The best thing about personal projects is the freedom. Here, I can try a new technique that would have been unsuitable for a work-related project, explore a subject that I've become newly fascinated with, or just make something I've been wanting.
But when you're embarking on a personal project, it can be difficult to find motivation to do the good work and follow-through for yourself that you would otherwise do for someone else. When it comes to designing for myself, I'm pretty lazy. The mind is willing but the body is weak.
So, trying the new technique ends once I finish reading about how to do it, and the subject that once fascinated me doesn't seem quite as compelling after I've done some preliminary brainstorming and rough sketches. And the design I've been wanting? I've come this far without it, haven't I?
So I find it necessary to set up additional incentives in order to get my personal projects done within a reasonable timeframe, at a level of quality comparable to my projects for others. Most of them involve the possibility of my work being seen by other people, or meaningful deadline selection:
- Blog it. This blog has been surprisingly helpful in getting me to finish what I've started.
- Holiday/birthday/occasion gifts. These are hard deadlines, plus your recipient will be looking closely at your project for at least a few seconds. However, choosing this as an incentive may define your project choice somewhat.
- Enter an exhibition or contest. Your personal project will not only be looked it, it may also be judged. Do a good job, and submit it before the deadline.
- Bring it to a meeting of peers. It's helpful to belong to a design-related organization or community that meets periodically. Everyone wants to see what everyone else is working on, and the environment is generally encouraging.
- Collaborate. It's nice to work with someone who shares your goal and knows firsthand what you're going through.