Making Time for Pet Projects

Lately I’ve been having a terrible time keeping any type of motivation or focus to work on my pet projects. It’s not a matter of being unable to come up with ideas (at least, not currently), but rather two problems:

  1. Finding the time
  2. Finishing

Ferdy Chistant tackles how to manage pet projects, which seems to really be about how to choose a good pet project in the first place. Essentially, pick something challenging and worth learning that doesn’t already have a solution.

While this isn’t exactly my problem area, it did lead me to another post that includes a section on Time management (scroll down…further). Unsurprisingly, it boils down to “make time,” but there is plenty of other good info in there, too.

The real answer for me came in yet another post by Ferdy titled Use mini tasks to keep your pet project moving. It might seem completely obvious, but reading it from someone else helps validate the idea. While time management is huge, you’ve got to be realistic in breaking off tasks that are both large and small.

Mini tasks that you can complete (one or more of) in an hour are essential. I find that I typically spend a lot of time digging through my TODO list getting reacquainted with the tasks/problems, then spend more time just getting “in the zone” before anything getting anywhere near productivity. I plan to separate my list into big tasks, mini tasks, and categorize as either research tasks, coding tasks, or bugs. Task management software isn’t necessary–an Excel or Google spreadsheet should do the trick.

One thing I would add to Ferdy’s notes is to have a solid description of the bug. Just like at work, the description of a bug or task needs to make as much sense two days later as it does two weeks or months later.

Having this list will (hopefully) also help me prioritize tasks to avoid losing time with “feature creep” that nobody else is there to keep in check. Now, back to the first problem: how to make the time for it?


  1. I’ve found Trello to be extremely helpful in this. It’s flexible and lightweight. It also has an iPhone app that lets me create quick little tasks/reminders when on the bus.


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