Nicolas Alpi, Web developer

A blog about productivity, startups and me.

How to Be Productive on Spare Time

Last Sunday I was working on my current personal project, when, during a tea break, I thought about “how to be productive on your personal projects”.

Problematic :

We all have a life (I hope for you), and we all need asocial life. But as a web developer, you also have some dreams and some personal “killer web application who are going to control the world” …

But you have also a day job, which allows you to pay for noodles, skate board, geek gadgets, beers … whatever you want.

Some of you have a partner, as myself (and she is a source of inspiration with some very good ideas) and others have a whole family.

You may also have some extra activities … (running, skate, beer … see point 2 ;))
So, how to be productive in this 3 lives a day …?

I try to be well organize, and to have a good balance between work, rest and entertainment.

Save some time :

My day job (this one which pays for noodles) is to develop and imagine the future interface of HP data storage products end user interface.

So I’m on my computer(s) all the day, and I can take some breaks to search for information I know I’ll need for the development process, I can Google for plugins or problems solving, and finally I can take some time for design inspiration or development monitoring.

Doing this during my day job time, can help me save up to 5 hours a week, and helps me focus on the development part when the coding night comes.

More free time :

Sometimes, when we come back home, my peanut needs some time for her … but it’s never too long.
I try to use this free time to do some express work like HTML/CSS or plugins install/quick test, blog entries.

In fact, I do all the things I know I can stop in the middle and come back on later.

Using this free time, helps me save up to 4 hours a week.

The development part :

Coding and testing is the biggest part of the application development process.

I try to spend 2 nights in the week and 1 day in the week end at coding.

And because I’ve used all the spare time to do the research, to think about how to solve problems and to scaffold the design part of the pages I’ll be working on, I’m very productive during these working sessions.

And to be more productive, I close my Gmail/GTalk, as well as my Twitter and anything that can disturb me. I only keep music, code editors and some pdf open.

*The pros :
Using this organisation let me have some time with my peanut for discovering England, cooking, watching films, whatever we want, because I can keep 2 or 3 nigths a week and 1 week end day with her.

I have time to do sport and have some fresh air.

During my day work time and my personal work time I’m very productive. That’s because I avoid mixing them.

The cons :

Even if this organization seems to work quite well, there are some cons :

  1. If you make the addition of all the working hours, you’ll have up to 25 hours dedicated to your application, with ‘only’ 15 hours a week for the real development.
  2. When you have a coding problem, you know this
    kind of little bugs that can take hours to be solved, it’s like if
    you’ve lost a week of work.
  3. You need to have a solid idea of what you have
    to do every day, and be well organised in your development process
    between test, development and design.
  4. You need to wake up in the morning after the night work day … :(

What about you ? What’s your organization method to work on personnal project ?