Finding time for pet projects.

One of the hardest things when you decide to work on a pet project, is to find enough time to get started. I have a full-time job and I really appreciate my spare time, so when I decided to start working on the “iLearn: English” app, I knew I would have to find some “free time”. At the beginning, the fact of having just a few hours/day seemed to be a problem, but this constraint ended up being perfect. It forced myself to focus, to never spend time doing anything else than putting all my effort to my project related subjects.

In this post I would like to share a few things I did to help while developing my pet project. It helped, so it might help someone else too.

Define a time to work and commit to it

Define a specific time to work. It helps you to plan the remaining tasks of the day, so you can avoid the “I am going to do it later” trap. In my case, I defined the time to be every day (but Weekend) from 6am to 9am. The noise-free mornings were like a breeze and I got productive after a few sleepy mornings.

Organize the content you have to work on

You don’t have the luxury of spending 30 minutes trying to search/remember something. I used Trello to organize my development process, but you can basically use anything that you are comfortable with. The lists I used to organize my project were:

In the end of the day, I would review my lists and update them. It helped to have a better notion about what was the remaining work to get my project done. The action of moving features from “Backlog” to “Working” and then “Done”, also helps to give you the sensation of moving forward, boosting the motivation doses.

Be ready to work

Always have something ready to work. It’s quite frustrating to organize everything, but when it’s time to start working, you just don’t know what to do, where to start. I spent a few morning just looking at my code and wondering about what I could do. As part of the review (previously mentioned), I always make sure I have prepared the work to the next day.

That's it. Feel free to share with me how you find time to work in your pet projects. Send me details to [email protected].

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Elvio Vicosa

Hi, I'm Elvio. I’m an independent software developer consultant based in Berlin, Germany. I’ve spent the last 10+ years working in a wide range of software projects, from internal web dashboards to real-time applications used by millions of people.

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