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Using your downtime to work on your side projects

2 min read
Using your downtime to work on your side projects
Photo by Aliis Sinisalu / Unsplash

How do you make time for your side projects?

If you were to ask someone why they haven't started working on something they love, most of them would say, "I don't have time". But is that really true?

We all have downtimes throughout our day, don't we? Why not use those downtimes to work on your writing, your art, your programming?

Here's a quote from the book How To Write One Song by Jeff Tweedy that explains this concept perfectly:

I have a favorite game I play to not just combat procrastination but also challenge the feeling that I should work only when I know it's going to be "good." This exercise helps keep my definition of what a song is, or can be, open and forgiving enough to allow pleasant anomalies to flourish.

It's a simple game. Basically, the whole gist is to set a timer for any amount of time you can spare (I think five to ten minutes is perfect) and tell yourself that whatever comes to you in that amount of time is a song, I even like to record what I come up with into my phone at the end of the time limit to really finalize the feeling that I met the challenge and stuck to the rules.

I came up with this practice on the road. I'm the kind of person who is always early. I know a lot of people think it's not very rock and roll to be punctual and courteous, but I disagree. I think manners are cool, and even revolutionary you won't convince me otherwise. So fuck you. Anyway, when you're always in the habit of being on time, you tend to spend a lot of time in hotel rooms packed up and ready to go ahead of schedule, just waiting for the call that the bus is there to pick everyone up.

One day I wondered on a whim if the twenty minutes I had before lobby call was enough time to come up with and record a "finished" brand-new song.

So I set a timer on my phone and got out my guitar.

After a few minutes I had something I was entertained enough by to start matching with lyrics, and at the end of the twenty minutes, I had written a song that I actually kind of loved. What really struck me about this experience was that I was certain that I had just made something that would never have existed without the limitations I had embraced, and also I had killed twenty minutes effortlessly.

Even if you don't want to create something in 20 minutes, you can also use your downtime to take small bites of your project. There's that famous quote by Richard Russo that comes to mind: "Whatever you're working on, take small bites. The task will not be overwhelming if you can reduce it to its smallest component."

  • If you draw, you can make thumbnail sketches while waiting for someone
  • If you write, you can outline your next article idea in 5 minutes

Whatever you are pursuing, you can take small bites during your downtime.

You don't necessarily have to do this all the time; if you want to take a break, do so by all means. However, don't you find it more fulfilling to work on your art than doomscroll through Twitter for 15 minutes?

Instead of saying "I don't have time", try using your downtime as the default time to work on your side projects. You'd be surprised to find out how much you can get done in those 10-15 minutes.

Content CreationProductivity


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