You’ve had a passion project (or seven) rattling around inside your brain for months now.
Maybe you love telling people about it, or maybe you’re keeping mum — either way, you can’t stop thinking about how amazing it will be when you finally start working on it.
But for some reason, you just haven’t taken the first step.
Sometimes we put off getting started on passion projects because we’re waiting for just the right time, when we’ll have the energy or the spare time to tackle it. You know: After the kids go to college, or after you meet that big deadline at work.
Why your passion project doesn’t have to wait
Meanwhile, we end up ignoring all these fabulous little fragments of time we do have throughout our days, while we’re waiting for the dentist or checking Facebook on our lunch breaks.
Sure, it would be great to have generous amounts of uninterrupted time every afternoon to draft your novel or work on your magnum opus, but if you put off getting started until “the right moment,” you may never get started at all.
Here are five small steps you can take to light a fire under your passion project today.
1. Visualize why it matters — and then commit
What’s so special to you about this project? What makes it so important that you’re willing to give up staying current on the latest TV series, or say no to happy hour?
If you can identify why completing this project is so important to you, you can hold it like a beacon of light when darkness and frustration threaten to close in.
Many of us have multiple dream projects and boundless optimism about how much we can actually accomplish. Maybe dreams of writing your grandmother’s recipes into a cookbook are warring with visions of that screenplay you’ve been dying to write. Maybe you’ve thought of starting a blog, but you also have a seven-book fantasy series plucking at your attention.
Trying to work on all these projects at once will just result in none of them getting done.
Some day you might get to them all, but right now, you need to commit to the one that feels most important.
Write down the name of your project and the reason it’s so important to you, and put it where you’ll see it regularly.
2. Get organized
The thing about passion projects is so often they’re very, very big. We’re not talking “bake a cake,” we’re talking “open a bakery.” We’re not talking “write an email to grandma,” we’re talking “write a novel.”
In the face of projects that will span multiple months — and maybe even years — it’s easy to get caught standing like a deer in the headlights, frozen by just how much will be required to get it done.
It’s time to get organized. Create a new file or open a new notebook (I like to create a new Evernote folder). Now, and over the next few weeks, it’s time to brainstorm everything you know about your project:
- What research will you need to do?
- Can your research be broken down into several parts or phases?
- Will you need to enlist anyone’s help?
- What materials do you need to get started?
- Do you need to learn any new skills?
By dumping your project out of your brain and onto paper, it becomes more than just a dream. Now it’s something you’re actually doing.
3. Make a plan…
Start organizing your brain dump into action steps, breaking down every element into bite-sized chunks.
Every project is made up of building blocks: Novels can be broken into chapters, chapters into scenes, scenes into beats. It’s time to find the building blocks of your own passion project.
The best way to make a plan for completing your dream project is to get as granular as possible until you have a list of discrete, actionable tasks.
For example, one aspect of your goal to turn your hobby travel blog into a memoir that’s ready to pitch to agents might be to network with other writes who know how to write a memoir. It’s an important task, but it’s not an actionable goal.
Break it down into its components: Smaller tasks like identifying five memoirists you want to meet and becoming an active commenter on their blogs; or joining a popular weekly Twitter chat.
4. …Then make a schedule
Once you know what steps you need to take, build project time into your schedule. It’s not enough just to wish for the time. If you really want to do it, you need to make the time.
Treat your passion project time as sacred. You wouldn’t put off a job interview or dinner with your best friend because the house needed cleaning, so don’t let that get in the way of your project progress, either.
Remember, you don’t always need a big window of time! You’d be surprised how much you can get done in five minutes here in 30 minutes there — “throw away” time you might currently waste scrolling through your phone or checking your email (again and again).
Instead, why not give yourself the gift of using those spare minutes to work on your project?
5. Write something
You didn’t think I was going to let you get away with just planning, did you?
Research and planning are deceptively productive. You may need to know the history of the Chinese banking system in order to write that scene, but it’s way too easy to spiral into a Wikipedia rabbit hole once you’ve found the information you need, taking more and more notes but never actually writing.
Don’t wait for the day when you get to retire into a beautiful cabin in the woods or attend a writers retreat without any other obligations. Don’t wait for the muse to come visit. Don’t wait for a more flexible job to come along, or the weather to get better, or the house to be completely spotless.
If you ever truly want to finish your passion project, you need to train yourself to write even when there is no muse, even when there is no babbling brook, even when you’re tired, even when you only have five minutes.
If you can write 300 words in half an hour and you do that every single day, at the end of the year you will most certainly have the first draft of a novel.
What one thing will you do today toward your dream project? Tell us in the comments!
This is an updated version of a story that was previously published. We update our posts as often as possible to ensure they’re useful for our readers.
Photo via nd3000 / Shutterstock