80% of success is showing up
It’s funny how true this quote is.
There are three people that I really admire: _why, Zed Shaw, and Yehuda Katz. And to simplify my tenses a bit, I’ll speak of _why in the present tense. What do these three guys have in common? They all churn out badass software like nobody’s business. _why started so many projects that it just adds to his mythical qualities; Zed has been cranking out software and blogs left and right, and Yehuda’s “I’m quitting Engine Yard” post basically said “I’m pretty much done rebuilding the server side of software in my own image, now it’s time for me to focus on the client side of the equation.” Not with that much hubris, of course, but it’s pretty much true.
Now, I don’t mean to imply that they’ve ‘just shown up,’ but it seems to me that productivity is directly related to just getting started on things. I’ve had people tell me that they think I’m superhumanly productive, which is funny to me: I’m almost constantly fretting about how much time I waste every day. And while I do have a ton of projects, unlike all those guys, I tend to not fully finish them. It’s something that I’ve been trying to work on lately, because I have so many things that I want to accomplish.
For me, the biggest hold on cranking out even more stuff is just simply starting to work. Often, if i slack off for half an hour, I slack off all evening. Now that there’s a TV with Netflix in my house again, it’s difficult to not watch all of the amazing documentaries that are on there. But if I manage to start working on stuff, I find that I keep doing it. It’s like I get to pick one or the other: projects or slacking. I can’t quite seem to do both. And so I’ve been starting some minor experimentation to see if I can’t work on projects more often than not.
One thing that I’ve sort of half-tried is the Pomodoro Technique. It’s pretty sweet: basically, you set a timer for 25 minutes, and start working. You can take a break when it goes off. Surely you can wait to refresh Hacker News for 25 minutes, right? That’s something else I’ve done: on Friday, I put Reddit and HN in my /etc/hosts file. They’re totally blocked, for now. After last week’s situation, I spent waaaay too much freaking time on HN, even for me. I love it, and I’m learning a ton every day, but it’s becoming an issue for my productivity. So it’s gone for a bit. It’s been rough, but I’ve been getting lots done, and I think when I start reading it again, I’ll be able to keep it at reasonable levels.
Anyway, so that’s what I’m doing to keep productive. Anyone else have any thoughts on this? How do you keep working on side projects? What works for you?