12 Side Projects in 12 Months: A More Effective New Year’s Resolution

HOW IT ALL STARTED 

For the longest time, I would set hopeful New Year’s Resolutions like everyone else. 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 – 80% of those resolutions fail by the second week of February (oof, I know). Yet I still went along with it 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 had to find better ways to reach my goals or I would be jobless. I had to learn the hard way that the default option ( New Year’s Resolutions) didn’t necessarily mean that it was the most effective one. There’s a quote that sums up this situation well:

“Change happens when the pain of staying the same, is greater than the pain of change.”

Instead of setting one big goal for the whole year, I decided to break down goals into monthly projects.

This new approach changed my life in unimaginable ways. 

THE IMPACT OF MONTHLY SIDE PROJECTS ON 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 didn’t know what I wanted to do in life, and desperately wished I had a passion and purpose. I felt insecure about my skills and hoped that no one would detect it.

Scared of being alone with my thoughts, I tried to distract myself with countless dinners and dates. As Rupi Kaur succinctly said,

Loneliness is a sign that you are in desperate need of yourself.

After doing one-month projects, I underwent a complete lifestyle shift. I tried out new hobbies and picked up in-demand skills. I became more confident in my abilities. I also managed to secure a stable position at my company after pitching various projects.

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.).

And now, I get to wake up every day doing what I love, traveling and coaching people all over the world.

All thanks to the powerful framework of one-month projects.

WHAT MAKES MONTHLY SIDE PROJECTS EFFECTIVE

These are the three aspects of monthly projects that sped up my progress:

1. Fast feedback cycles

Because these projects have shorter time durations, I would quickly know if I took the right actions to reach my goals. This was especially crucial in the beginning since I had no idea how to achieve my goals effectively. As each month passed, I got noticeably better at reaching my goals.

2. Low time commitment 

Because the projects were only 30 days, I could feel good about committing my focus to the project for that period. I didn’t have to worry about wasting time or needing to drastically shift things in my life to carve out time. This made projects a lot easier to start.

3. Wide range of options

Because there were a dozen chances to try out different interests, I didn’t feel the pressure to find the “perfect one” before I started. I could experiment with and gain a variety of skills. It eliminated the usual overwhelmingness I feel when choosing projects.

During my journey, only did I gain valuable knowledge,  but also built the confidence to pursue a much more fulfilling career when I left my job.

MONTHLY PROJECTS AS ALTERNATIVES TO YEARLY RESOLUTIONS:

I’ve realized that when a goal fails, it’s usually because of an ineffective strategy rather than a person’s ability. Most people were never taught how to set good goals.

If New Year Resolutions haven’t worked for in the past and you are serious about making a meaningful change in your life this year, you may find this helpful. I’ve put together an easy step-by-step guide on how to use side projects to reach your goals.

Inside, I’ve included the exact proven process that I use to teach my clients so that you don’t have to spend time trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t. You can get the free toolkit 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 PROJECTS IN 12 MONTHS:  

As for how to choose projects, I first make a list of areas I want to improve in and pick one to focus on for 30 days. 

I see each project as an investment in my personal growth. Each one also 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 about what the exact process looks like, you can check it out here. 

My favorite three from the list were: starting a blog, learning to make videos, and exploring career alternatives. Not only did these projects completely change my perspectives on what was possible as a career, but also opened new doors.

THREE ADVANTAGES YOU CAN GAIN FROM STARTING A DREAM LIFE PROJECT:

 

1. Get ahead in your career

Side projects not only allow you to try out potential careers but also give you the tools to accelerate into that dream career. You’ll be able to use your learnings from the project as transferable work experience even if you’re just starting out in a new field. Afterwards, you’ll have a concrete resume and portfolio to show off to recruiters and top leaders in that field.

This is exactly what happened with my writing project. I first started it as a way to pick up my old hobby. The more I practiced and improved, the more determined I was to make it a part of my dream career. When I decided to quit my job at the end of 2017, I skipped right to interviewing and signed on a writing client within 2 months! All because I already had the experience and a portfolio from practicing writing 500-750 words every day during my project.

2. Stand out from the crowd

Side projects have the power to take your interestingness to the next level. By default, not many people do personal projects, so once you start one, it automatically makes you different. It also attests to your initiative and brings out your personality. Side projects can open doors to meetings with top companies, conversations with brilliant mentors, and hidden opportunities.

When I first started learning videography, it was to make a road trip recap video. Since then, I’ve started to make monthly videos as a way to lifelog (it’s been three years now!). People have been fascinated by this fact. As a result, they’ve connected me to famous YouTubers as mentors and wedding video partnerships as a side hustle. Now I even use videos daily in my work – I produce all the lesson videos for the One Month Projects program.

3. Design a fulfilling life  

Side projects allow you to explore what feels meaningful and what may be possible. As Ray Dalio, who wrote Principles as a guide to make better decisions, said: “What we think is attainable is only a function of what we know at the moment.” Each project is an opportunity to test ideas against reality, find out what your fulfilling life looks like, and get closer to that ideal each month.

Through my project of exploring alternative careers to the 9-5, I discovered options like remote work and digital nomadism. As someone who wanted to have a positive impact while spending time with loved ones, these options seemed perfect. Each month, I took steps towards that, from negotiating days to work at home, to building a structure to keep my work on track. And now I spend my days either in my hometown with family or abroad with friends, all while working with clients across the world.  

THE COMPOUNDING RETURNS OF MONTHLY PROJECTS:

And the benefits don’t stop there. One of the best parts about these side projects was that the impact wasn’t limited to the month; a majority of them became habits over time. Three years later, I’m still meditating, dancing and making videos.

I can easily map my career direction and successes back to these one-month projects.

The month of writing enabled me to later get featured in publications and create this blog. The month of meeting new people by myself enabled me to gain confidence and later host workshops for startup founders.

Through creating these projects, I also picked up many soft skills and meta-skills. I learned how to structure goals, think critically and manage my time. I improved my initiative and creativity. Because I had these tools, I was able to create my own learning bootcamp. And within two months, I successfully transitioned into my ideal career.

And now I help others do the same.

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.

WHAT MAY BE HOLDING YOU BACK: 

With New Year’s Resolutions, 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 not a surprise that year-long resolutions often fail because of a lack of clear focus and concrete objectives.

Many people set popular goals like “read more books”, then stop there. They often aren’t aware that it’s important to ask questions such as: How many books? At what rate per week? At what time do you plan to read? 

I’ve also had to learn this the hard way. When I first started, I had no idea what I was doing and had to go through a lot of trials and errors to make progress. If I had a better system, I could’ve shortened my journey of three years to a couple of months, as you saw with my learning bootcamp.

However, you can side-step these time wasters and effectively get to your ideal. In this starter kit, I’ve included the system I teach my clients, that combines with the best practices in accelerated learning and goal setting. You can start progressing after clicking on the download button (this also includes exclusive access to 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 START A SUCCESSFUL SIDE PROJECT: 

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

For more inspiration on lifestyle design and productivity, check out James Clear, Tomas Lau, Lavendaire, Darius Foroux, Niklas Goeke, and Chris Bailey.

p.s. Thanks for reading this far, it means a lot! If you’ve found this post useful, can you please share it below on Facebook or Twitter so others can find it too?

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