Use Downtime Projects to Recharge, Try New Work Habits

What are you doing this holiday week? Many of us are sitting back, playing with new gadgets and eating things we shouldn’t. But quite a few web workers take advantage of the break to focus on new or ongoing personal projects that spark their passions.

It’s no wonder. When else do we get a good ten days (or more!) off work, and can actually spend that time at home? For me, this is a good chance to make serious progress on projects, try ideas I’ve been toying with but have had no time to work on, and fuel the inspiration that will kick-start the new working year.

If you’re working on a personal project, or you’re considering resurrecting one over the break, here are a few ideas to help you stay focused and motivated, while enjoying the holidays at the same time.

Make Sure Your Break Is a Break

First and foremost, you’ll probably appreciate the break more if you accept that this is holiday time. For me, recharging the batteries is imperative — that’s what holidays are for. So if you can afford to, don’t force yourself to work if there’s something else you’d rather do. The idea of the passionate personal project is that it fills you with a sense of adventure, fun, and excitement — not that it feels like work. If the thought of working on your project seems blissful, do it. If it doesn’t, do something else.

The fact that you’ve decided to work on a personal project doesn’t mean you need to dedicate the entirety of your break to it. The thing I love about this time is that I can work when and as I feel like it. If I wake up and the sun’s out, I might spend the day outside instead of at my desk. On the other hand, if I get right into my personal project and want to pull an all-nighter, I can. Don’t force yourself into a timetable.

Experiment as Broadly as Possible

It can be good to use this time to experiment with the peripheral aspects of a project, as well as with its focus. I’ve found that this approach can help me understand what motivates and supports my work, and can make my money-earning tasks more enjoyable.

So don’t just experiment with your discipline, experiment with everything. As a remote worker, I like to change my work location while I’m focused on personal projects. Instead of sitting at the desk I use for the other fifty weeks of the year, I move around, and the simple change in location somehow alters my perspective.

I also rely entirely on my level of interest (rather than any of the usual motivations) for getting work done. I’m trying a different approach to milestone setting, as well as testing various discipline-specific techniques I’ve never used before. Doing things differently gives me more interest in continuing my personal project, because I’m not just creating something, I’m learning all the time. What I learn can be applied to my day job after the break.

Find a Balance

Working as you feel like it is great, unless you get to the start of the new year and feel like you need a holiday to get over your holidays! Giving yourself over to your passion for a personal project can be extremely fulfilling, but it can also burn you out. Balance is important.

Don’t forget to take time off, see friends or family, and have fun doing other things. By mixing things up and pacing yourself, you can maintain the impetus for your project without running yourself down or squandering valuable opportunities to be with the people you love. Balancing your desires can help you get more out of your project than a rigorous work schedule might.

Share Your Passion

When I’m working during a break, I tend to hole up, shut down my email and phone, and immerse myself in my project. That’s great, but occasionally it’s good to come up for air. One beneficial way to do this is to get in touch with someone else who’s also working on a personal project.

This gives me a sense of support and solidarity. Although I might be tucked away in my own world, I feel connected to others who share the same sense of passion (even if their areas of focus are completely different from my own). But finding out what others are doing can give me ideas for experimenting with my own approach, style, or project — all of which may improve the outcomes of my efforts.

What’s helping you stay inspired while enjoying the benefits of time off during the holidays?

Image by stock.xchng user pepo.

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