I Shall Master Time

Yet Another New Year Recap

Such posture

2015 marked the end of a transition for me from hobbyist programmer to professional software developer. If you jumped back in time to tell this Space Krispies dude that in the future he’d be making a living alongside people with actual computer science degrees, he’d laugh… sure.

Fast forward to 2007: I’m in finance and balling on no budget after finishing my biz degree. Still then, I would have laughed.

2010 was the start of that transition. For 4 years I dabbled on startup ideas and consulting, intermittently finding ways to pay myself. It was refreshing to focus on a hobby full time and actually have the time to pursue some interesting tech. I couldn’t see doing anything else. Still, imposter syndrome… yada yada… “you’re still a noob”.

Working in a team environment, getting feedback from your peers and being able to hold reasonably intelligent conversations with smarter people than you are the best ways to truly break through self doubt.

And look at my Github!

OK, so, I’m not sure why I vanished in April but the point is I’m doing stuff with code, right?

I love charts and quantifiable things, but the one big takeaway on 2015 as a pro dev is the huge amount of “soft skills” it takes to be successful. Project planning and estimation is hard and every sprint hasn’t been perfect. So, 2016 is the year I’ll become the master of time.

When I started at TWG and was told to track my hours I groaned and hissed. So, obviously I wrote an app to make time tracking all smiles and called it Storytime (it’s a scrum pun, yo).

Now that it’s a small part of my routine, I got a little OCD and tracked all my time at the computer:

Assuming “trackable time” is the roughly 80% of the year I had the app for, minus roughly 8 hours for sleep, I managed to track 40% of my waking hours. PRETTY GOOD, if I assume the other half of the time is spent doing less interesting things like having a social life, watching Netflix, curling, drinking beer, procrastinating, and eating food (in that order). So, 40% makes sense. I’d be scared if it got too close to 50%.

What interested me is how much time I was able to squeeze in for side projects. My Ideas list keeps growing and the old consulting clients keep calling, so it’s important I optimize time.

Seeing the same chart above coloured by project is interesting:

You can clearly see the three projects I worked on this year at TWG, and the amount of time I was able to find to tackle side projects on evenings, weekends and vacations.

On average:

  • 1 hour / day for side projects
  • 7 hours / day for full time work

There were outliers (17 hours was the longest day), and since the app groups by day it doesn’t count all nighters (I’m a bit of a night owl).

Generally, this tells me:

  • Don’t take work home; the average time I spent on side projects was the same weekdays vs. weekends, whereas it was 7 hours vs. 5 hours (!!) for the former
  • Make more time for volunteer work; I’m a director of a non-profit and it only received a couple days worth of my time this year — it needs much more
  • Spend more time planning; on side projects especially (perhaps since I have limited time for them), I don’t spend enough time planning before I dive into a project
  • Mind your business; much like my consulting business, I leave no time for dealing with finances and generally checking in with clients / business partners — too much of my time is spent building stuff!

The Part Where I Master Time

Ideally, I’d be able to track the hours I spend away from the computer to see if I can optimize for things like health and being friendly to people. I’m hoping to work on frictionless ways to do so as I keep rebalancing my life. BEEP BOOP.

The other part of this is building tools and a routine in regularly assessing time management. Not only is this important from a bird’s eye view like this, but on a project level; it’s useful to understand where I’ve been if I want to be better estimating the path ahead.

If you’re interested in hacking your hours, these are the tools I used: