on life, ambitions, and dreams


The Side Project: All You Need is One

what you really look like when you multitask by ryan ritchie

In college, my screenwriting professor said that down in LA, every other person has a screen play in their back pocket. In these days of the hipster generation, I’d say that every other person has a startup, a side-project, or even a business that they’re working on in their spare time. And in tech communities like Seattle, I’d say that’s every person.

Ideas are everywhere. And the Internet makes it so easy to turn a ‘hobby’ into a business.

Are you a habitual side project starter?

You are full of ideas. You look at the world and problems that need fixing. And you know exactly how to do it.

You think up new projects and jump on them.  When you start, it’s like you’ve caught a fever — you brainstorm, purchase the domain name, snag the Twitter handle, and tell everyone you know about what you’re working on. You can’t be stopped.

But then it happens again. You get a new idea and it’s better than the one before.  You place your current project on hold or abandon it entirely.

The cycle repeats itself.

Question, are you jumping from project to project, because:

  1. You haven’t found that ‘one’ project that you really, really, really want to focus on?
  2. You believe that you can work on every single project at the same time (or switch as you follow your folly)?
  3. You don’t have the confidence that any of your ideas are ‘good enough’ to succeed?

Stop juggling side projects. Commit.

Projects, like goals, are most successful when you focus on one or two at a time. That way you can make an honest, full-blown effort at seeing one of those ideas through before choosing to go all the way or jump ship.

You need to specialize and focus on one project at a time. It’s why top companies focus their entire business on one thing, either having the best price, the best quality product, or the best service than anyone else in their industry. It’s why Zappos is known for great customer service, Southwest Airlines for price, and Apple for product (though the fan boys do help).

If you juggle too many projects at one time, you’re bound to drop one or keep them in the air at half mast. And multitasking may be bad for your brain.

If you’re constantly starting new projects, stop. Pick one and start working on it. Follow your curiosity and see where it goes. It might be everything you hoped it would be or it might be an utter failure. If it’s the latter, then scrap it and move on to the next one.

You may be surprised by what happens when you focus.

Photo credit: ryantron.

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  • Great advice, especially in an age where it’s looking more and more like you “need” a secondary income to make it. Just because you have many ideas, doesn’t mean you have to be the one responsible for them all. Outsourcing and hedging bets across multiple lines of income is another skill often ignored by this crowd (myself included)…

    • “Just because you have many ideas, doesn’t mean you have to be the one responsible for them all.”

      That’s an excellent point. A friend of mine once said not to be afraid to share your ideas, because when you do, most people assume that you’re further along than you might be. I wonder how it’d work to say, “I have this brilliant idea but not the time or skills to build it. Does anyone want it?” I’m sure there’s a better word for that…

      Thank you for the comment, Keith. Nice to see you drop by 🙂

  • Totally agree. I have the tendency to get involved in too many things at once, and it can become extremely difficult to juggle everything. At the same time, it’s hard to narrow your passions to just one thing, and I found that the more I take on, definitely the more I learn. In the end I don’t regret it. Probably the one thing I regret is spending too much time blogging, lol. I actually think blogging and social media is the biggest time sink and probably least useful.

    • Another note: Some projects you can just “drop” but you can’t do that for social justice projects. People are depending on me, and I can’t just “drop” them because I’m no longer interested. Just saying it’s not an option for everyone though it may be if you have a more corporate interest.

      • Blogging is definitely a time sink, though depending on what industry you’re in, it may or may not be worth it. For example, I’ve gotten work because of my blog. But I work in the broad category of marketing communications and try not to be industry-specific. For social justice, that’s another thing, for sure, as your job is to take those issues and share them with the general public. Your blog is to enlighten us but may not be the place to connect with potential organizations for work because they don’t recruit through social media.

        The projects I’m talking about are usually the “tinkering” kinds where someone decides they want to build an app or some other business or organization. But you’re completely right — if that curiosity turns into a social good project, you can’t pick up and leave once you get bored. That’s when you truly gotta commit 🙂

  • Thanks Laura, I really think you are hitting the right spot here – I have that drawer of side ideas, that wonder in my mind and in paper 🙂 Though right now I am committed to 2 of them – finding my next work and developing my   @monthlong:twitter project to better shape.

    • Oh yeah, plus one 🙂 My blog 🙂

      • Three projects, that’s enough 🙂

        Nice work, Marek, and thank you for the comment. Best of luck with all three!

  • Yesss. This is important schtuff. 

    I think certain personalities definitely do this a lot – I, for example, have had a bazillion hobbies in the past 15 years.  I don’t know if people naturally calm down when they get older or what, or maybe I realized the futility of bouncing around so much (as you said), but suddenly I caught on it’s time to commit.

    The other big realization for me was that there are very rarely million dollar ideas.  

    There are just good ideas that you execute the hell out of, tweak, execute, tweak, etc. 


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