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How many dads here? How do you find time to work on your side projects?

Roberto Hernandez
React & JavaScript Enthusiast, coding and decoding life => One is More than Zero, Just a Human being and Developer | Blogger@ www.mullinstack.com
・1 min read

Sometimes it's hard for me to find enough time and make notable progress.

Discussion (13)

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J3ffJessie

Honestly have the same problem, not working in development yet, but just between working full time and then spending time with family it’s difficult to dedicate time to side stuff. Waking early and doing small parts has helped me but it’s a slow process. Best of luck finding time to do it.

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Jacob Danner

I do something similar. My time is early hours (4 AM) before the kids get up. It works far better for me to get in bed early rather than burning the midnight oil to get things done. The other trouble with trying to do side projects at night is kids don't always get to sleep as you'd like them to. My brain doesn't have the same focus as first thing early in the morning.

I also try and set out some goals for allotted time blocks so I don't just waste cycles 'researching'. Even if I don't complete everything I've set out, making small wins over time is much more satisfying.

Waking up early took some getting used to but pays huge dividends. I complete my personal development goals before everyone is awake, don't feel guilty after the work day ends and feel more present during family time. Sure, I can't tell you about the latest binge show on Netflix but I've found much more fulfillment in these early am pursuits.

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J3ffJessie

Definitely. Those tiny wins lead to larger success and being present with family and feeling the fulfillment of being present is what matters most.

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Marvin

Great advice, maybe I will do that too, I find my self exhausted by the end of the day and I don't feel like sit in front of the computer even if I'm motivated to create something.

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Taylor Beeston

The three best things I can say:

  1. Do at least something every day, no matter how small.
  2. Find a system that works between you and your wife (I have a dedicated hour every day after my 10 month old goes down for his first nap)
  3. Separate tasks you can do in random moments on your phone versus tasks that require a decent chunk of time
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Corey McCarty

These are great. Fitting the managing tasks into small moments throughout your day when you can is a big thing.

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kawillrich

I’m new to web development so I don’t have much experience from that perspective, but I do have kids so I completely understand the struggle of being able to sit down and concentrate on any project that takes continuous thought. I read at night when the kids are in bed. We usually play a board game first so I can still have some time with them, but I have them go to bed at a regular time for both them and me. I sort of use it as a reward for working hard throughout the day to get 30-60 min of ‘me’ time, whether it’s web dev, working out, reading, or whatever. I don’t get up any earlier than I have to do this works best for me.

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Zack Amin

Great questions. I know it may be a little dated.

Well, in between school drop-offs, snack times, reading and playtime, we do run out of hours in the day!

Here are some of my tips;

  1. Try to do something every day, even if it is only twenty minutes.
  2. In the time you have, make sure you are productive and not scrolling social media.
  3. If you can, you and your partner should come up with a routine where you each get an hour a day to yourself to work on your projects or study.
  4. I prefer waking a little earlier than sleeping later, I am more productive.
  5. Just remember, you are not alone. Doing a small amount each day will become big leaps when you look back!
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James Heggs

Great question and really glad to see this being asked.

I'm a single father with co-parenting 50% setup and have wondered the same things so thought I'd share a few things I've considered.

Being present
This is possibly the most impactful aspect of freeing up brain time. I've found that if I approach being a Dad with as much interest and "presence" as I have done to my tech skills or projects then it prevents me from experiencing the anxiety you might feel because of not being with your child. For example - sharing time where I'm with my boy, phones off alert learning to ride his bike for 2 hours psychologically protects me from the guilt of then spending some time on my laptop whilst he plays.

Multiple Identities
Really recommend a book called Stretch by Scott Sonenshein, lots of themes in there for successful businesses but also an area on parenting and the detail that we as humans have multiple identities. Sometimes when becoming a parent, we can feel (or face people making us feel) like now our only identity is that of a parent but actually the skills from one identity, the tech lead, the CTO, the Site Reliability Engineer can really benefit the skills of other identities, the parent, the Dad! So when in side project mode those parenting skills of time management, mediation, chaos engineering (joke) actually come in really useful when you're in "work mode".

Finding your productive time
I think a few people have mentioned this but knowing when you actually have brain power to do personal projects or personal development is key too. At first I looked at doing things after bed time but found that I was getting stressed or felt unproductive, grubby working late so moved to doing things before my boy wakes up. Doing that once a week suited me. Of course work out what is your best pattern.

Viciously Prioritise
This is the toughest part. You might have to give one thing up in order to do another. Same way that we might plan a sprint, you might have to prioritise what you decide to spend your free time on. And with your "backlog" remember its not a "never" its a "not this sprint" - so for example I have times where I had to give up certain social aspects in favour of upskilling. Final tip from me is to give yourself breaks from tech and coding/engineering etc. I always find that stepping back from being hands on for a few weeks means that when I come back I have all the passion and interest re-invigorated ready to continue.

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Corey McCarty • Edited

Two answers depending on whether or not it is something that will get me paid. If is unpaid then I might tinker with it on the clock. If it is paid then it MUST be off the clock. My wife and I both have side work/projects that we are involved with which makes it a little bit easier. We tell the other about having to be working during the given time, and the other one takes over with the kids for that time. With my kids being 3 and 1, bath and bedtime can be a pretty lengthy ordeal so if it's possible I try to either work during lunch or weekend when there is a bit less need in the parenting department.

Also, there's this:

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Charanjit Chana

Bizarrely, I've made more progress since having kids than before! But when say more progress, I mean I've completed two small projects in three years :D

One of them does require weekly input so I just set aside a couple of hours on a Sunday to take care of that.

For both projects (and other unfinished ones), it was just about getting started. Even an hour a week was more than enough for me to see tangible progress. Didn't take long for me to want to get it to a releasable, if not finished, state.

It is hard with kids, and at every step they need different types of attention which can take a lot of energy. But as I said, my advice would be to just get started. No matter how small that start is, you'll only be building on top of it going forward. Good luck!

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David Sanchez

I recently became a dad, and I work in side projects at night after my baby fell asleep, it is so hard but with 1 or 2 hours is enough for me