Samantha Andrews

Launch a creative passion project today without feeling overwhelmed

Passion projects, side projects, or side hustles (ugh, I hate the word hustle) are activities you pursue outside your normal “day job” that allow you to explore new topics, skills, or technology. Passion projects are a great way to push yourself out of your comfort zone and start building a portfolio of fun projects that you’re proud of.

My portfolio of design-related passion projects allowed me to transition into a creative career that I love.

In this article I’ll go through the six steps to plan and execute your own creative passion project:

  1. Set your intentions
  2. Have a brainstorming session
  3. Scope it down
  4. Create a project plan
  5. Break up tasks into smaller pieces and block off time on your calendar
  6. Celebrate milestones!

Set your intentions for your creative passion project #

Your intention is your creative passion project North Star, something you can come back to during the “messy middle” part of your project and feel grounded, able to finish strong. Or, re-route and get back on track.

Everyone has different intentions for starting a creative passion project. Here are some examples:

  1. My intention is to build a project using Vue.js (a Javascript framework) and add it to my portfolio so that I can start confidently applying for new jobs.
  2. My intention is to complete a 30-day photography challenge to attract three new clients in the next month.
  3. My intention is to start a daily writing practice and submit my work to three literary journals in the next six months.

If this is your first time dipping your toes into the pool of creative passion projects, I urge you to do something that has nothing to do with earning money and instead follow your curiosity. Chances are, making something you want to make, instead of what everyone else expects you to make, will be a better motivating factor for actually finishing your project.

Intention-setting prompts for your creative passion project #

In my life I want to feel more…
In my life I want to feel less…
I want to start a creative passion project because…
My intention is to…

Have a creative passion project brainstorming session #

You may already have a project idea in-mind, but I recommend holding a quick brainstorming session regardless. A brainstorming exercise will help you get clarity on an existing idea or generate new ideas you hadn’t previously considered.

One of my favorite brainstorming exercises is called Crazy Eights. You’ll need post-it notes or notecards or a piece of paper folded into eight sections.

  1. Set a timer for eight minutes and write down as many creative project ideas as possible. The goal is to get at least eight ideas, i.e. you have one minute to generate a rough sketch of each idea, but you should generate as many as possible.
  2. At the end of eight minutes, put down your pen or pencil and start ranking your ideas. Select the top three that stick out to you.

Write down your top three creative project ideas and rank them 1 to 3 using the following criteria (1 being the best, 3 being the worst.)

Idea Which idea are you most excited about? Which idea requires the least amount of additional equipment, financial investment, and time-commitment? Which idea fits within your bigger vision for your life and provides a meaningful step in that direction? Total

Which idea had the lowest combined score across three columns? This tells you which idea is best suited for you using these three criteria. Write it down…then move on to the next step!

Scope down your creative passion project #

Now that you have a project idea chosen, it’s time to define the scope. Defining the scope of a project keeps it from ballooning out of control into something that you lose motivation to finish.

Slow and steady often wins because it keeps you motivated.
Take on manageable challenges and you'll get frequent signals of progress. Bite off more than you can chew and progress stalls.
When you make progress, you want to keep going. When you break progress, you want to stop.
— James Clear

Aim for quick, small projects that have a high reward for minimal effort. Build on top of these small wins.

Here are some questions to ask yourself while defining the scope of your creative passion project: #

Create a one-page creative passion project plan #

This is where the rubber hits the road! Use this free one-page project plan to write down all of your project details.

It's a Google Drive link, so select...

Break up tasks into smaller pieces #

Using your one-page project plan, outline all of the tasks for the first phase of your project. Your first phase might involve research and discovery . Then, start breaking down big tasks into smaller, more actionable items.

Have you ever stared at your to-do list and felt paralyzed by overwhelm looking at an item like “write blog post”?

That’s because “write blog post” could be broken down into at least three smaller sub-tasks such as:

  1. Outline blog post
  2. Draft blog sections (this item could probably be split into even smaller tasks!)
  3. Edit and format

Make sure your tasks are small and actionable. You shouldn’t ever feel overwhelmed or blocked when sitting down for a work session.

Block off time on your calendar #

Using your one-page project plan as a guide, schedule time to work on your project. If you work a full-time job like me, you’ll have to get creative about when you’re able to actually get work done. I prefer to schedule big chunks of work on the weekend, so I block off two to four hours of “creative project” work time on Saturday and Sunday.

In addition to work sessions, I recommend scheduling one 30-minute planning session at the end of every week. Use this time to review unfinished tasks and make a to-do list for the upcoming week. You might get in the habit of using this time to map out future project phases and breaking up tasks into smaller pieces, i.e. repeating the previous step

Celebrate milestones! #

🗓️Plan and 🎉celebrate the small wins.

Starting a creative passion project doesn't have to be complicated. Spend the next 8 minutes brainstorming ideas, narrow them down using the three point system, and then start filling out the one-page project plan. You're on your way to making something uniquely you!

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