Making Time for Side Projects

It's Sunday night, and yet again, I'm feeling slightly burnt out.

It's not the first time I've been here. It won't be the last!


There are many things that get me out of bed in the morning. This morning it was a spider the size of my hand laying next to me, the subsequent screaming and my heart pumping so hard that it could've been my gym buddy thrashing me through a session.

My luck is plentiful when it comes to the family and friends I have that I don't deserve. They keep in touch, ask how I am, they look after me. We share far too many enjoyable times. Too much food, sometimes with too much drink, sometimes in-front of a TV, sometimes in-front of a DJ. I am humbled to love and to feel so loved.

Music fills me with joy. Listening, watching, analysing, creating, performing. I am fortunate to have trained as a musician and a techie with the greatest musicians and tutors I know. As a child I picked up the piano by finding the right combinations of keys that sounded like the tunes I knew. I sing regularly in choirs that perform in a variety of styles. I direct and perform in bands with a guitar or bass around my neck.

My earliest memories are of being baffled and captivated by computers. I wanted to take them apart and figure out how they work. To this day I still have that feeling and want.

Later I would become obsessed with how software enables us. Obsoleting manual processes to save time and money and make room for the things that matter in life. Communication that's instant no matter the situation. I say this after putting the phone down from a brief conversation with a friend who lives in New Zealand, from Leicester.

And then there are aspirations. To help, to love, to enjoy, just a bit more each day.

We all have different reasons for getting out of bed. I'd forgotten how therapeutic it was to write them down and read them out.


No matter what we do and love, we'll always strive to do more. It's human nature. Lots of us are very fortunate to enjoy what we do in our day jobs. You're reading a blog by a developer in your own time. It's likely that you do too.

When time and money is critical, it's essential that a job is done with confidence. When we are able to work with more flexibility, it's essential to have courage to change the process and discover. Failure rates are higher, but on occasion you'll come across a process that's better.

My justification for being a developer by day and a developer in some of my free time is that it allows me to explore and scope out into areas that allow me to grow. I do not work on critical systems after 6pm, so I can take the time to fail and become better at something than who I was the day before.

Ultimately we would not do this if we did not enjoy it. We are untethered in our interest.


Energy is not an infinite resource. If you've struggled on an issue in the office, you're not likely to come home and potentially struggle on something else.

You may have committed your time to other activities.

I plan my weeks. Sometimes in good time, often not. I know that I wont be able to sit at my desk to work on my side projects for at least another two days. If someone I haven't seen for ages suggests getting together, I will prioritise that.

If my coming week is empty, I will not feel the need to fill it. It is important to be able to be idle. Sometimes I'll watch some rubbish. If my typically poor concentration will last I'll play a game or read a book. If the mood takes me, I'll pick up the guitar. Tonight I felt the need to write.

We can't be always working, and by no-ones definition should we be.


Tonight, as with a few times in recent weeks, I've found myself frustrated at a problem that I'm not confident with. I've pushed my limits, and it hasn't paid off. This isn't a great feeling, and I fear I wont be as confident in my next attempt.

To counter this you have to come back to your motivation. My motivation for my side project varies for each one. I'd recently put a lot of effort into a charity choir that helps singers perform, and it was hard work. There were times I felt burnt out. But after the combined efforts of the people involved, and seeing my time, work and effort come to a point, the feeling is one I'm not able to communicate. It was beyond joy.

I do not take on projects I do not believe are for a good cause. I will not spend my free time launching a product or holding an event that does not motivate me.

You have to push through the hard times to get to the good. Everything needs balance.

Getting Through

Ultimately it's not time we lack, it's mental energy. We do not need to make time for anything. If we have motivation it will come. That motivation may be paying the mortgage on time. With the rest of your time, you'll find it'll come.

It's important not to block yourself completely. Do not commit to things that do not let you breathe. We all need to recharge, we're humans!

I enjoy my times with friends. I enjoy my times with music. I enjoy what happens when something I've designed or developed comes to life. In your free time, you need to allow yourself to fail and struggle, but more importantly you need the time to be idle. I can't imagine the caveman would chase his next meal right after just catching one.

Sit down, go to bed earlier, reflect. The urge will come back, and you'll get through.