How Side Projects Can Help You Build Confidence at Work

I just went to a meeting and was the only one saying big words.

Side Projects:

  1. Are a catalyst for ridding yourself of fear (Failure is the best teacher).

2. Increase your skills (Even though you aren’t getting paid for it).

3. Give you hope (There might actually be something worthwhile in life and I can’t wait to get home and do it).

4. Set you apart (In your mind and with others).

5. Spark curiosity (My gosh, that’s what we need when stuck in offices all week; what is possible?)

I actually told the big boss that my idea to capture real time data, about problems with the process, from laborers, was to give them notebooks labeled “Bitch Books”. Well I might have to call it a complaint book for EEO purposes, but bitch book it is. I let her know that if we wanted to get the nitty gritty of what is going on and grab some data we can put in one of our fancy spreadsheets then we needed to relate to people in the language they speak in. Their language isn’t inferior it is just different than our politically correct office mumbo jumbo. We need to use tools that they use and are comfortable with. Trying to mesh together the world of work trucks, pens, and paper with mini-tab, Excel spreadsheets, charts, and graphs can be difficult. Let’s give people who use pen and paper, pen and paper and let’s call our data collection tool what they see it as-a bitch book. My boss said she didn’t like that term. Okay, do you want the data or not? Then bitch book it is.

Side Projects

We live in the world of side hustles. Well I do. A world where people are out there working second jobs and starting side businesses. A May article by Aytekin Tank highlights the fact that Albert Einstein worked a regular job six days a week and used the remainder of his time to study and experiment with physics. Good call. That worked out for him. Craigslist originated with Craig Newmark as a side project. It’s a common understanding today that it is possible to change the world by playing with some personal computers in your garage and then later creating a computer company named after some fruit. The opportunity to create something worthwhile exists and people are changing their lives and the lives of others by doing a little something on the side.

A side project can include a casual hobby or serious start-up. It can be something we just do for fun or something that we hope to build into a business. It is anything we do intentionally aside from our main job or activity in life. We all know the serious hobbyist. Someone who journals, collects things, frequents flea markets, gardens, listens to music, paints, draws, cooks, sews, remodels cars, plays games, or creates crafts for an art fair. There is no limit as to what we can come up with as a hobby.

Side projects can also include volunteering, starting a nonprofit, helping out with a community project, starting an online business, setting up an ETSY shop, or you name it. It’s something we take the time to create and intentionally work on after we do our main stuff every day.

Here is why that is so important and what those side things can help you do.

  1. Act as a catalyst for ridding yourself of fear. I started blogging a few years ago as a way to create some meaning in my life during a difficult time. Something unexpected happened along the way. The more I wrote the more confident I became in broaching sensitive subjects. The more I posted personal thoughts online the easier it got to do that. I noticed that it became easier to talk to people and that I was more aggressive in my speech. I noticed that it was easier to take risks at work and to volunteer for tough projects. My side project was teaching me it was okay to try new things and that I could accomplish hard stuff.
  2. They increase your skills. Side projects require skills that are transferable. Even simple hobbies may require us to gain a new skill set. As you learn new things to perform your side project you will find ways to transition your skill set to your job and life. I have time trying to increase my skills in website development and SEO, and though I am a management analyst by day, I have still found a way to transition my increased tech savvy on the job. I am prone to volunteer for trying new technology at work and find myself helping others with it. I am open to new ways of doing things because at home I try new stuff all the time and am able to make that work.
  3. They give you hope. Five minutes after I got to work this morning co-workers were already counting down the amount of time they have left before they retire. I could hear people stating that they couldn’t wait to get out of the organization. Later in the day I found myself weary from doing mundane tasks and felt that I couldn’t get farther from my dream as a writer, but then I was able to start writing this post on my lunch hour and I regained hope that one day I will be able to do something for a living that I love. My side project, and yours, can give you hope for the future or for the day. Something to look forward to after you are done doing what is required.
  4. They set you apart. There is something cool about being able to talk about your side project to co-workers. Yeah, I blog. Of course, I might not be reaching thousands of people or getting millions of likes, but I am out there trying. I am exposing myself to something new and trying to figure things out. Not everyone can say that. While co-workers spend time gossiping in the hallways I spend a few minutes updating my Instagram or blogs Face book account. I am trying to build something and those who do that should be proud because they have found something special to work on that gives their life meaning and sets them apart from others.
  5. They spark curiosity. Creativity and learning start with a question or interest in something. Side projects often start because we are curious about trying something. Curiosity is the driving force of change. What if we do X, what if this could be improved, what if we changed course, what if we tried things this way? Those are all great questions to start searching for creative answers. The process of finding answers can lead us to change our lives and develop ourselves. My grandmother asked herself if she could paint as a hobby after her kids left home. Her curiosity led her to become a professional painter who traveled to art fairs and became a successful artist.

Something neat happened at my process improvement meeting today. I felt more confident than I ever have and one reason for that is because my job isn’t the only main thing in my life. I am developing myself and my skills in a way that provides some hope for my future and gives meaning to my life. I am not relying on my job to fulfill me and I am starting to see opportunities for my future. I can do hard things and it feels good to take risks. If I can do great things in my side projects I can do them in my life and at work, and so can you.

When I go to work tomorrow and finish up this project I am going to be thinking about what I can do at lunch to move my side project forward. I’ll be wondering if there are others who are finding as much joy as I am in having something meaningful to look forward to after work.

Start a side project and create a new life and along the way build the confidence you need to succeed at everything! Even if it’s stuff like creating bitch books at work.

Living and learning and messing the whole thing up,

Marcy Pedersen

Originally published at on August 15, 2019.

Writer, analyst, life-long learner, and obsessed about improving life and work processes. Connect at

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store