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6 Years of Project365

June 11, 2020

#Project365 is a project I started on Instagram where I post a a photo everyday on my instagram account (@aashnisshah). I’ve been doing this everyday for the last 6 years, and thought it’s finally time to share what I’ve learnt.

Why I Started #Project365

I wanted to improve my photography skills and felt like #project365 would hold me accountable to working on those skills. I grew up in Kenya and was fortunate to visit the national parks often - this made it easy to improve my wildlife photography skills. After moving to Canada though, I started using my camera less.

The general idea when I first started was to take a few photos everyday using my camera (and not my phone). I would then edit and post one photo onto Instagram. I quickly learned that the project was extremely ambitious and a lot of work.

What Does #project365 Look Like Today

Trying to keep #project365 focused on high quality photography required a lot of work that I couldn’t keep up with. However I didn’t want to give up on the idea all together, so I pivoted. I became a little more lax with the rules, and essentially wanted to make sure I was posting at least one photo everyday. I found a big blocker was having to carry my camera everywhere with me, and the subsequent awkwardness of taking photos in public. I decided it would be ok to post photos from my phone as well.

This quickly evolved into what #project365 means to me today. I’ve laxed more rules where my focus is no longer about taking really good photos, but instead to share a photo that represents my day. This shift has become a really reflective process for me. I post my photo at the end of my day, and use that time to reflect. I think about what went well and where I made mistakes. I also think about how I can improve and learn from the mistakes so that they don’t happen again.

Another positive effect of #project365 is that every morning I ask myself what exciting thing will I do today when I wake. #project365 has turned into both a challenge but also a reminder that I owe it to myslef to keep doing things that make me happy, push my limites and make me a better version of myself.

The photos have turned into an amazing resource that I often find myself scrolling through, and that is really powerful.

What #project365 Has Taught Me

Tracking my Feelings

I’ve been reflecting a lot over the last few years, and through #project365 it’s become significantly easier to identify periods in my life where I’m happy, excited, and living my best life. It’s made me really grateful for the people in my life, the opportunities I’ve received and the support I receive when I share some of my big life achievements as well.

More recently, #project365 has helped me recognize when I’m not doing great and I’m not really filling the living my best life vibe. Recognition is only the first step, the next steps are to figure out why, then start making changes to swing me back in the other direction. That first step of recognition, however, is really really hard without reference points, and #project365 has turned into an incredible reference point.

Respecting People’s Wishes

As social media usage has increased, so too have privacy concerns. When I first started #project365, I’d snap a photo and share it without worrying about if other people were ok with it. It was never a problem back then. Today, however, I try make a conscious effort to check and make sure anyone in a photo is comfortable with it being posted online. I also work to make sure they’re ok with the picture I’ve chosen. As much as I want to carry on with my project, I firmly believe it’s more important to respect people’s wishes, and especially their privacy.

Stay Connected

#project365 has been a unique way of sharing my life with family and friends, especially the one’s that I’m close to but don’t get to see often. I was born and grew up in Kenya, and am part of a really big, close-nit family. It’s hard to message and keep in touch with everyone everyday, so #project365 has become a great substitute.

Predicting Photo Popularity and Likes is Hard

One day I might actually scrape the data of my photos and their respective likes to see if I can predict any patterns. For now, more often than note, my assumption or guess is wrong. I’ll post a photo that I’m really proud of from a photographer perspective, and it’ll get low likes. Other times I’ll post a throw away photo and it’ll get lots of likes. The one consistent thing is that posts where I’m featuring work I’m doing like talks, project launches or awards I’ve received are almost always popular. I really appreciate the support.

I feel it necessary to add a disclaimer here: I don’t do #project365 for the likes. If I did, there are plenty of faux pas processes I’m using when it comes to how I go about posting my photos.

I believe one of the other reasons it’s sometimes hard to predict how a photo will do is based on the fact that my photos represent my day, and aren’t centered around a specific theme. For example I’ll post travel photos, photos of me coding, scuba diving, hanging out with friends, or the movies I’m watching. If someone were using Instagram specifically to build an audience, the general tactic is to post a consistent set of photos and build an audience around that topic, but that’s not quite what I’ve done.

I Broke The Upload to Facebook Process

Right as I hit 1000 photos of #project365 (where I’d also been sharing the photo to Facebook), the photos randomly stopped showing up on Facebook for a few days. My assumption is that I hit the upper limit of 1000 posts on Facebook, and someone had to fix that. I have no evidence to back this up, but if you do, I’d love to see it!

#project365 is the OG Hype Doc

If you’ve been following me for a while, you’ll see me post or speak about Hype Docs every now and then. Hype Docs are essentially a living list of your achievements. Guess what, #project365 in many ways is the same thing, just using photos instead! I officially started using Hype Docs when I joined Square, but only made the connection between Hype Docs and #project365 a few months ago!

In general, #project365 has become an incredible reminder of some of the biggest highlights in my life - graduation, starting my first job, starting my next job, buying a condo, getting my dream car. These big moments are great, but #project365 has also done a great job of reminding me about all the other things too. It’s reminded me of relationships I’ve built and moments in my life that are equally important in shaping me into the person I am today.

Interesting Stats

I tried building a script to pull my data and do some more interesting analysis on it, unfortunately Instagram’s API requires my app to get approved first. If I get it working, I’ll update this section soon.

How Many Photos?!?!

Six years of posting a photo everyday means I have posted 2191 photos through this project.

If you’re quick at math, you’ll probably say “shouldn’t that be 2190, you know 365*6”? To that, I respond with “almost - we’ve had 2 leap years since I started #project365.

If you’re exceptionally observant, you’ll hopefully ask “well, shouldn’t that be 2192 then”, and you’d be right if I hadn’t missed a single day. However I did intentionally miss a day - continue reading to know why!

Most Popular Photo

That would be my graduation photo if you combine the numbers from both instagram and facebook.

Most Popular Photo

It’s worth mentioning that if I were looking at just the Instagram posts, I’ve had many that did better than this post.

First Photo of #project365

I originally tried starting #project365 on the 7th of June 2014, but failed after 2 days.

I would consider this photo of me and 2 friends at a Baseball game in Seattle to be the real start of #project365, as I haven’t skipped a day since.

My Favorite Photo

I was going to include a reel of some of my favorite photos, but I honestly don’t know if I could choose a top 10. Instead, I invite you all to scroll through and let me know your top 10.

There are Legal Benefits

No, no. I didn’t use this as evidence of my innocence when I was falsley accused of some crime. I did, however use it in a different way. While applying for my Canadian Permanent Residency, I had to share the dates and places I have travelled outside of Canada for the previous 10 years. I managed to use the posts in #project365 to accurately populate this data for me!

Funny Anecdotes from #project365

These are only a couple. I have so many more! Feel free to ping me if you’d like to know any of them.

Falling Asleep Mid-Photo Post

I aim to post my photos as the last thing I do before I sleep. If I’ve pulled a late night, this often means it’s really late when I post my photo. There has been more than one occasion where I fell asleep in the middle of thinking of a caption for my photo, woke up an hour or two later, freaked out that I hadn’t shared my post, finish posting it, then go back to sleep. Is this healthy? Probably not. Has it happened more than once? Yes. Will it make me stop #project365? Nope.

Days I Missed Posting My Photo at Night

There are exactly two nights that I remember not posting my photo at night and had to post it the next day. No, I won’t tell you which two - you can figure that out for yourselves ;)

The Only Day that’s Missing

I thought long and hard about this, and decided it was the right thing to do. In 2019, I did a round-the-world trip from Canada —> New Zealand —> Kenya —> Canada. I crossed the International Date Line on my way to New Zealand, but never crossed it again. I effectively lost a day, and thought it only prudent to not post a photo to represent that day. If I ever end up crossing the IDL the other way, I will post 2 photos for the same day, and hopefully make up for the day that I lost.

Plan Plan Plan

I love to travel, and through a series of hilarious experiences, I’ve learnt how important it is to plan how and when I’m going to post my photos in advance. Most people plan how they’re going to take their photos, but not me. I needed to make sure I planned how to post my photos. This could mean anything from prepping my account so that I can post photos while in Masai Mara with limited data and electricity, to planning out posts when I’m on long international flights.

One of my fondest memories from my trip to India in 2018 was when I was in a car heading to the airport, and trying to post my photo. I was flying back alone (everyone else was staying behind for an extra day or two), but knew I would have no internet or WiFi at the airport. As we’re in the cab headed to the airport, I’m trying to hotspot from someone elses phone so that I can get the photo uploaded. Yes, I’m this dedicated.

So What’s Next?

Writing this blog post, and especially thinking back on some of the hilarious things I’ve done to post my photo, I do ask myself if I’ve gone a little over the top with this project. The answer is 100% yes. But I love it. I have found so many benefits to continuing to post a photo a day that I have no intentions of stopping. I hope to continue #project365 for as long as I can, and am really excited to see how it continues to evolve in the future, and how I continue evolving with it. I will keep posting photos @aashnisshah so feel free to follow along on my journey!

I have been working on my photography, and have an on-again, off-again relationship with posting my better edited photos. I created @PictureMeNot a few years ago, and want to start pushing more photos to this account in the future. If you’re into travel and wildlife photography, I’d love if you followed that account!