A job can be a stressful experience and it is not always one that we look forward to. This is especially true when we are not doing the jobs that we really want to do. Those of us who are overworked may find it hard to concentrate and react harshly to distractions that make use of already limited time. Those of us who are underworked may feel that our contributions are insignificant or inadequate. These negative feelings that get associated with work over time can demotivate us and stifle our creativity. Personal projects related to work can help us harness our creativity and encourage self-motivation in addition to creating a break from the more frustrating parts of a job.
Choosing a personal project
The key to choosing an appropriate personal project is that it has to provide some intrinsic value to the organization for which we work. Approval may be necessary before we can start working on a personal project and if we work on the project during company time it is very likely that the results will belong to the company and not to us personally. Nevertheless, if we spend 40 hours or more each week at an organization it is in our best interest to improve our working conditions and efficiency. A personal project may alleviate some of the problems we face at work if we follow these steps and choose it wisely.
1. Identify organization’s shortcomings
Think about the things in our business or organization that we would complain about. We may need to put ourselves in the shoes of a customer or outsider to get a more unbiased view. We do not need to identify the solutions to these problems at this stage. Focusing solely on identifying the shortcomings will allow us to brainstorm both those that we think can be solved easily and those that seem beyond our scope. This is necessary because the resources which we will have at our disposal to take on the project are not yet confirmed. Later projects which are not feasible can easily be eliminated.
2. Focus on individual and collective strengths
We all have unique skill sets and talents. Often times our proficiencies may extend beyond our daily job assignments. These skills may be easy for a boss or supervisor to overlook since they are not directly related to the job at hand. A project allows us to utilize and improve these skills while still contributing in a meaningful way to the development of the organization. It is also not uncommon for someone to get employed in the field where the vacancy exists rather than the field that best suits the individual’s qualifications. Knowing our strengths allows us to contribute in ways beyond what is expected and may open up new opportunities. Co-workers may also be able to identify “hidden” talents in us and we may be able to do the same in them. By identifying these strengths we get a better idea of which projects are feasible.
3. Collaborate with others
Many projects cannot be done alone. Others can just be done better or quicker with the help of others. The contribution and feedback of a team can lead to discoveries that a single person may have overlooked. Team members may also have different specialities which when combined make more complex projects feasible. Entire products or services can be born as a result of a collaborative effort. Collaboration can also help build better relationships among co-workers striving for a common goal and enhance communication in the organization. It is not only a problem solving exercise but also a team building opportunity.
4. Work with passion
A project is extra work and at times we may need something to justify spending the additional effort and energy. Choosing something we are passionate about can help motivate us and even allow us to have some fun. Remember a project can be a productive distraction from other more mundane tasks. Progress made on personal projects give us a sense of achievement and lessons learned on a project can be applied to regular work. The interest and desire generated from personal projects can have a positive effect on mood and productivity.
Getting the project off the ground
Resources will be required for any personal project and we may need approval or investment in the project before we can start. It therefore becomes imperative to sell the project to those in control of the resources which we require in order to get the ball rolling. This will require having an in depth understanding of the project requirements and being able to explain how the project will benefit the organization. For smaller projects we may be able to contribute in our down time. For larger projects, however, some level of coordination and project management will be required. At this stage the goals and mission of the project should be established and all stakeholders should be identified. We may also need to provide a plan on how the project will be run without interfering with everyday activities.
Once we have started a personal project we can use it to express ourself creatively and to motivate us to succeed. Since the project is what we chose it should be a challenge we are willing to take on and progress can be used as inspiration. Even small failures can teach important lessons that can be applied to other areas of work. The best part is that when one project is completed another one can be chosen to repeat the cycle and reap further benefits.