Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Keeping up with side projects

I have so many side projects that I launched a newsletter to track them:
I got some really nice responses:

Well indeed, how do I find the time?


I am a freelancer, and my workload fluctuates a lot. During the slow times I can devote my energy to longer projects like Pluralsight courses.

Work from home

Working from home means I don't commute. That saves me at least an hour day. Also, my clients are all in California, and I work remotely from my home in Colorado. This means I am one hour ahead of them. I start my day at 9am Mountain time, and have one hour to do my own things before they get into the office.

It is quite nice to give myself time first, before I get busy with client work.

Incorporate sharing into my workflow

Many of my blog posts come directly from client work. I encounter a problem, figure it out on client time, and then write my findings on my own time. I often need to isolate the problem into a separate project, which gets shared afterwards. Read more on my workflow.

Taking notes at events

A great way to amplify your efforts is to record everything. You probably go to meetups like me, but do you write about it? If not, you are just an attendee, not a part of the event.

When I go to events, I live tweet or sketchnote, and then share them. For instance, I went to this awesome Bluetooth Beacons talk, made notes on the spot, and posted it:

Looks like I did a lot, right? I was taking notes while the speaker was talking, so no extra time there. I then spend 10 minutes or so when I get home to scan it on my flatbed scanner and run "Colors → Auto → White Balance" on GIMP, but you don't need to. Just snap a photo on your phone.

Alternatively, tweet during the event, snap some photos, then write a trip report. Here is the formula I use.

Go swimming

Taking notes during events is one way I multitask. Another one is swimming. You see, when I am in the pool, I get to think. I can come up with an outline for a blog post, compose a talk proposal, and in general organize my thoughts. By the time I am back at my computer, I can write much more quickly.

Have a schedule

One trick to make sure you allocate time to your side project is to have a schedule. We publish Technically Speaking every Tuesday, which means that I need to find CFPs, links and videos by Monday. It's a mind trick, but having a real deadline makes it much easier to find time to get it done.

Have a conspirator

To maintain that schedule, it really helps to have another person on the project. You feel bad about not putting in the effort, and also, when you are busy the other person can pick up the slack. I work with Cate Huston on Technically Speaking, and Huyen Tue Dao on Android Dialogs. They keep me on schedule, and make it way more fun!


Here are the tricks I use:

  • Allocate time for side projects (for me it's 9am to 10am)
  • Use writing formulae
  • Multitask by taking notes at events and thinking while exercising
  • Have a schedule
  • Have a conspirator


Inline coding questions will not be answsered. Instead, ask on StackOverflow and put the link in the comment.

  1. Nice post. Can you please explain abbreviation CFP?

    1. Thanks! CFP stands for Call For Proposals. It is how conferences look for speakers. You can see some examples in the Technically Speaking archives: