Let’s be honest here: how many half-completed side projects do you have?

If you’re like most people, you probably have a whole bunch of projects in various stages of completion—some from yesterday, some from last month, and likely more from years ago.

When are they going to get done? How are you ever going to get any side projects done?

I want to help by providing a few tips for ensuring that you complete and launch your side projects.

1. Focus on One at a Time

Here’s the biggest problem: you have too many side projects. If you have a dozen side projects, you effectively have none. You’re just running around like a chicken with your head cut off. There’s no way you can expect to actually accomplish anything.

Not to mention, we’re talking about side projects. This isn’t even your main work! Your time is already limited. If you want to complete something in your spare time, you can’t bite off more than you can chew.

Stick to one side project at a time. You can’t finish a dozen things at once. That’s not to say you can’t complete a dozen projects—I think you can! But only if you do them one at a time.

Instead of trying to take a stab at 12 projects simultaneously, focus all your energy on one, get it done, and then move on to the next one.

2. Set Aside Time

You have to actually schedule time to work on this project. It’s just like any other work project you have. The way something gets done is by repeatedly allocating time to it.

If it’s just a “whenever’s convenient” project, it’ll never be convenient.

You need to know when you’re going to work on this thing. Get it on the schedule and set aside a recurring block of time to work on it.

3. Limit the Features

As you build this project, you’re going to be tempted to add new features as you go. You’ll get ideas for things and think, “I could do THIS,” or “I could add THAT,” and it can go on forever!

It’s better to add constraints now. Add constraints before you even start. Limit what the initial version of this project will be and what it can do.

Remember, we’re talking about completion. The goal is to complete your project—that’s what we’re fighting for. The goal is to launch the initial version of it and then add features later. This way, you’ve actually completed it! You’ve launched! Now you can iterate.

You need those constraints in order to finish the project. If you don’t have constraints, the project will expand as you get new ideas.

Constraints seem restricting, but they actually breed creativity.

Without constraints, you’ll get overwhelmed.

If you’re feeling like you’re stuck and you don’t know the next thing to do with your project, you don’t have enough constraints.

Constraints limit options and possibilities. This is a good thing. When you’re feeling stuck or your don’t know what the next thing is, it’s because you have too many options—you have too many things you can do. Constraints bring it in so that your next step is very clear. You know exactly what to do next and where to go.

4. Set a Deadline

This is important and it ties in with the previous note on limiting features. Set a completion date for your project and actually make it public. Post about it and tell people. Make a public commitment.

This is a bit scary, but that’s part of what’s going to ensure you finish it. If you say, “I’m going to work on this new project for a week and launch it next Friday!” then everyone sees that. They’re going to expect it because you said it and they’re going to hold you to it. Your reputation is on the line.

You need to ship some version of this on the date you promised. It’s better to follow through with your commitment and iterate on it after that. If you fail to launch when you promised, you harm your track record. Your word now means less.

Setting a public deadline is a good way to get your back against the wall and motivate you. It’s also a good idea to get an accountability partner. The public deadline is good for a single launch date, but an accountability partner is someone you check in more frequently and share specific milestones with.

The combination of public accountability and partner accountability is a strong bond that will help make sure you complete this thing and complete it on time.

5. Ship At 90%

Perfectionism will destroy you.

I am the most qualified person to say this, because I know no one more obsessed with perfection and getting everything just right. As high as my standards are, it’s also one of my greatest shortcomings. Perfection is not attainable. There’s always something to be improved—always.

If you allow it, perfection will be something you chase forever. You will never ship your project until you learn to let go of it. It’s been the most important thing I’ve had to learn. The way I’ve done it is by forcing myself to ship.

  • I set aside time.
  • I limit the features.
  • I set a deadline.
  • I ship at 90%.

You have to box it in like that. This is how you’ll be able to complete and launch more side projects.

I like to think of it this way: Which is doing a greater service to the world? Putting out one project—or maybe even no projects—because I was so obsessed with perfecting it? Or putting out dozens of projects that are nearly perfect?

If I make typos in my shownotes, or if I mispronounce a word, or if I stumble in my speech, I think you’ll forgive me. I think you’re still going to be able to get something out of the message I’m sharing. If I obsessed, I would never post anything. I would never finish anything and you would never get to experience any of it.