Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Making sure your side projects fit your unifier

I’ve blogged about the importance of side projects before. You might have identified a project you’d like to work on but it doesn't fit in your 9-5. Or perhaps you’re just not getting fulfilment in the day job, and you need to explore your curiosity on the side. So you develop a side project or two.

I have a number of active side projects right now; so active that they’re blended in to the 9-5, rather than be strictly after hours. But they’re still ‘on the side’. My key criterion for adding a side project is whether it fits my unifier. What’s a unifier? It’s the theme that unites all you do. When you do more than one thing in your professional life, it’s important to have a unifier so you can easily communicate all you do simply (there’ll be more on discovering your unifier in my new book ‘Mash Up!’). The unifier makes your plurality instantly gettable.

So my own unifier is that I communicate ideas in business. Okay, it might be pretty broad but it encompasses everything from client work to side projects such as being a contributor to Monocle radio’s ‘The Entrepreneurs’. Not only is the unifier handy to pull out when you meet someone at the pub who asks what you do, it’s also a good check for taking on new projects. Before you take a new project on, ask does it fit your unifier. If it doesn’t, you might want to question how it adds value.

Here’s an example of a side project that perfectly fits my unifier: I wrote an article for the Financial Times last week about the rise of ideas festivals and how they’re becoming an alternative to traditional conferences for professional development. Having attended TEDx, SXSW and The Do Lectures I had some great first-hand experience to bring to the piece. And all importantly, the piece was about communicating ideas. You can read it on FT.com here (log in may be required).

So have a think what your unifier is and use it to help you make choices about what you do, where you go and what your side projects are.

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