Don't ignore your pet (projects)

I don't mean to "life coach" you, but let's face it – working in a creative industry we tend to rely too much on our jobs as our only source for professional joy and creative satisfaction. Have look at the study we conducted on Mental Health in Advertising. You'll see  that we spend so much of our time focusing on deadlines, coordinating meetings, and managing budgets that it can be difficult to fulfill our complex needs. Inevitably, this will bring frustration, stress, and anxiety. 

One of my colleagues recently inspired me to focus on my own interests outside of work. As a Production Artist, she often drowns in the busiest time of the year – annual report season. But even then, Steph made sure to put time aside for her passion, amigurumi crochet. "It is a really relaxing hobby that's both mindless, and easy to do while watching TV or lounging around with friends. You can watch it come together very quickly, so there's some immediate gratification with it," Steph says. "Being able to unwind AND be productive at the same time is really great." Check out Crooked Crochet Girl for some of her work. Although you probably won't see me banging crochet sticks together (I failed Home Economics in high school), it reminded me that it's important to take time for myself to work on any pet projects I might have.

"I can't find time for personal projects" is a common excuse for pushing your side projects... well... to the side. Here are a few things I think about when I'm having a hard time finishing my personal side projects.


Come up with reasons for working on personal projects.

Here are a few reasons you can give yourself for putting some personal time aside to complete your own pet project:

  • You want to learn a new skill. Learning something new can do a lot for your personal satisfaction and professional development. If you're a web dev, study UX. If you're an art director, learn new illustration styles. If you just want to REALLY impress people, learn Mandarin.
  • You need to get away. Use traveling as an excuse to complete a personal project. Leave the comfort of your desk at work (or couch at home) and get out there. If you're a photographer, head up to the mountains and take some photos. If you're passionate about cooking, plan a trip to Italy and learn how to make pasta from the best.
  • You're making some extra cash. You might actually have a skill that could earn you some money. Take some time to work on something you love to do and try to sell it. Maybe you're a content creator of some sort. Steph just recently sold a bunch of her crochet pieces, making it even more compelling for her to prioritize pet projects.

Make your project a priority.

It can be easy to let pet projects die when you don't have a plan. So, hold yourself accountable by committing to a routine. Here are some examples of pet projects and how to create a routine:

  • Get to the gym at least 3 times a week. 
  • Tend to your garden daily for 30 minutes.
  • Plan to have coffee with a new friend once per week and share stories.
  • Draw an illustration every day in the month of October. #inktober
  • Wake up extra early to teach your dog a new trick (a literal pet project).

This gives you a goal to achieve and keeps you accountable for working on something other than what's on your desk or in your email inbox.


Use this as a reminder of why you got into this industry.

As marketers, we create ad campaigns, update brands, and build websites. So remind yourself that you started working in this industry because you're a creator and creativity is in your blood, no matter what your role is at the agency. Make stuff you enjoy and re-invigorate your passion. There are no mandatories. No rules. This is YOUR personal project and you can do whatever you want. Create something on your own terms.


We can go home at a decent hour in the evening and still find ourselves reviewing a piece of work that landed in our inbox at the end of the day. We can go on vacation and still check our emails every couple of hours. Regardless, it's important to take time for ourselves so we can come back with a 'sharper axe' (Credit goes to Dan King for that). This can include taking some vacation time, or on a more short-term, it can be as simple as going home, unplugging, and forgetting about the office for a few hours. But, one of the most helpful and convenient ways to not think about what you're doing from 9am-5pm (or later for a lot of us), is having a pet project to keep our creative minds satisfied. Who knows, it might help you build new skills that can potentially be helpful in the future.

Zhu ni you melhao de yitian. That's "Have a good day "in Mandarin. (ok... I Googled it)


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