People tease me that my hobby is starting user groups. I also organize big events for geeks in my spare time just for fun. I’m one of those people who notices the gaps and jumps in to fill them. When I wish Portland had an event, user group, or other gathering that doesn’t currently exist, I feel compelled to start it. I also enjoy meeting with other people to talk about common interests, learn new things, or help others who need a little guidance (the way others have helped me over the years). All of these activities are amazing and fun, but they are side projects that take up valuable time.
While I enjoy all of these activities, I’m starting to experience serious side project bloat resulting in personal overload. I’ve let my side projects take over to the point that I’m having a hard time making room for my paying client work. Part of my reason for starting my own consulting business was to give me more personal flexibility to manage my work and my side projects rather than having my hours managed by an 8 to 5 work day schedule. I have many other web worker friends who have made similar choices, and most of us seem to struggle with balancing our time between paying work and the side projects that are our passions.
There are a few ways to create a better balance between work and side projects.
A friend of mine recently implemented a “one thing” policy to better manage his time. He only does one non-paying “thing” a day during normal work hours. For example, if he already had coffee with me, he won’t have tacos for lunch with Todd.
I have started combining activities and asking people to join me at events like Beer and Blog if they want to talk to me or chat about side projects. It helps me combine those informal meetings with other events that I am already attending.
I also have started finding co-leads for anything that I decide to start, which helps spread the organizing load a bit. I am also going to start cutting a few things and doing a better job of resisting the urge to start new things along with saying no to more activities.
What are your tips and tricks for managing the balance between side projects, fun activities, and paying gigs?