I'm Matthew Setter. I'm an experienced software engineer and a security researcher. I’ve been developing software since 2000 and I started this blog to help you write simpler, cleaner, and more secure software, with less effort.
Making Time To Do What You Lovefreelance January 10th, 2017
If there’s something that you really want to do, but you have either so much on, or so many competing priorities, should you let the project go? Or is it still possible to do it? Today, let’s consider this.
If you know me, you’ll know that I can dive into projects with thunderous passion — and that I can abandon them just as quickly. This isn’t a character trait combination which I’m proud of. Matter of fact, it’s something I’ve felt plagued by for as long as I can remember.
Combine that with enthusiasm for so many things and over time I’ve started and stopped a whole range of projects. From what I see, however, I’m not the only one who’s like this. But, that doesn't make it OK.
One of said projects, is my much-loved podcast, Free the Geek. I started it with such passion and excitement, after being inspired by a fellow developer, Paul. M. Jones. I built audio treatment panels, bought a better microphone (and all the accessories), learned the basics of audio engineering — even coded a website for it — all the while finding and talking to guests.
But, unfortunately, like many projects before it, the wheels of excitement and enthusiasm began to wobble. It stumbled and eventually fell (at least for a time). I found myself wondering if it was a mistake to have started it in the first place.
It seemed, I thought if I was honest with myself, that it was just a fun hobby; one that takes a good bit of time and enthusiasm to maintain. Given the amount of freelance work I have on and that I have a young family, I wondered if I could justify it any longer. I wondered where the time would consistently come from. It seemed like it was destined to become another statistic.
But, Something Wouldn’t Let Go of It
I kept thinking about how much I’d learned from all the guests I’d talked to. I kept thinking about how much more I could continue to learn over the next number of years. I saw how impressive a networking opportunity it was.
I began to appreciate that I could build a pretty impressive resource, one that I could look back on in the years to come and be proud of. Around about this time, a relentless set of questions began to gnaw at me:
How much do you want this? Do you want this? Do you appreciate the potential gem you have in your hand here mate?
I thought about this near daily, whether early or late, at work or at play. After a few weeks of this, I decided not to let it go, but to somehow find the time required to make it happen.
No, I didn’t miraculously find the time that I wasn't able to previously. Though, I have started working at 4:30 in the morning and taking modest amounts of time out of my working day to interview guests.
I Also Started Doing Something Counter-intuitive
One of my main arguments against continuing with the podcast was that I have a young family, and as such, don’t have much free time anymore. That’s a valid thing to think, but in every challenge there’s also an opportunity.
Let’s consider this one. Yes, I have less time as I have two children (and a lovely wife). But I’m not at a total loss for available time.
I found that I wasted a good chunk of time on trivial, unimportant things. For example, I found I’d often wander off to make several cups of tea. I checked email, Twitter, and other social media, website statistics — even YouTube videos — semi-regularly throughout the day. I found myself, in Wes Bos’ words, “ramping up” at the start of each work session.
If you’re not familiar with the term, I believe Wes took it from the book Deep Work. Ramping up is doing things which aren’t necessary, but which you tell yourself they are. For example, every time you get to work do you:
- Make a coffee or tea?
- Check emails?
- Check the company blog?
- Go to the toilet?
- Quickly check Twitter (or Facebook, Pinterest, Snapchat, Instagram, Google+)?
What you do is a whole series of what can seem like valid tasks, but are, in reality, just wastes of time. You’re trying to look like you’re working, without actually doing anything of value. So I started cutting all these things out, and just doing work.
Now, while it’s still a new approach, anything I do these days I strongly question its necessity. I don’t “quickly check” anything. I sit down and start working. Yet, all the while, I ask myself:
Am I doing it just to stuff about. Or is it genuinely necessary?
If it’s not needed, I stop as soon as possible — even mid keystroke. Unsurprisingly, I’m not missing these things; no one’s shouting at me and work’s not suffering as a result. In fact, the world goes on, even better than before.
Does All of This Sound Familiar to You?
If so, I want to wind up with a few questions for you.
- Do you have something that you feel passionate about, yet you’re not consistent with it, perhaps because you feel that you can’t justify the time?
- Do you truly want to do it?
- If so, how are you using your time?
- Is it being used effectively?
- Or are you, in fact, throwing so much of it down the drain on pointless, trivial, tasks, by ramping up every day?
If so, start trimming the fat. Then, either feel comfortable after hours indulging your passion or put as much of that regained time into your passion instead. Ultimately, it’s your life, to do with as you will. Just don’t lie to yourself that you have no time - when you more than likely you do.
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