I'm addicted to creating side projects - I literally generate an idea a day, and the exciting ones have me wanting to drop everything and start on them immediately. Unfortunately though, at some point most of them fade into obscurity and never see the light of day. Today I was thinking about what I've done differently on projects I've successfully finished, such as QuoteRobot, so I thought I'd write about it.

So, how do you get motivated on a project?

In my experience, the key factors to getting motivated are belief in yourself, adequate planning, accountability, and of course, self discipline. To me, self discipline is the least important aspect of getting motivated - the first three items can get you so fired up you won't need to rely on good old fashioned sweat and tears.

Believe In Yourself

I put this one first because it's by far the most important. I can't count how many people have said to me over the years:

"I'd love to do what you do but I don't know how."

What they mean is that I earn a decent living from home in my pajamas ;)

Anyway, I always tell people exactly how to do it - get Photoshop, follow many tutorials, learn to design or code, and practice, practice, practice. People rarely follow through on this advice. This is exactly how I did it, so why don't they do it too?

I think it's because they don't believe they can. It's impossible to start a project if you don't believe you can finish it.

The first step is believing that you can actually do it - believing that you can do anything you set your mind to. Your brain is a sponge - it will absorb information and skill as quickly as you can feed it. Feed it often. Tell yourself you can be excellent at everything, and pretty soon you will be excellent. Don't listen to the negative voices in your head.

Adequate Planning

Every idea seems unrealistic at first because you're looking at the project as one thing. In reality, every project is made up of small tasks, many of which take only minutes and are easy to accomplish.

Get a pen and paper, and write out the steps you would take to accomplish the goal.

Be detailed. Don't know a step? Skip it put a task like, "Research this step" instead. Keep going beyond that point. Better yet, call somebody and ask them what that step would be.

Once you have an adequate plan in place, you only have to motivate yourself to accomplish the first task. Then do the next one and so on. Before you know it, your project will be finished.


How many husbands out there can relate to finally getting around to some mundane household chore because your wife asked you to do it repeatedly? This is the power of accountability.

Having other people ask you when you're going to finish your project is a great way to stay motivated.

This is also why there's so much focus on having a co-founder in your startup business venture, it keeps everyone accountable and moving forward. Having a business partner has pushed me to new levels of productivity, simply by having another person involved who I'm eager to impress and keep my word to.

A few ways to generate outside accountability are:

  • Get a co-founder, business partner, or friend involved
  • Tell as many people as possible what you're doing
  • Keep a blog and tweet about your project

Self Discipline

Once you have belief in yourself, a great plan, and people counting on you to get it done, you will likely run into some instances when you just don't feel like working toward your goal. This is where self discipline comes in. When I feel this way, I take a look at my task list and I force myself to finish at least one thing (even if I'm aware I will revise it later).

It's important to get in the habit of choosing a task and finishing it, regardless of how nice the weather is outside and how many of your friends are begging you to drink beer on their boats (it's good to live on the West Coast!).


You can get motivated on any side project by believing in yourself, making a task based plan, involving other people, and forcing yourself to finish a task every time you set out to.

Now get out there and finish your side projects! And don't forget to tweet about or share this article if you liked it.