Side Projects

I recently watched a presentation on side projects that's inspired me to continue working on tackling my ever-growing list of side projects.

Last week, I "attended" the 5to9 design conference, a conference by and for side hustlers, freelancers, and others who generally do work outside of full time jobs (hosted by the lovely folks of DesignX Community). And by "attended", I mean that I logged on during work breaks and meal times to catch videos of sessions that interested me (as is becoming the norm for online conferences in COVID-19 times it seems).

One session in particular really spoke to me. Kezie Todd, a UX designer at Puppet, gave a presentation called, 12 Side Projects in 12 Months that chronicled her journey of completing 12 side projects in a year, all in varying mediums (you can read more about them on this blog post).

Kezie's presentation came at an interesting time for me. Since this past winter, I've made considerable effort to tackle some of these side projects head-on (COVID-19 has helped free up time for this, admittedly). The thought of completing 12 projects in a year is daunting, and I know I'd never have the time to commit to that amidst my current obligations. But what I can do is commit to completing at least one side project this year, and hopefully increase that number next year. In more ways than one, her presentation inspired me to keep working towards that goal.

I've kept a running list of side projects I want to pursue for a few years now. Some of them are silly. Some of them are insane. Some of them will require significant time and financial investment. Some of them I'll probably never start. Some of them will probably result in numerous eye-rolls from my wife. But, all of them represent ideas I've had to push myself and learn new skills. And as new side project ideas pop into my head, I add them to the "list" (in no particular order):

  • Build a piece of mid-century modern-inspired furniture
  • Buy and work on a project car (notably one with a V8 engine)
  • Use 3D/motion software to create an abstract video
  • Write, produce, direct, and edit a film
  • Continue learning how to play an instrument (right now it's violin, but who knows what the future holds)
  • Compose a song for said instrument
  • Learn React
  • Develop something using React
  • Write and publish a short story or novel
  • Write and publish a freelance article for a magazine (or two)
  • Design and develop a website to help kidney stone patients identify foods high in calcium oxalate (calcium oxalate is a known trigger for some types of kidney stone formation)
  • Design and develop a website for bourbon whiskey enthusiasts to discover recommendations
  • Learn how to illustrate on an iPad in Procreate
  • Make an illustration based on what I've learned in Procreate
  • Develop a sheet music inspired CSS theme (for static-site generators)
  • Design an interface or something for augmented reality
  • Cook Icelandic pancakes and film the process
  • Design, develop, and write a blog based on my genealogy interests
  • Design a typeface and publish it
  • Design and develop an iOS app using the Swift programming language
  • Design and develop a coffee preparation website

Right now I'm juggling two side projects from that list, hoping to complete one of them sometime in September, and another in the next year (although I keep moving the goal post on it, so it's possible it won't be coming anytime soon 😉). I'll write a blog post when there's more to share 😎.

Side projects, to me, are very important, and I find them to be an invaluable component of my self-care regimen. To me, side projects are a way to work on something without constraints, a way to learn new skills, sharpen existing skills, exercise creativity, and as Kezie pointed out in her presentation, have fun!

Even if I don't complete any of those side projects, the time spent learning new things and discovering new interests is something I cherish, and is an investment in myself that's not wasted.

Maybe now that I've made my side projects list public (a scary thing to be sure), someone will hold me accountable. Maybe that's you. Who knows?