Multi-Threaded Life : Fitting it all in

I was talking with a colleague the other day about all the extra things I do outside of work, like recording my pluralsight course, writing for my blog, a simple educational game I am writing plus my other little open source projects I maintain. He asked the question, “How do you fit it all in?”.

It’s a great question, because I am a Dad to 2 children, plus a husband, and I work a full-time day job, so how do I fit it all in working on these projects and keeping my skills up to date. The rest of this post explains what I do.

Commuting

Everyday I commute to work. This involves a 15 minute walk to the train station, 45 minutes on the train, and then another 20 minutes walk from the train station to the office. A lot of people would think that I am mad doing this everyday, but I wouldn’t give up this time for anything.

Working on the train.

Working on the train.

When I am walking to and from train stations I normally listen to podcasts like DotNetRocks,HelloWorld. These podcasts give you loads of new information and ideas, plus they are entertaining. Also, the walking is good exercise. I don’t go to the gym, but 35 minutes brisk walking everyday keeps me fit.

Whilst on the train I normally do 1 of 3 things, watch Pluralsight courses as I like learning new stuff, read a book using my Safari Books Online subscription or plan blog posts software project ideas.

Lunch Time

I normally use my lunch break for food and also drafting blog posts. I am writing this during my lunch break now. I very rarely write and post an article in the same day. I normally draft them over the space of a week, so 30 minutes a day of writing is normally enough to keep up with my posting schedule. I normally have 3 or 4 posts on the go at once.

Evenings

Once I have spent time with the kids after getting home and helped to put them to bed Me and my Wife have dinner and then chill out on the sofa. If my wife is watching her programs like soap operas, x-Factor etc, I get the laptop out and tinker. At the moment I spend this time drafting the slides for my Pluralsight course, but if I am not working on the course then I open up visual studio and do some coding.

When you look at my open source projects you will notice that they are quite small in scale and scope. This is because being a parent I don’t generally start large personal projects. When the kids get older that may well change, but at the moment I work on small fun little projects. I am currently learning WPF, so I am writing a little port of an old 1990’s educational game (more info on this in a later post) which I want to use to help my daughter with her maths. I have made a good start on it, but I will finish it properly between Pluralsight courses.

Some evenings once my wife goes to bed I normally stay up a little later and tinker on my projects. I don’t do this everyday as I do need downtime too, but I find all this fun, so I like to do it.

Weekends

I normally don’t do any personal project work at the weekends as I spend time with my Wife and Kids. Our weekends are normally pretty packed. The only work I do is on a Sunday evening where I record the previous weeks Pluralsight slides, but that isn’t every-week, so it is the exception rather than the norm.

Planning

Everything I want to work on ends up in a private Trello board. I use this to document ideas, as-well as track stuff I am actually working on. I have loads of ideas in there which I know I wont probably start on until sometime next year, but that’s fine. I fit stuff in where I can. Planning is key here though. I don’t normally jus rush into a project or post. I tend so spend some time thinking about it in detail first, making notes in Trello. Then eventually I start the project at the most suitable time. This isn’t procrastination though. I just like to make sure I plan things out properly. When I start a post or project, I pretty much know at that point what I am doing and what I want to achieve, so the execution time from that point is normally pretty short.

Conclusion

I work on my own projects, blog, course etc because I really enjoy it, so I don’t consider any of it work. If it was just work, then I probably wouldn’t do as much if I was honest. Working with Pluralsight has introduced me to many new challenges as I am doing tasks that I have never even contemplated before and picking up new skills like video recording, editing and production.

I was also asked if I find doing all this burns me out. No, it doesn’t, because I wont do all this everyday. If I am feeling motivated then I work on my own projects. If I am tired, or had a stressful day in the office, then I will take time out. None of my personal projects (apart from the Pluralsight courses) have deadlines, so I am free to make my own schedule.

So, there you go. That’s how I fit everything in. What are your techniques for fitting in your own personal projects? I would love to hear in the comments.

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