How to work on passion projects when your day job saps your energy

If you recall last January, I wrote a four-post series on how to choose a topic, write content, and launch a niche blog. This year, I’m resolving to launch six new niche affiliate properties using the step-by-step I wrote myself. It’s simple enough, but last year I didn’t launch even one.

The problem? New business ventures are always a risk. They consist of a lot of work for no immediate reward—and if the idea is a flop, there might never be a reward! It was hard to chase hypotheticals when I had plenty of guaranteed work to focus on. And once I was done with my regular work, I didn’t have the energy or enthusiasm for an additional project.

This year though, I’ve already launched a new property! While working on it, I’ve realized that there are techniques I can use to avoid letting my day job take everything out of me. If you have a goal to launch a side business this year, here are my tips for you:

Build momentum

This month I sat down for a couple of sessions with Google Keyword Planner to launch my latest affiliate site—a new blog that covers a mental health topic. I’d been sitting on this dot com for 10 months with no energy to do anything with it. So what changed? I decided to just get it all out in one or two sittings: a larger than usual amount of work in a short amount of time.

For a while, I’d had “work on the affiliate site” as a permanent item on my daily to-do list, but I never prioritized it. And the longer I let it sit, the easier it was to continue to ignore.

That changed when I was sitting down to make my 2018 goals—and looking at my 2017 goals to see if there was anything to try again this year. I found this site sitting on the list of goals I didn’t reach and realized I was disappointed about that. But instead of moving on, I decided to start working on it right then—while I had my determination to propel me along. That was enough to keep me going for a couple of days until I finished. I do think it is much easier to build momentum for a short while than it is for a year-long goal, which brings me to point two:

Batch your work

The thing I find tough about New Year’s Resolutions that require a daily commitment is that I have to dedicate a bit of my mental energy to thinking about them every single day. I find it’s hard to build momentum over such a long stretch of time (and studies show it’s not just my impression; it takes 1-3 months of intentional behavior change to form a new habit).

So how do you take that short-term emotional momentum and harness it into helping you achieve long-term goals? I suggest batching your work. The same way that it makes more sense to bake an entire batch of cookies on one tray, it’s easier to do a bunch of related tasks on one project all at once, even if it takes more time and effort in the moment.

Dedicating five minutes a day after work to focus on a passion project doesn’t work for me because chipping away at a big task so briefly doesn’t build momentum. Instead, I’m more likely to block off an entire day to get a project out of the way. I really have launched projects like this—Gunpla 101 was the result of one long weekend with zero commitments.

If you’re procrastinating, ask why

Before I put this affiliate property idea back on my to-do list after almost a year, the first thing I asked myself was, “Do I really want to do this? If so, why haven’t I done it yet?”

Sometimes the reason you are procrastinating on a project can tell you a lot about yourself and your values. Some fears can be dismissed, like “I haven’t done this because I am scared,” since anything worth doing is scary. Others are more legitimate like, “I haven’t done this because it’ll just become another crappy job for me to do.”

That was my main concern—I spend so much time on my existing affiliate properties, I was worried about just hiring myself for work I didn’t want to spend my time on. But I rationalized this by realizing that if one of my new properties is a success, I can hire people to write for me like I do with Gunpla 101. For now, I can create a minimum viable product, the bare amount I need to launch, throw it out there and forget about it for a couple of months. Thinking about my passion project as a one-time commitment and not an endless menial job convinced me to finish it.

As a freelancer who gets paid by the task and not the hour, I have more time to work on passion projects than the average person (and therefore far fewer excuses not to work on them). That means my perspective on the topic may be very different from yours. If that’s the case, what helps you stay focused and motivated to work on passion projects? Let me know in the comments.