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When do you work on your side projects?

ben profile image Ben Halpern ・1 min read

If you are working on anything on the side... How do you organize your time on the project? Is it explicit time on evenings or weekends, or just "when you have a moment"?

Discussion

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I'm more of a "when I have a moment" type of person. Although, I'm convinced I would be a lot more productive if I decided to spend a predefined block of time.

Whenever I decide to do that, I feel a lot more productive. There is a sense of urgency. I know I have 30 minutes, or an hour or 2 hours to work on my project. I have to make progress during that block of time. I feel a lot more focused.

"When I have a moment" takes away the importance of it, I feel. If it's not important enough to have a dedicated spot on my schedule, why would I have to focus on it and work on that project for weeks or months on end?

With that said, I struggle to consistently set out a block of time for my projects...

 

Whenever I decide to do that, I feel a lot more productive. There is a sense of urgency. I know I have 30 minutes, or an hour or 2 hours to work on my project. I have to make progress during that block of time. I feel a lot more focused.

That's true... When you say making progress in that time.

 

With a new born I often wake up very early, and am a little bored (my wife does the morning shift). Instead starting early with working (I have standard calls later in the day) I work on side projects. In the evenings and weekends, my wife and I sometimes decide to do something for ourselves. So either I'll do some gaming, or work on a side project.

 

That's very interesting..how you manage your time with the new born and your professional life and personal life ? Being father of a new born,I find it very difficult to do my side projects and even learning..even writing my first post on dev took such a considerable time which I finally accomplished today

 

Only take aways I can give you:

  • Break down what you want to do in small sizes. Do this for writing, coding, research, designing. I use an application called todoist to create lists of what I want to do. Even articles are broken down in multiple smaller todos (research, sections to write, proofread, social media sharing after publish). These sizes make it easier to do it in lets say 30 minutes.
  • Dont put deadlines on your side projects... Babies dont allow it and it only adds stress
  • Throw away when you loose your interest. I have several drafts or outlines for articles. I got excited about a subject, wanted to write an article about them. But then.... I did not have enough time and lost interest. Maybe I am gonna write them. But for now, i am going to leave them. Forcing myself to finish them will not be benificial for my state of mind.
  • Do it for yourself, not for others. I did a refactor of my website with almost no visual updates, and it gave me a lot of energy and motivation. Feel happy with every accomplishment, even when its only a part of a whole. You probably learned something or improved something!

But don't let me fool you with this list. It is freakin' hard! The most important thing is to never feel disappointed or demotivated when its not working out. Its not your family or your job, its just a side project.

Yep! I have three under 6, getting any time for side projects is a very challenging thing. I think Kevin nailed it with that list!

Hey Kevin,

Thanks for the pointers.
I believe learning is everywhere and this is one such important learning for me.. highly appreciate your takeaways 👍

 

I work on my side projects all the time ❤️. If I find an hour spare I might research, develop, explore a new feature 🧐.

If a side project isn't going to be monetized 🥺 then it gets saved as a browser tab. I do tend to periodically go through my tabs and continue from where I left off.

I just completed an MLP for a client and I'm growing my service offerings. I've schedule 2 calls today which both relate to side projects.

I just finished some research on the jam stack. My question wasn't answered. And and I'm considering whether the jam stack is the appropriate framework to use.

I organise my time just like anybody else 🤸 a to-do list, github issues, a calendar. But no notepad no post it notes, I go for a more eco-friendly approach and keep things digital.

Just as I'm writing this one of the people that I needed to speak to on a call has rescheduled to tomorrow the same time 🧘.

So now with that time spare, an hour, I find myself thinking about another side project which is a Flutter project, not founded by myself but as I've volunteered to help... I wonder if I should go about implementing a new feature that is needed.

I opted to charge my 🔋.

 

I don't have anything better to do so I just work on my projects before and after work. I have a dedicated two 2 hour time blocks (pomodoro) on weekdays. I also try to take an easy day turning the weekend where I don't work so hard.

I have a side project that I built that keeps track of how I spend my time:

sogos.unthrottled.io/dashboard/alex

By design it's not very mobile friendly 😅

 

I have a side project that I built that keeps track of how I spend my time:

Neat! It's the meta side project.

What's the process like for logging this input?

 

Ah! So SOGoS itself is a progressive web app (the dashboard is just not built for mobile view). So it has a built in pomodoro timer, that I use to break my chunks of side project work into.

So that works fine but the timer does not work when I put my phone to sleep. So I forklifted all my React code into a React Native app. Which allows me to get notifications when my phone is asleep.

 

Believe it or not I have never built a to-do list. I do have an app that I build when I learn a new language just to see how it works. And I also advised people that I've worked with in the past to use the same project idea.

@ben I'd like to put a bounty on the answer to the app I always build. Are there $5 credit vouchers on Dev.to?

 

I personally create 3 types of content. Videos for my Youtube Channel which spans over 4-5 sessions of 1 hour each per video. I plan for each session well in advance. Then there's my dev.to articles which I can complete in a 2 hour on/off session. And then there's my sketchnotes,


which takes about 1 hour to complete that I try to fit into my day whenever I get time.
 

I ❤️ the sketchnotes concept.
What you use for it ? How you are developing it ? Using any specific app or website ?

 

Thanks. I use excalidraw and figma.

Your contents are so amazing that I started following you on twitter.. Kudos buddy..I am so eagerly waiting for your further sketchnote 🤞👍

Thank you so much for the kind words. Do share my work with others who might also be interested, Batman!

 

I used to schedule time but I felt a bit like I was on a path to burnout, and also the scheduling made it feel more like a second job tbh. So now it's just when I have a moment & feel like it. And it's brought a lot of the joy back for me! 🌈

 

Most of the time it's just in the evening hours, if I still have any motivation left after a long work day. On the other hand, if I have not been coding for a while (long weekend/holidays) I get this feeling that I want to build something. Then, if I get inspired by something or have a cool idea in my head, I get in this flow state while coding where I completely lose track of time and everything around me (I may have forgotten about dinner once or twice).

 
 

Weekends are generally the time when I get the most done in side projects, but I do general triaging and relatively smaller fixes all throughout the week. Timing within the day varies somewhat but it's always after work hours since context switching essentially destroys my productivity.

 

I rarely triage to be honest. Unless there is a dependency from one issue to another. I scroll to the bottom and work my way up.

I find context switching more refreshing because you get to let go of the current way of thinking.

 

I too believe LRU's a good way of working through issues, but with my current "side" (who am I kidding) project, there's issues and feature requests stretching back to 3 years ago that were legitimate but the previous maintainers just didn't have the bandwidth to address. Because of this, I have to resort to a two-pronged approach where I work the backlog down by resolving them in LRU order, and simultaneously ensure that new issues being added to the end of the queue are also addressed as quickly as possible to strike a healthy balance between fixing "legacy" problems and addressing new feedback. We also switched to a new develop/release model where issues need to be tagged with the backport label to indicate that the fix for it is critical and we need to make an out of schedule patch release to address it so triaging becomes especially important. And it's just something productive to do to pass away the time :D

Re: context switching, I'm a bit torn about how I feel. On one hand, going back and forth between things seems to make me bad at both. On the other hand, I agree with your observation that switching provides you an oppurtunity to reset and break out of your current mindset so you can return to the problem with a fresh approach that hopefully let's you resolve it quickly.

an oppurtunity to reset and break out of your current mindset so you can return to the problem with a fresh approach that hopefully let's you resolve it quickly.

It does help.

 

Nowadays i am giving full time to projects and learning but before lockdown I go to college regularly morning 8PM to 5PM and then i came to home about 6:30PM(regularly i have to walk for 10KM because college to bus stand walks but that is good for health becz i didn't exercise means no gym) then after doing all things i hardly give my 1 to 2 hours but nowadays i can work whole day. and i always do things which i like that is cool. and i am good.

 
 

I set up time boxes for everything related to side projects and generally spread them out in the weekday evenings and on one weekend day. I like saving Saturdays for doing absolutely nothing as a way of recharging my batteries.

 
 

As a hobbyist, all my projects are side projects. So, simple answer ALWAYS.

 
 

Always at night 23.00 to 01.00 ....family and work does not leave much time.

 

I sometimes do the same thing but start early.

 

When I have a moment and feel the urge. I definitely treat it as a passion thing: if I feel the passion I jump in and work as hard as I can for a few days in every spare second I have. If not then I play video games or scroll through Twitter or doodle in my journal. I never force myself to work on side projects. I don't need any more "you must" responsibility in my life, I have enough already!

 

That's interesting. I often try to reduce the number of projects I work on. And I can't imagine how many ideas I've had for different projects.

 

The main area where I have side projects has been open source software and libraries.

I used to spend a tremendous amount on them, like 2-3 hours per day and more on weekends. That was a year ago.

Now my priorities have shifted — I decided I wanted to spend more time on other things, in particular educating myself about non-software things.

So I'm more like "when I have time and mental space" now. In particular I mostly ditch any automated emails I receive from open source repos I contribute to or watch, even if it's requiring action from me. I'll do a sweep over projects every now and then, going through issues and PRs. :-)

 

I always have side projects on the go whether I finish them or not is another matter entirely. It varies to be honest usually it's mostly at weekends but sometimes during the week after work if I feel up to it which more recently hasn't been a lot.

 

I always try to do it in the night time some week days. Weekend time is reserved for house, leisure, wife, etc, etc.

Of course, there's a few times when I do some work on weekend but rarely happens. Ah, sometimes I also grab a few work hours for side projects 😅

 

Every morning when i sit my desk in the office and about to finish my coffee, i decide to spend first most productive hours for my exciting side projects or regular job.

Level of excitement organizes :)

 

I never have time for side projects. When children go to bed, it's 9pm and i'm too tired to do anything.
I just asked a day off to my employer to have dedicated time for my projects, wether it be dev stuff (FOSS contributions) or other things (permaculture, associations...).

 

if you mean personal projects other than coding, I tend to work on them only when I'm finished a coding project (which rarely happens lol) I get this project done so I can quickly get back to my coding projects.
If its for work then I usually make it a priority if the client is paying enough and finish that before getting back to coding.

Anything else I just freestyle it! Whenever I have a moment! :)

 

The normal plan is always to do it on weekends but at times I see a bug while using whatever I build and I'll instantly move onto it if I've got the time and fix it.
I started using the Github web editor so much because of this habit of mine.

 

Moments. My personal projects, at least in recent years, dont have a need for any urgency, so I don't really set hard times to work. I have a backlog, but dont care when I get to it. So I wait for optimum times, switch projects as I feel. In general most of my best work comes in the early morning

 

I used to mostly reserve weekends for my side projects. Now, I fit it in M-F, with occasional weekend work mixed in. As my day job, I write/edit, mostly producing articles such as Raspberry Pi and Arduino tutorials. For side projects, I run Tech Up Your Life where I cover consumer tech, and Cup of Moe where I write about film, TV, and music. Every other week I record a podcast for my film podcast, Celluloid Fiends.

Dedicating some time on weekdays to write for my personal sites 1) encourages me to take them seriously like a day job, and 2) continues to exercise my writing/editing muscles. Overall, I've found that incorporating side projects into my weekday routine has boosted my productivity. Plus, having tangentially-related side projects allows me to be creative without feeling burned out from always being hands-on with something dev or maker related.

 

I find consistency is key. An hour on Sunday from 8 to 9pm, every Wednesday from 6am to 8am, whatever fits one's lifestyle.

Or the extreme... I spent almost all spare time in the past three months exclusively on writing a book about cloud-native web development with source code for each chapter. Looking back, the current lockdown situation made this possible, otherwise I highly encourage not to have such a lifestyle and take lots of breaks. When I got stuck, I would get up, spend some time doing something else and get back to writing. Also, make sure you sleep enough, always :)!

 

I don't work specifically on any side projects. But I try to keep my self updated and write articles for my blog. With two small kids in the house I don't find any time in the whole day. I get up early and dedicate one hour to my learning and writing.

As I have to keep writing interesting and useful stuff for my blog, I cannot skip learning and updating myself.

Morning is the best time when everyone is asleep and the motivation level is generally high in comparison to any other time of the day.

 

Usually I work on my projects and articles every day for 2-3 hours. But sometimes I have breaks and write nothing for few days. This usually happens when I'm facing some problem which needs to be thought out.

 

Typically I work on side projects on the weekend, however my side projects are currently limited to learning/practicing languages. If I have a particularly rough week I tend to skip the sides and do light reading/gaming.

At the moment I am learning Rust. I don't know if I'll get a chance to use it in a production environment any time soon but I'd like to be prepared just in case. It'd be nice to reduce the memory footprint of some microservices (currently using nodejs) to make better use of our Kubernetes cluster resources.

In the past I tried spending a solid hour a day on side tasks, but I've been too busy to keep that schedule going for the last few years.

 

It mostly depends on the project and on the workday stress-level ^^. When its a project I mostly wanna use everyday I probably work on it every (second) day. If its a library / utils project, mostly every (few) weeks.

But since sometimes the libraries/projects intersect the times I work on X switches back and forth.

Lately I've been working on my projects on stream, which kinda "forces" me to work on them

 

2 hours every day before I start my regular job and some evenings + weekends. In order to complete a side a side project having a clear plan and deadlines is important, for me if the goals are are not clearly defined I can end up adding new features, my imagination runs wild 😁 Have a time dedicated to your side projects and STICK with it.

 

For my blog I’ve set aside Sunday evenings. I write about 1 Thing A Week and it means I focus and write something fresh instead of scheduling lots of stuff and then inevitably fall off the wagon!

My un-launched projects are suffering with lockdown, home / work are so blurred with the kids at home too. I’m putting in time to research and plan how they’ll work and once I’ve got enough info I’ll push on with some development at least one evening a week

 

The wife and I used to go to a coffee shop on the weekends for 2 hours side by side, working on our personal projects. Now, with a toddler, I put the family to sleep and work from about 10 pm to 1 am. Not every night, but most nights.

 

For me it is the occasional evening but more likely on a weekend. I like to keep the majority of the weekend code free, but will set out a block of time to work on a side project when I know I want to progress it.

It was easier when in lockdown to work on side projects, as if I finished my work early (I know right..) I could happily jump on my side project without thinking I was doing something I shouldn't, or being watched over!

Now back in the office, it's more difficult. So, back to more weekend time and slower progress of said side projects.

Shame..

 

Mostly weekends and on mornings when weekday 😬

 

NIghts, weekends, mental breaks, while CI is churning away.

Depends on the day but mostly after kids are in bed.

 

evenings after the office work is over and specially in the weekends !!!

 

Lately I've been replacing my video game time with side project work. I'm finding it really relaxing to write code that isn't for work. It's nice to flex my creative muscles in different ways.

 

Strangely enough, it's lunch time, around noon, that magic happens for me. With kids and family logistics due the week-ends, the pre-nap hour is when I try to work towards my dreams.

 

While I am in the gym, while i rest between each repetition or while i am waiting for a machine to get available.

 

Boss makes a dollar, I make a dime, I do my projects on company time.

 

When I have a moment, and not even all my free moments.

 

My full time job starts at 9am only. So I wake up at 5am everyday and start working on my procedurally generated maze game at 6am until 9am. Sometimes I come back to it at night too.

 

Either early in the morning or after work. Oh and weekends as well.

 

Personal stuff might be "when I get a moment," but if it's paid work then I'd rather not do it on the clock.

 

I really find Sunday mornings can be very productive. Wake up early like I would during the week and pound out a few hours of good work on my passion projects.

 

I don't have time to work on side project. 😒
I work like 18 hours a day for my company.

 

I think all of our projects are side projects - and we work on them 15 hours a day...

 

It's a blend of when I have the time and went I feel like it. It comes in spurts.

 

obviously on the weekend or when the project im working on has a long hiatus so i can work on my side project

 

Mostly weekends or a few times in the week when I am not mentally exhausted from work.

 
 

Right now, full time. Sort of unfortunately 😔