This definitely comes up a lot, as most of our interns are full-time students as well. Truth is, everyone gets the same 24 hours a day, and many people balance full time jobs and hobbies or side projects.
Here's a few tips:
Even accomplishing four hours of work in a week on your project is progress. You don't need to put it all in at once either. An hour here, 30 minutes there, and you're still making progress.
I tell many interns, "time left unscheduled is time that will fill itself." You should deliberately schedule times to work on your side-project, time for family, time for housework, time for gaming or catching up on DuckTales. It is important to actually SCHEDULE both productive and relaxation times, or one will take over the other!
You can (and should) still be flexible, but having a regular framework for your schedule helps you "gear up" for the next task, and makes it possible for you to guard that time proactively: "I'm sorry, I can't do X right now, I promised myself I'd spend half an hour on my side-project. I have an opening tomorrow at 6, though!"
You can also swap things around this way. If your best friend wants to meet with you for coffee at 1 pm on a Saturday, but that's when you work on your side project, find what you'd be okay giving up that day ("DuckTales can wait"), move your side-project into that slot, and go for coffee.
That reminds me, you should never answer "when can you do (...)" with "uh, iono". Have your scheduler handy. Pencil something in. It's better to reschedule or cancel (in advance) than to leave something hanging indefinitely.
Give yourself a few minutes to transition from one task to the next. Establish a dedicated workspace if you can, like a favorite nook in your living room, or the corner coffee shop. Figure out your ideal environment for working on your side-project. Use Mynoise.net or your favorite music to help you focus. Block out distractions. Shut off social media. And then just work.
All that might seem pointless if you're already exhausted, but there are still things you can do:
Consider becoming an early bird (YES, you can do that!) and setting aside some side-project time before work! Then you can get to the office still riding the high of doing something you love.
Part of your lunch hour may give you time to work on your side-project. I know many developers who do this, and they find it's a great way to refresh halfway through the day.
Look for other ways to reduce stress at work. Do you need to set better boundaries? (Read Boundaries by Henry Cloud) Should you rethink how you structure your workday?
Consider whether your side-project itself is contributing stress. If it is, you may need to restructure that as well. (See The Cranky Developer Manifesto and Why Is It Taking So Long??!?).
In short, it is possible to do this, but it may require you to rethink how your life is structured...and that's okay! Side-projects can be a good opportunity to improve your time management and life boundaries.
I myself run two companies, write both fiction and non-fiction books, and am a frequent fixture here on DEV.to and Freenode IRC. I also play music, volunteer with my church, and take care of the house (yep, I'm fully domesticated). Yet my life is typically in pretty good balance. I use these tactics myself.
As someone who is in a similar situation currently, that was really solid advice! Thanks
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