How To Improve Productivity With Personal Projects

Image Credit: Artist by Counselling,

Image Credit: Artist by Counselling,

A personal summer project, unrelated to your career, is a great way to become happier and more productive. In today’s post, you will discover the productivity benefits of personal projects and practical suggestions for what areas to get started in. For today’s post, I define a personal project as a project undertaken for satisfaction, enjoyment and personal growth rather than career or business reasons.

Why Personal Projects Matter To Your Productivity

Personal projects are an excellent way to enrich your life beyond the office. Here are some of the benefits we receive by embarking on a personal project.

  • Creativity. Daniel Pink explains that new information and experiences are essential to growing our creative capacity in his book “A Whole New Mind.” For example, a financial analyst might take up rowing or explore the art world to expand her horizons.
  • Satisfaction Diversification. Diversification is a long established principle in the investment world (a key reason why index investing has become popular). The dark side of being dedicated to our work is that we can pin all of our hopes and dreams for satisfaction on professional success. Taking on personal projects gives us more sources of satisfaction.
  • Networking. Meeting and learning from new people is one of the greatest benefits of a launching a personal project. Many leisure activities have associations, meetups and other groups of people that get together to share their interests. Meeting new people through a personal project is a great way to grow your weak ties, a key aspect of your network.
  • Pass The “Airport Test” In Job Interviews.  In job interviews, many interviewers use the “airport test” to assess a candidate’s cultural fit with the company. This test simply means whether or not the interviewer thinks she could spend a few hours with you in an airport during a business trip. If you can only speak about work and have no other interests, you may be perceived as boring and fail the Airport Test.

The above points make it clear that developing a personal project and interests outside of the office are good for your career and outlook on life. Let’s explore the possibilities for what you can start this summer.

Project Option 1: Learn A New Sport And Develop Your Athletic Ability

For many years, sports and athletic activities were not an area of interest for me. That started to change in the past few years as I participated in races, including the Toronto Yonge Street 10 KM Race. Training for an athletic event such as a race or competition is a great project. There are clear measures to success, other people to meet and the satisfaction of crossing the finishing line.

  • For added impact, consider registering for an athletic event that involves charitable fundraising. To start the research process, do a Google search such as “fundraising races in [city”] (i.e. if you live in Chicago, the search term you enter into Google would be “fundraising races in Chicago“)

Project Option 2: Explore The World Through Travel

“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.” – Saint Augustine

Travel is an item that many of us have on our bucket lists, yet many of us fail to get started. In part, the high cost of travel poses a challenge. However, there are many ways to experience the benefits of travel. For example, you can play the part of a tourist in your own town or region. How many great museums, galleries and interesting restaurants in your area have you never tried? That said, I find that visiting a city or country that is brand new to you is well worth the time and money.

Project Option 3: Art and Culture Creation

Creating drawings, music and other pieces of culture is an excellent personal project to prompt you to think in new ways. You can start by taking an art course or studying with an artist, as many of the great artists of the past have done. There are two approaches to take in creating art: going deeper with an existing interest or experimenting with something entirely new. To expand your horizons socially, look for ways to explore these activities in courses or meetups.

  • Tip. Many cities offer summer art schools and other creative programs. For example, the University of Toronto offers a creative writing program through the School of Continuing Studies. Students can take courses in historical fiction, genre fiction and other aspects of writing.
  • Looking to include writing on a vacation?: You might read this article right before a vacation and not have time to adjust all of your plans to take on a project. In that case, look into getting a book such as The 642 Things to Draw Journal or 104 Things to Photograph.

Project Option 4: Learn The Art of Appreciation

Have you ever walked through a museum and been inspired by the paintings and other artifacts? You can deepen your appreciation for the world’s culture through study. There are many fields of life that become more rewarding and interesting with study and learning – wine, fine art, movies and much more. For me, the best approach has been to take a course with other people (e.g. taking wine appreciation courses through George Brown College).

What does learning the art of appreciation do for you? It helps you focus on the present, rather than moving back and forth between different thoughts. In addition, appreciation encourages us to discover the rewards of exploring a subject in depth. There’s no need to be an expert in everything, yet it is worthwhile to develop a few areas of specialized knowledge.

  • Udemy Courses. Udemy is a learning platform that offers many different topics. For this project, you may find it interesting to browse the Lifestyle Section and the Personal Development Section. Online courses are highly flexible and you can go through them at your own pace.
  • Learning Through Your Local Museum. Did you know that many museums offer courses, guided tours and other programs to the public? For example, the Royal Ontario Museum offers walking tours exploring Toronto’s history. In New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art offers art making programs, workshops and more for adults and children.

Question For The Comments:

What kind of personal project are you interested in starting this summer?


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