The problem that I always ran into in the past was keeping projects on track. Whether it was caused by waning motivation or real life getting in the way, I always have had problems finishing projects. I'm sure this is not an alien subject to many people. This time I wanted to make sure that didn't happen. So far I've been working on my project for 4 months and not only am I still motivated but my progress has been great. I think these two facts are inclusive and why I am having greater success.
So what has been different this time around that have allowed me to keep motivated and on track? I think it can be wittled down into 2 basic points:
1. Set acheivable goals which allow you to see constant progress.
I have never been to type to want to create my own MMORPG or major console blockbuster. My time in the industry has at the very least allowed my to be somewhat realistic with my goals. I know the work involved in creating even small games is massive.
Even taking on small projects doesn't keep progress at least "visible". I've been doing my best to better track progress so it's not just the flashy graphical work items that are noticed and remembered. It's amazing how just keeping a spreadsheet that logs the tasks completed and time spent on each gives you something to be proud of.
2. Get on a schedule and keep it.
In the past the amount of work I'd put in on a side project would vary greatly from week to week. This meant big highs and big lows as far as emotions go. This time I wanted to smooth that out so I've implemented what I call the 45 minute work day. Each morning before going to my full time day job I go to my favorite local coffee shop and sit down to work for 45 minutes to an hour. Since I have to show up at my real job at a reasonable hour I'm time boxed with how much work I can get in. For this reason I feel motivated to get down to work right away. After all I can surk the GDNet forums when I get to work :)
So far everything has been working great on my current project. It is a small casual game that is surprisingly close to useable even though the total development time made up of 45 minute chunks is only approaching 80 hours.