I started working on a side project in January 2014 and like many of my side projects over the years, after an initial few months of vigorous work, the last little while has been mostly off and on work on the project.
The typical list of explanations applies: work gets in the way (work has been a perpetual crunch mode for months now), the project has reached a big enough size that it’s hard to make changes (I’m on an unfamiliar platform), and I’m stuck at a particularly difficult problem (I saved the best for last!).
Since the summer has been more or less fruitless while working on this project, I’m taking a different approach going forward, one I’ve used to some success in the past. It comes down to three main things:
Focus the work to one hour per day, usually in the morning. This causes me to get at least something done once every day, even if it’s just small or infrastructure work. I’ve found limiting to a small amount of time (two hours works well too) also forces me to not procrastinate or get distracted while I’m working. The hour of side project becomes precious and not something to waste.
Stop working when you’re in the middle of something so you have somewhere to ramp up with next time you start (I’m pretty sure this one is cribbed directly from Ernest Hemingway).
Keep a diary for your work. I do this with most of my projects by just updating a text file every day after I’m finished working with what my thoughts were for the day. I usually write about what I worked on and what I plan on working on for the next day. This complements step 2 because it lets me see where I left off and what I was planning on doing. It also helps bring any subconscious thoughts about the project into the front of my brain. I’ll usually spend the rest of the day thinking about it, and I’ll be eager to get started again the next day (which helps fuel step 1, because I have lots of ideas and want to stay focused on them — it forces me to work better to get them done).
That, and I’ve set a release date for myself, which should hopefully keep me focused, too.