If you are a developer, you have surely once in your career, started a little side project either because you had a “great” idea, or because it was a very gloomy rainy day outside and never finished it. In many industry, included the IT one, this is called “the curse of unfinished side projects”.
This comic, is probably one of the most shared across the social media, and it summarise this topic perfectly.
Many people see this has a complete failure, a waste of time and energy, but I see it differently and in this post I will share my idea with you.
No idea is a bad idea
Side projects are hidden pearls. It may be time wasted for many, but in reality any minute spent in a side project is worth way more than a minute spent in your day to day routine. Maybe after spending a night coding an horror game, you realise that it is not for you, or spending your two weeks holiday on the perfect APP made you realise that it wasn’t that perfect or unique, but all this time has an unique purpose. It forces you to think outside of the box, it brings you into unfamiliar ground, and forces you that focus and solve a problem after another, and this is what make this time unique.
The power of a side project does not live within it final product, but in the process required to achieve every small step. It is a free invaluable learning progress.
Since using a scrum methodology in work, I have started to retrospect (scrum retrospective) any work I do, that is a small one day project or a month long. I try to analyse all my actions as often as possible. This helps me understand what need improving and what really could be avoided in the future.
Share the knowledge
Too often, this unfinished side project are not shared with colleagues and family. We too quickly discard these to be a waste of time, without actually having other people opinions and I have learned in recent events that the power lies in sharing these ideas with people, side project are not always left unfinished just because we are lazy, but it may be because we have a full time work and a family to look after, and not enough time to spend on them. But this does not mean that it was the wrong idea or that it should not be brought forward.
Side project are usually created when our body produces an overwhelming dose of adrenaline after having an idea and this is what enable us to stay awake all night.
This is not sustainable, and sharing the information with other could actually help you. First, speaking with others and getting their opinion could actually make you realise that the idea, was not that silly overall and build some more adrenaline. Then, having open discussion with people and keep them updated will actually help you in setting a routine to continue to work on the project. Lastly, it could actually help you find some support, that may be just morale, technical or another pair of hand to share the work.
One in a million
So far we have spoken of unfinished work, and given enough reason to continue to have this small experience. But what if, the project you started this weekend is really its the “one in a million” project that is not going to be left unfinished.
This is another great aspect of side projects, there is always a possibility of creating something that is actually worth all sleepless night. That could one day help you create the next unicorn company (definition of unicorn company).
This blog and website started with a side project, a big feature implemented in the company I work was originally a side project knowledge, and a close friend is actually leaving the dream on what was a side project.
Side project are hidden pearls, we just need to learn how to harvest them. With a bit of organisation and help from others, these projects could actually turn in something tangible and useful.