What Do Project Managers Do For Fun?
I love a good hobby or side project. I think we can probably all relate to that! As a PM, I've learned a lot about what makes a business or digital project work. It can be fun and interesting to explore those ideas further on my own time when I find a way to apply these to real-life problems. On top of that, I have an interest—and background—in skills other than project management: I used to be a graphic designer, so it's nice to flex those muscles again occasionally (and to learn new skills related to that!).
Much like the side projects I'm interested in, my hobbies often serve dual purposes: they get me focused on something other than work (and away from my screen!), and give me something else to learn in-depth and master or explore further (yoga is a great example of this).
PMs are built for side projects
When I work on a side project, it's usually because I see some kind of need in my life that I can fill based on skills I have or skills I want to learn. A side project is always an opportunity to learn something new or apply new knowledge to an idea. We project managers come from a fascinating variety of backgrounds—and we're exposed to all sorts of businesses through our project work. That means the potential for our side projects is extremely broad and diverse.
Side projects = free learning
This article about treating side projects like an experiment explains why side projects can expand our existing skill sets so much. We should treat our side projects like experiments—they don't fail, they just prove or disprove our assumptions about what we're working on. Focus on the tasks and processes we use on a side project to expand our skills as we work through them, and you'll always come out on the successful side. To put it in a cheesy way: it's the journey, not always the destination, that matters.
Side project are great, but sometimes a side project is just not feasible—side projects take time (which not everyone has), and can cause burnout (because it's still work, even if it's not employed work). Keep these things in mind if you're thinking about a side project but just can't make it work: that's totally fine, and there are ways to approach it differently.
Hobbies prevent burnout
It's scientifically proven that focusing on hobbies can prevent burnout. Giving ourselves distance from work gives us time to recover from stress (periodic or consistent), and can even lead to better focus and productivity once we're back to work. Making space for our hobbies naturally gives us downtime (key to relaxing, getting good sleep, and transitioning from work-stress to no-stress mode) and can expand our minds in ways work can't do. Plus, a hobby might be getting a chance to interact with family, friends, or new people more—or get some well-deserved alone time.