7 Ways to Get More Energy for Side Projects

Photo courtesy of R’eyes.

Whenever someone signs up for my email newsletter, they get a personal email reply from me thanking them for signing up and asking them if there’s something I can do to help them. I get to meet a lot of interesting people that way, learn new things and hopefully provide some value.

A while back I got an email from a reader who works as an analyst at a multi-national bank and asked me this:

Quick question for you. A lot of times I come home from work and I’m too exhausted to work on my side projects. How do you manage your energy to get the most out of your day? – Thanks, Josh

With his permission, I’m reprinting his question and my response. I thought readers of this blog would find in valuable since I find that many of you have very cool side projects that you’re working on.

Great question. I think there is something about people’s baseline energy levels that plays a role here – some people are just naturally more energetic than others. But outside of that, here are a couple ideas to have the energy to work on your side projects:

1) Reduce your commute.

Commutes add a lot of stress to your life and suck up your time. Instead of driving, could you take a bus or train and sleep / work on your project? Or work from home one or two days a week?

2) Wake up earlier.

If you’re tired at night, why not go to sleep earlier and wake up an hour earlier than normal. Take that 1st hour to work on the things that are important to you. It’s like investing in yourself before paying others.

3) Exercise.

Are you working out consistently? I know that if I don’t work out, I can start feeling sluggish and slow. Taking the time to work out might feel like it’s detracting from your time to do stuff, but it can add a lot more spring to your step later on in the day – and if done consistently over time, give you more energy on a regular basis.

4) Quality food.

What kind of food are you eating? I know that when I get stressed, I eat a lot and mostly junk, and it tends to make me feel like crap. Drinking lots of water and eating more fruits and vegetables, and being *slightly* hungry (instead of stuffing yourself) can give you a lot more energy.

5) Energy “vampires”.

There are certain people that we hang out with (boss, coworkers, friends) that can really suck all the life out of you. If you’re hanging out with a vampire, see if you can reduce the time you spend with them or maybe even cut them out of your life.

6) Better projects.

Maybe you’re just not that excited about the side project you’re working on. I know people often will “want to want” something but not actually desire to do it. Be honest with yourself and see if this is something you’re really passionate about doing and enjoy the process.

7) Get a partner.

If you can partner up with someone, it makes the project a lot easier and more enjoyable (if you find the right person). See if there is someone at work, or a friend, or even an online contact who might want to work with you on the things you’re doing. That startup post is 10x better because I coauthored it with another guy, Derek, who I first met on Twitter and now is a really good friend.

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Jason Shen

Jason is a tech entrepreneur and talent expert. He is CEO of a performance hiring platform called Headlight, a Fast Company contributor, and an advocate for Asian American men. Follow him on Twitter at @jasonshen and subscribe to his private newsletter.

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  1. I can relate with exercise and better food. What you put into your body determines how your body runs. I feel better with good meals, so I tend to start my weeks with a feast!

    Exercise also helps a lot too, makes you feel better, and look better. And of course, cold showers help too ;)

  2. I found a great and proven way to get better sleep is to listen to your body’s clock. Unfortunately this means cutting out all stimulants like caffeine but set your alarm nice and early and leave it across the room. Wake up and you are forced to get up to turn it off, that’s half the issue right there. Make it something really annoying, I found after I changed my alarm to BBC World Service, though I felt better informed every day, I was actually getting much less done. With regards to going to sleep, don’t set a time, simply stay up as long as you need to before you feel tired, we’re talking five minutes in bed at most before you go to sleep. Don’t use the computer beforehand as the light from it messes with your bodyclock, or if you must use the freeware program Flux http://stereopsis.com/flux/ After a week or so you’ll be in a steady schedule and feeling much better :)

  3. Personally, the two areas I need to work on are:

    1.) Get up earlier – it feels great when you wake up around 5:30 – 6:00am and start working on that To Do List. By 8:30am it feels like lunch time and yet you’ve still got the whole day ahead of you. Currently however, I’m commuting, so a lot of that time (at least for now) is taken up by the drive. Still, I’ll listen to podcasts :-)

    2.) Exercise more – I used to run just about every other day and play basketball in a league on weekends. This helped keep me in shape and well, it kept my energy high. I injured my back over the holidays which unfortunately broke that routine. Since then, I find myself drinking more energy drinks and coffee. I know that if i get back to the regular work-out routine, I’d probably cut out more of the junk and feel better.

    Anyway, all good points and things to do!

  4. I agree with you Jason. Good food and exercise are the best energy catalysts. I have also observed that when I sleep well, I work well. I guess it ties in with your mental health too. Thanks for sharing these.

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