How I find time for indie hacking while having a full time job
A friend recently asked me:
“How do you find time for all your projects while working full time?”
“I don’t, I just complain about not having enough time instead.”
But more seriously, I am working on two products, while having a demanding full time job and doing a lot of sports (7+ training sessions per week).
Ok, I’m in my late twenties and I don’t have kids, but I do have a social life and a spouse that wants to do stuff together. I still don’t have as much time to work on my projects as I would like to, but I think I make the best out of it considering my priorities.
So, what are my tricks?
Setting clear priorities
“Focus is about saying no” - Steve Jobs
More often than not, you can’t find the time to do the things you want to do, because you are doing too many things already.
I could be working on so many projects, doing so many hobbies and learning so many things!
Yes, I definitely suffer from the shiny object syndrome.
I could be making prioritization decisions every day, but then I would probably end up switching my focus a lot and not being focused in the end. Because of that I like to pick the big “rocks” for the quarter: milestones, commitments, themes.
Why quarterly? For some people months, years or decades might be better, but I really like the quarters as they provide a nice balance between short and long term.
Once I set my priorities, I also set “not a priority” for other stuff. That really helps me with finding time as this cuts out a lot of potential ways of spending my time.
For example one of my priorities for this quarter is growing and getting feedback for watchlimits, not launching some new cool project or e.g. exploring a new tech framework.
Keeping work hours within limits
My job could consume all my available time. I have a great job, but I have a vast scope of responsibility and a never ending todo list. If the more urgent stuff is dealt with, there is always lots of important long term stuff and every week brings some new priorities and interruptions. It would never end and to make it even worse there is stuff happening 24/7. When I finish work, people in USA often start their work days, then people in India. It’s always on.
Burnout is a real thing and it often starts with working too much. I get paid for 8 hours so I will be working 8 hours per day and if I feel too tired before 8 hours are up, I will cut the day short.
A person can rationalize staying up late, working over weekends, etc. “No one else can do it”, “I have this important deadline”, but really what’s the worst thing that is going to happen if you don’t finish this thing?
Maybe you will disappoint someone. They will likely understand. Also, you will have to learn how to better plan to be in a situation when you are late less often.
Anticipation & planning help with avoiding all sorts of “OMG, we have to stay late for X” problems.
But a different likely outcome is that people will respect you for having boundaries, and you will be a healthy example for other team mates.
Cutting out the time sinks
Everyone has their own time sinks. For me it used to be video games and watching videos like netflix or youtube.
It’s engaging, it’s enjoyable, but then most of your free time is gone!
Obviously, it’s not always bad, you might decide that those things are really important to you and keep them as your priority. But you might also realize that they prevent you from doing the things you really want to do. Like working on the product on the side or learning skills to change jobs.
These days there are so many great shows to watch on netflix and it’s so easy to binge content. Similarly for youtube, the interesting content is never ending. The algorithm will try to keep you glued to the screen.
What I use day to day is:
- Disabling apps on android (gmail on corporate phone, sometimes chrome on my personal phone)
- Blocksite - I use the free version
- watchlimits extension (that I built myself) - that one specifically help me not to fall into “one more netflix episode trap”.
I also wrote an article with a 3 step framework to find additional time by reexamining your digital habits.
If you cut out your major time sinks out of your life you will find yourself with lots of unoccupied time. For some it might be super boring, for me it feels luxurious.
There is no magic here, but those 3 simple tricks work well for me:
- Setting my priorities clear
- Keeping my work hours capped
- Avoiding excessive time sinks
It’s still hard to work on the products part time and I have more or less productive weeks, but I try to make regular progress.
Feel free to share what works for you! You can follow me on twitter!