me know on twitter!

Valley Software.