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A Different Kind of New Year’s Resolution: 12 Side Projects in 12 Months

For the longest time, I would set hopeful New Year’s Resolutions like everyone else. New Year, New Me! I thought. And for the longest time, I would inevitably forget what my goals were, much less follow through on them.

Research shows that I’m not alone – most new year resolutions aren’t successful. In fact 80% of those resolutions fail by the second week of February (oof, I know).

I was okay with this annual tradition until one day, there was a wake-up call I couldn’t ignore. I was about to be let go from my new marketing job.

I knew I couldn’t afford to forget my goals anymore; a change was necessary. There’s a quote that sums up this situation well: 

I needed to do something different. Knowing that yearly goals didn’t work, I decided to try out monthly resolutions for several reasons. One, I would quickly know if I took the right actions to reach my goals. Two, I could feel good about committing time and focusing on the project for 30 days. Three, I would have a dozen chances to try out different interests, instead of feeling stuck on finding the “perfect one” before I started.

Monthly projects completely changed my life.

To paint you a quick before and after, when I first moved out to San Francisco for work in 2015, I had a huge identity crisis. I wanted to explore many interests but it felt so overwhelming that I ended up not doing anything at all. Scared of being alone with my thoughts and driven by FOMO,  I went to countless dinners and dates. As Rupi Kaur succinctly said,   

After I reflected on my aspirations and created monthly projects, everything changed. I started to follow through on my priorities. I tried out new hobbies and picked up in-demand skills. I learned what I liked, and what I didn’t like. During the process, I became more confident and clearer on what direction I wanted to take in life.

I used a similar approach for work. From doing side projects, I learned the best practices for project creation, goal setting and time management. And at work, I applied the same principles and launched various successful projects. Soon, I secured a stable full-time position. Within a couple of months, I went from someone who was almost jobless, to someone who became the go-to person for all kinds of skills (coding, design, etc.).

Consistency made the biggest difference in this acceleration.

MONTHLY PROJECTS AS ALTERNATIVES TO YEARLY RESOLUTIONS:

Unlike New Year’s Resolutions that tend to be long lists of scattered goals, monthly projects were the exact opposite of that. The framework of 30-day projects enabled me to focus and achieve. And not only did I gain solid skills, but I also built the confidence to pursue a much more fulfilling career when I left my job.

If you also have high priorities this year, and New Year Resolutions haven’t worked for you in the past, you may find the below resource helpful.

I’ve put together an easy step-by-step guide on how to get started on side projects. Often times when goals aren’t achieved, it’s not a matter of who, but how. We were never taught how to effectively set goals; it’s more of a trial and error process.

To save you time, I included the exact process that I use to achieve my monthly resolutions. You can get the free toolkit on how to create and implement your projects by clicking on the button below.

 

And for ideas on monthly resolutions you can do, below is a list of the 12 projects that started it all.

 

LIST OF 12 SIDE PROJECT IN 12 MONTHS:  

This is a brief overview of how I determine what projects to choose. First, I make a list of areas I want to improve in, and choose one to focus on for 30 days. Each project has to pass the “Dream Life” test, which means that if I completed the challenge, I would be one step closer to my ideal life. If you’re curious on what the exact process looks like, you can check it out here. 

Every year, the most popular goals tend to be learning a new skill, meeting new people and get a (new) job, according to a survey on new year resolutions. Out of the 12 side projects that I did, my favorites were also similar. They were: starting a blog, going to events by myself, and exploring career alternatives. These three monthly challenges completely shifted my perspective on what I thought was possible as a career.  

Here are the specific ways that these projects have changed my life and opened new doors.

LESSONS LEARNED FROM DREAM LIFE PROJECTS:

 

1. Our strengths are often the ones we unknowingly neglect.

On writing – a lost childhood dream.

Though I’ve always enjoyed writing, making it into a full-time or even freelance career seemed quite out of reach. I’d hear so many “starving artist” stories while growing up that I marked this idea as unfeasible from the get-go. So when I started to re-explore my interests for the sake of themselves, I was really excited to start a blog for fun and write 500-750 words every day.

Though it was hard work, I found that I loved it and wanted to make a career out of it. As a byproduct of these monthly projects, I already had a writing portfolio. My career transition was much more smooth-sailing as a result. When I quit my job at the end of 2017, I was able to sign my first writing client within two months.

2. Overcoming fears is a gradual process.

On public speaking – you just have to start.

I decided to go to a meetup alone every week as the first step to overcome my fears and sweaty hands. Little by little, I became more comfortable introducing myself to other people, and eventually in larger groups. I learned that lifelong fears were not going to disappear overnight, just as you wouldn’t attempt to change jobs overnight (imagine how scary that would be!).

In fact, facing fears was like a muscle that needed to be built up over time. And consistent practice was key to checking this off my bucket list. In 2018, I gave multiple talks about Dream Life Projects to crowds of people, ranging from student interns to company founders. And now I regularly host career workshops across the world.   

3. Rules are meant to be broken.

On alternative lifestyles – like rules, these can be created and recreated.

The more I familiarized myself with different career paths, the more confident I became in not sticking with the default 9-5. By exploring the unknown, I discovered options like remote work and digital nomadism.

Throughout that time, I also looked into Remote Year, No-Pay MBA and Minerva schools. Inspired by a personalized curriculum that would align with my interests and values, I created exactly that. Through my own learning bootcamp, I successfully transitioned into my dream careers of writing and coaching. Now I help others do the same.

 

WHAT MAKES ONE-MONTH PROJECTS EFFECTIVE: 

Because of these side projects, I was able to make a career switch in two months. Because of these side projects, I was able to become a digital nomad and travel the world. And because of these side projects, this blog exists. So if you’re on the fence about what to do next or how to pursue your dreams, I invite you to join me for a Dream Life Project and slay your goals this year.

And to be clear, New Year resolutions fail not because of the person, but because of the way it’s set up.

Everyone tells you to “reach for the stars” and not about SMART goals (because that would crush the sparkles and feel-good vibes). It’s important that you are aware of what no one ever talks about – the top three reasons why year-long resolutions fail.

It’s because of the lack of intrinsic investment, clear focus, and realistic expectations.

To make sure you can side-step these hurdles, I created a foolproof guide on how to overcome the obstacles. You can get exclusive access by clicking on the download button (it also includes special tips not found in this post ;).

In the meantime, here are three steps you can follow to set yourself up for success.

3 STEPS TO FOLLOW FOR YOUR SUCCESSFUL PROJECT LAUNCH:  

 

Step 1. Say yes to something you feel drawn to.

We tend to pick a side project that we think we should do or one that society pressures us to do. Chances are, you’re probably undertaking those tasks at work already. Remember, these personal projects are all about YOU. The most foolproof way to creating a successful project is to pick something that you’ve been putting off or a childhood dream that you’ve tucked away.

 

Step 2. Commit to it for a month.

A month is just long enough for you to focus to see results, and short enough where it’s easy to commit to. After all, it takes about a month to create a habit. And it’s much easier to manage your time for a whole month (for example, 10 minutes a day) compared to dedicating a whole year for a project. Especially when you aren’t sure what you’re signing up for.

 

Step 3. Iterate according to feedback.

Each project is an experiment that gives you valuable knowledge, especially if you are learning a new skill or dipping your toes in a new career field. You don’t know until you try, and it’s only after having that experience that you’ll know what to do next. With one-month projects, you can build upon the previous month’s project or try out a different project based on what you’ve learned. This is the most effective way to make sure that you’re moving in the direction you want. 

 

HERE’S WHAT TO DO NEXT…

If you want to get started on that dream life or career, here’s a special gift for you. It’s a step-by-step toolkit that will show you the exact steps you need to create your side project. This will turn your wish for a fulfilling career into reality (HECK YES). You don’t have to wait until end of the year. You can start now. 

Take that next step with the side project toolkit.

Cheering you on!

Yunzhe

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