You're never going to finish that side project, are you? Life keeps you busy. Maybe you have a full time (or more) job? Perhaps you have a kid that won't let you sit still for 10 minutes? Maybe your dog needs to go for a walk? Or maybe your significant other would like to stay in and watch Netflix? I have had all of these come up before and more.
I know the stress of wanting to create but not having the time to do it. I know the crushing blow of cleaning up such promising projects that once consumed hours of your day (or night). I don't have all the answers, but I'm looking for them, and when I find them, I’ll be here to share them with you.
I've been practicing techniques for effectiveness at work for a few years now. I love my job writing software, but I do wish I had more time for my projects. My time is limited as I am a husband, father, dog owner and homeowner on top of working 40 hours a week. By using what I've learned to maximize my effectiveness in my projects, I aim to create more time and be more productive with the time I have.
Of course, the first thing we need to do is define our terms. The title of the blog, Effective Developer, hints at what we aim to become.
Successful in producing a desired or intended result - My iPhone
That sums it up nicely, but it is vague. Assuming we know what all of those words mean, there's still more to define. You can't be successful unless you define what success means to you. You have to determine what the desired or intended result is to be able to reach it successfully.
The desired or intended result will vary from person to person. My goal is different from yours unless your goal is to create a Database app primarily for iOS Siri Shortcuts. If it is, then we have a problem. I digress. What you are looking to do in your spare time will have a significant impact on if it gets done or not. Doing something you hate is even less effective as a hobby than it is as a job!
Your goal should be modest. If it takes a full-time job, on top of your full-time job, then you're going to burn out and desert the project before completion. It should be specific, though. It should be S.M.A.R.T. This goal can then be broken down into smaller ones.
Once you know what needs doing, the next step (and this one is a doozy) is to get it done. The thing to keep in mind is that we want the MVP — minimum viable product. The least amount of work on the project that needs doing for it to be considered a success. Why? Because you have a life. You have other obligations, and if you try to do more, chances are you'll come up short.
Being effective means knowing what is important in your project, and knowing what is busy work. Being effective is knowing how to focus on that critical work and getting it done. Being effective means using tools that are available to you to do more of that vital, mission-critical work than would otherwise be possible.
A quick interjection on tools: One of my biggest distractions in life is finding new tools. In search of the best tool for a job, I would get distracted from the task at hand. Don't be like me—or at least past me.
If you're still with me, and I believe you are, you probably understand what it means to be effective. Obviously, besides being Batman/Ironman levels of filthy rich, we are going to need to work at it.
We made it halfway through this definition thing. Let's keep going!
Okay, let's move on to the second word. Shall we see what the iPhone dictionary says? I think we shall:
a person or thing that develops something - My iPhone
Assuming the robot apocalypse has not occurred, you're likely a person. Actually, who knows. If corporations get to be people, why not robots? That leaves us with “that develops something.” That leaves it pretty cut and dry. “Something.”
In the context of this blog, that something is likely software but could be anything. If you have a different hobby, stick around as you may learn a few new tips for being effective at work, at home and on your time. Finding time for your hobby is universal.
Although you can expect some aspects specific to software developers, nearly all will be computer or technology-based due to my main hobbies being software development and blogging. Most of the content of this blog could relate just as well to writing a book or running a side business.
What development does not mean is abandoning things. The point may come when you need to cut a project loose. Cutting a project free can be quite easy when the alternative—completing the project—starts to seem complicated. It's hard to continue knowing it's an uphill battle. I know this because I’m terrible at it. Exhibit A: my long laundry list of things I've abandoned. It reads like the obituary of someone with the attention span of a goldfish.
My graveyard of projects. I've been an avid and passionate programmer for over 16 years. In that time I have given up on:
- Websites: Zelda fan pages (I was 14…)
- Wedding Website (Actually, this one worked out well)
- Web Forums: RPG, Software Developer
- Blogs: Personal x ~10 and one on writing
- iPhone and Mac Apps: x 20-30 since 2008
- Writing a book: Fiction x 2 and Technical x 1
I could keep going, but I don't feel like being sad. I tend to give up quickly. I’ve attempted to create an app for either iOS or macOS since 2008. I have yet to launch an app successfully. I have a lot of great ideas. Where I fail is that I find it hard to get things done, manage the project and still maintain motivation.
The good news is this: I'm going to get through it, and when I do, I'm hoping to publish it here, first.
What is your current personal-time work? Is it hard for you to find time to work on it? Are you having problems making progress, or are you getting stuck in busy work? I want to hear from you! Post a comment below and let me know. We are in this together!
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