Why taking 2 months off to work on a personal project

We quit our jobs for 2 months to focus on our dreams.

Every now and then I was thinking about how cool it was to have a side project. It’s more than just a hobby. It makes your day interesting, it improves your skills you want to develop, but mostly, it gives you a sense of accomplishment. You’re doing more with your life, not just the usuals.

However, it can also give you a bitter taste when you don’t seem to find the time to finish it. It’s not that cool to have a project in limbo. “How’s that project you were talking about? Did you release it?” Well, no. It needs way more resources that I am not yet prepared to give away. Not with a full time job, 9-6 PM. I don’t have time.

Time is a created thing. To say 'I don't have time,' is like saying, 'I don't want to. Lao Tzu

Fair enough Mr Tzu. So I’m saying. I will find time. But how many times did I leave my job earlier to do more work on my project? Never. What I did, I cut on my already short time to live and meet with friends and family.

So here I am again with more time for the project, but feeling exhausted, having problems to fall asleep since the last thoughts dancing in my brain were either about the project or the job ( now, probably not everyone consider their daily job as fulfilling, challenging and interesting, but I did. My daily job took a lot of my energy).

We end up with a day job working some extra hours here and there. Coming back home and put some more hours on a side project. In the end, there’s nothing left to live! I ended up putting life as a side project.

And I am not the only one. I see friends, people, working more and more. Using new apps and services to give away our mundane tasks, to free us time to … work.

I love working. But I love life more. I love balance. There is a daily fixed 24 hours for all of us. Life deserves its time. Putting more hours in a side project was not going to work for us unless we changed something.

This got us think, if that wasn’t going to work, putting your side project in the spotlight may. Suddenly a shift in perception gives your project the confidence it deserves. Suddenly, it switches your “maybe it could work” into “it will work”. It’s not a forgotten toy left in a dark corner any more. It’s like Thor coming back to life. And it brings energy. Loads.

Mårten Eskil Winge - Tor's Fight with the Giants - Google Art Project

You begin to have the courage to imagine what it could be. Suddenly ideas are hitting you like a rollercoaster. It brings motion and grip to your potential. Suddenly you can be the hero you always thought you were. And all this with getting to keep your life.

Of course, life is not a comic book. Thor does not have bills, but you do. Reality hits back. What happens with our central location? (Did I mention London?) Local butcher that we love? Surely we could move somewhere else to save some money, but it’s about a lifestyle. We love this area. Should we cut on dinners, shows, trips, etc? This is our life. We’re not putting our life on a side project again. (n.b. one must be flexible about lifestyle and knowing this can change to accommodate other priorities. It’s always been the case. But in this case, changing our lifestyle for 2 months would not work - which brings us to the next chapter - How we planned to do it)

How we planned to do it.

We quit our jobs to focus on our dreams.

My partner and I decided to give our side project a go. It’s a cute little video game that works almost everywhere, built on HTML5 and Javascript. It’s fun to build and fun to play. This totally deserve its spotlight.

We also decided it deserves no more, no less than 2 months of prime time.

The plan was to release in 6 weeks, having 1 week of vacation ( always important to rest or celebrate) and 1 week to find a new job. That’s not too bad, after all. We have 10 months to do whatever we would do anyway and get back to our regular daily jobs ( in our case, contracting).

You could argue that 1 week to find a job isn’t enough, however you can always find something short-term that would do its trick and get some cash in while you’re looking for that amazing job or contract. Even if you are not freelancing, maybe you can go back to your old job if you talked your terms on your way out. Maybe you can take 2 months off, or why not, do this in between two jobs if you planned to quit your last one.

The idea is that it doesn’t have to completely change your life and 2 months gives enough time to do something great.

Since we are both working in digital industry, Agile and Lean methodologies are our bread and butter. The beauty of Agile is releasing something to the market as quickly as possible, get feedback, iterate and repeat. It’s also a way to cut the crap and get to the point. Prioritise the priorities. And staying feasible within a timeframe without rushing into big investments.

Maybe not big, but it’s still called an investment. The money would come from, you’d guess it already, savings. Savings are important. Never quit your job without savings, they say. Makes sense right? This is going to be handy later on, when we have stopped cashing in our daily jobs. But we did consider Kickstarter campaigns or external investors. The problem with that, setting up a campaign or running from one investor to another is on its own a project. Not a side project.

Time is critical, so we’ve carefully planned six one-week sprints. Every week we had targets that we had to deliver. That kept us going and kept our excitement to the roof. In my next posts, I will explain step by step the way we planned each week.

In the first week, we started with our project overview and some research, while laying down our costs and our target numbers. Knowing how much we’d be spending in the next 2 months not only gave us clarity and focus, but also hope. We were confident that not only we’d be covering our costs, but maybe put some savings aside for our next project.

We had enough savings and had a rough estimation on how much we would spend, but generally speaking, research and budgeting should be done before quitting one’s job.

Lastly, I should mention that working on so many different tasks every week feels so rewarding. There are new things to learn every day, new areas we are improving our skills and broaden our experience. Getting our hands dirty in all aspects of running a project gives a better understanding of other people’s qualities and priorities.

I couldn’t encourage everyone more to put their side projects on the spotlight for only 2 months. The reward is amazing.