How I am building side projects while at a day job

Sent on September 14th, 2021

Hi, I’m Aravind Balla and you are reading letter #18 from the Hackletter where I talk about my learnings and give you behind the scenes of things I keep doing for fun.

Trying to do multiple things at once is not that fun. Side projects quickly start demanding more and more time from you. They never finish in a weekend.

But I think I've figured out a balance between side projects and day job, which works for me. At least for now.

These are the things which helped me -

Ideas don't knock before coming

knock knock
Who's there?
an idea
Idea, who?
forget about it

Thoughts keep running in our mind. Always. And you don't know when a good idea strikes. Usually it is at unexpected times. While you poop, or sometimes when you are working on a completely different thing.

Combinatory Play . This term is coined by Einstein, which means, The act of opening up one mental channel by dabbling in another. Sometimes when he is struck with a Math problem, he would go play some music (violin). This would let his mind open up to new solutions when he comes back to that original problem.

Not completely related, but you get the point. I just want to tell you that the brain is crazy. Having note taking app always open helps me jot down an idea quickly and not let that go. I jot down and forget about it.

I have a scheduled block in my calendar where I plan the project. In that time block, I go through all the notes, create a task spec to work on and prioritize things for the project.

A lot of ideas are discarded here as well. It feels like a great idea when you get it, but it wears off over time. So this also acts as an idea incubator where I pick worthy ideas after giving them some time to marinate.

Laser down on the task at hand

Find time to actually work on the project is hard. Especially when you have a day job.

What helped me here is scheduling time before hand. While planning the week, which I try to do often, I schedule some blocks early in the morning, some times at night to work on the project. Some Saturdays, I have the complete day for myself to work on it.

Not burning out is an important aspect to consider if you are playing the long game. So I don't work on it always.

Now when the time comes, I protect it by minimizing all the possible distractions and focus on the planned stuff.

Both the above things I talked about go hand in hand. If I don't plan properly, I will have to work on not-so-important stuff for the project. If I don't focus while working, I don't push the project forward.

This is what I'm experimenting with these days. Please let me know your thoughts on this my replying. And if you are wondering what side project this is, it's Stackblocks.

And if this interests you and want me to talk more about the behind the scenes of building stuff, let me know.

Have a good time of the day.

See you next Tuesday 👋

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