How do you find time to work on side project or learn?

almost 7 years ago from , Designer

These days I have a bunch of resources (books, online tutorials, etc.) to read and side project to do but I'm struggling with finding time to slot these in. I usually work 5days/ 10hrs a day at the office (be back home around 7:30ish) and just had a baby daughter 7wks ago. I barely have time to read one article at home. Weekends are just another weekdays, just have different job of nursing baby and taking care of house stuff. So this would be a question especially for parents. How do you find free time in a daily routine?


  • Sacha GreifSacha Greif, almost 7 years ago

    It sounds like you just don't have the time? Maybe the hard truth is that you need to make some changes in your life (get a different job, teach your baby to code HTML) if you want to be able to work on side projects?

    23 points
  • Dave Crow, almost 7 years ago

    I've recently been going through this exact struggle. I'm married, have a 4 year old daughter, and another one due in January. My weekdays and weekends sound very similar to yours.

    The biggest thing that has helped me find time for side projects and learning is communicating with my wife that I need time for those things. She's been really supportive and tries to help me find time to work by letting me "off-the-hook" for some of the household duties. And in turn she lets me know when she needs things from me so I can be sure to make time to get those things done.

    So it's an exercise in keeping the communication flowing. We're not perfect at it, but it's been helpful to realize that's what works for us.

    4 points
  • Kris Kim, almost 7 years ago

    Wow... What a great response. Too bad I can't reply to every comments right now but will make sure to read them all and come up with some great solutions. I knew I'm not the only one with this issue and thought it'll be a great help to see how others are dealing with it. I hope this thread would help those who are in a similar situation. Thanks guys!

    2 points
  • Charlie McCullochCharlie McCulloch, almost 7 years ago

    I have two sons (7 & 3 yrs old). My advice would be to take a break from side projects etc for a while, because there will be plenty of time for that stuff when the "baby years" are over.

    Before you know it, your daughter will be a toddler and you'll have more time for side projects. There's no harm in easing off on the extra-curricular for a while and enjoying things that aren't work!

    2 points
    • Kris Kim, almost 7 years ago

      Couldn't agree more... She's growing so fast too! Like the other guy commented above, I should probably set the priority right before I work out on my time.

      0 points
  • Art VandelayArt Vandelay, almost 7 years ago

    Personally I find 1-hour every morning to read a technical book, watch some videos or work on a side project.

    It's not a lot but it keeps the wheels greased.

    2 points
    • Kris Kim, almost 7 years ago

      Yup, I do it too while I'm in the train to commute (about 50mins). That would be the only time when I can really focus on reading in the weekdays. The caveat is that I can only reading, not doing :(. Maybe it's just me but I find myself not being able to focus in the morning when I'm home and under pressure of going to work on time. ha.

      1 point
      • Drew AlbinsonDrew Albinson, almost 7 years ago

        That's my strategy as well. I set aside at least one hour in the morning (I don't have kids so maybe that's why I can afford it), and then read professional development books/articles during my commute. I agree with Sacha's comment. An old saying is "you don't take time you make time", so if you don't have the time to take, you might need to give something up to make time to learn/work.

        0 points
      • Art VandelayArt Vandelay, almost 7 years ago

        You might be able to pre-download the tut videos and do them on the train? Thats assuming you have a machine to do them on. Otherwise, all I'd suggest is try and make time.

        I know that is really hard but if you really want it you can probably find some time. On the other side of the token, might be worth it to realize priorities are better spent elsewhere right now (family) and focus on that.

        0 points
  • Paul DessertPaul Dessert, almost 7 years ago

    I have two small kids and a full time job. I work from 8 - 5 at my job, then spend time with the family until about 10:00. I work on my own stuff from 10 - my eyes shut.

    One great benefit is that I work from home. So, I'm able to take short breaks and play with my kids during the day.

    2 points
    • Kris Kim, almost 7 years ago

      That's exactly I've been trying but I almost always get distracted by my baby. (Please don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining about it at all. Spending time with my baby is so precious!). Seriously, how could you work home while kids are around? Sounds wonderful though..

      0 points
      • Paul DessertPaul Dessert, almost 7 years ago

        Yeah, at 7 months, it's tougher. Especially if you're the babies' food source ;). It will get easier when he/she is older and starts sleeping through the night.

        My wife tends to get up earlier than I do, so I have that working for me as well. She can get up with the kids and I can sleep a bit longer.

        People always ask how I can work at home with kids in the house. It's actually not a problem for me. I simply close the door and they (usually) know not to bother me when I'm working. I find the isolation harder.

        0 points
        • Kris Kim, almost 7 years ago

          Isolation, yes! I've also set up my desk in the basement but it's only collecting dust now :(. But I know it'll help when things get easier a bit (if any). So I guess i need a scheduled time regularly and be isolated in that time. Thanks Paul for sharing!

          0 points
          • deleted userdeleted user, almost 7 years ago

            To anyone working from the place where loved ones are, I strongly recommend to negotiate your schedule so they know when you cannot be bothered. That is so important!

            0 points
      • James Dinsdale, almost 7 years ago (edited almost 7 years ago )

        I work from home with my girlfriend and my 4-month-old daughter. Communication is definitely the key! She knows when I'm busy and leaves me be. It also helps that she's very active in the mum and baby community here and is out of the house for a few hours each day, so I schedule any heavy work around those times.

        The hardest part is when deadlines are looming and I end up working late; it can be hard to fit that around a bedtime routine. I usually take a couple of hours in the evening to help out with bedtime and have dinner with my partner before going back to work, which has worked out so far.

        Being able to come downstairs for a quick cuddle when I take a break has to be the best job perk I've ever had.

        With regard to side projects, as a freelancer I have a bit more flexibility, so I schedule in time during the working day for side projects as I would any other paid work. If I haven't got time to do that then they don't get worked on, but I've usually managed at least a few hours a week, which is just enough to keep me sane.

        0 points
  • Ricardo MagalhãesRicardo Magalhães, almost 7 years ago

    I'm struggling with this since... I can remember. Especially after moving to London, time simply slips away!

    At the moment, there's about 8 code books that I've bought sitting on the shelf, untouched. About 12 blog tutorials of things to try, and 3 highly unfinished side projects to work on.

    It's not easy... when I have the time to work/learn, I spend 50% of that time simply trying to decide what to do! Should I study? Should I practice? Should I work on a side project?

    I'm trying to fit certain schedules into the calendar, now.

    Mondays, between getting from work and dinner, I'll work on a side project no matter what. That can be 2 hours or 20 minutes, it doesn't matter. It takes decision making away and that's already a step forward.

    While commuting, most mornings will be dedicated to tech reading, and commuting on the way back will be my non fiction books.

    Sunday mornings, I'll watch 1 or 2 videos from one of the online courses I've bought. Of course these schedules are always flexible, but I try not to break these routines as much as possible.

    In one word, yes, definitely routines. But I feel your pain... there's just too much anxiety over this!

    1 point
    • Kris Kim, almost 7 years ago

      'While commuting, most mornings will be dedicated to tech reading, and commuting on the way back will be my non fiction books.'

      That's exactly what I'm doing now too. I try to read non-fiction (sometimes fictional), non- tech-related book as much as possible. It helps me understand people better. After all I design for people, not for the tech itself.

      0 points
  • Caleb FongCaleb Fong, almost 7 years ago

    You might find it benefitial to hear how someone else has made it work (granted the main host doesn't have kids, but his co-host has 5).

    Seanwes Podcast #119 How to get an extra day a week

    Sean and Ben have quite a few good insights into how to improve life with passion and hard work. :)

    0 points
  • Jonathan CutrellJonathan Cutrell, almost 7 years ago

    A couple of answers I've found.

    1. Become a morning person. Sleep about 7.5 hours. If you go to bed at 10:30PM, that means you could be waking up at 6AM. There's at least an hour there.
    2. Charge for your studies. Seriously, build time into projects you are working on for paying clients to learn. Your clients aren't paying you for pixels - they are paying you for your expertise. This is relatively common in industries that involve R&D - people pay for both the R and the D in R&D. Just be honest and up-front with your clients: "Some of the time I bill you for is spent sharpening my skills and researching new, better methods."
    3. If possible, make your side work/hobby make money. Then you have better justification.

    Finding time is usually a failed effort; making time or changing time is the way to find time.

    0 points
  • Louis-André LabadieLouis-André Labadie, almost 7 years ago (edited almost 7 years ago )

    I usually work 5days/ 10hrs a day at the office (be back home around 7:30ish)

    Am I wrong in assuming you live in the United States? If you have to spend 65-70% of your waking hours working, is it a conscious choice or do you just consider it "normal"?

    0 points
    • Kris Kim, almost 7 years ago (edited almost 7 years ago )

      I'm in the united states, yes. A culture in the company has been settled that way and there's not much I can do about it unfortunately :(.

      1 point
  • Mohamed ImranMohamed Imran, almost 7 years ago

    I work 9-6 (always ends up being 7ish or later) during the weekdays. I have a two year old daughter waiting for me back home. My drive back home and to work takes an hour usually. This is when I usually catch up with news. I download podcasts, audio books, youtube videos in mp3 format and listen to them on my commute.

    I schedule two hours every alternate day to work on my side project. (shameless plug here - www.uxhelp.me)

    In the end, I feel it comes down to proper scheduling and communication with the family. My wife knows how much I care about my work and she is very understanding. My daughter however, doesn't like to see me on my laptop when I am home and I do as she demands at times when she needs the attention! :)

    0 points
  • Robbie FarrellRobbie Farrell, almost 7 years ago

    I'm single and don't have kids and I still have the same problem as you. I work 9-5 but have a 1 hour commute to work each way so basically I'm out of the house from 8-6 or a little bit after. I work from home 2 days some weeks but I tend to work slightly longer hour when I'm at home.

    I love going to the gym and do this 2-3 evenings during the week and this takes up 2 hours of my evenings that I do go. Then social time with family or friends takes up 1 whole evening a week usually. Saturday's are spent catching up on chores that have built up over the week and helping out with my dad on the farm and going out with friends that night. Sunday's are spent usually resting and hanging out with family & friends. I do get a few hours over the weekend to work on freelance work though but I'd be lucky to get 6-8 quality hours.

    There's a couple of way I see that you can make free time:

    • Get up 30-60 minutes earlier and read before heading to work
    • Spend the first of last 30-60 minutes in the office reading blogs posts or tutorials
    • Make Saturday or Sunday morning/afternoon a designated learning time so that you can catch up on learning time
    • Cut back on the hours you work in your job, have a chat with your boss to work something out so you work an hour less a day, over the space of 5 days you've an extra 5 hours to yourself over the week

    My favourite way of all though to keep learning and growing in your range of skills is to find a job where you can learn as you work. Find a place where you're surrounded by people who are better than you and can teach you. Do work that you love and will help you to continiously learn and develop your skill set. The biggest chunk of hours you spend while awake is in work so make sure it's time well spent.

    0 points
    • Jerome Arfouche, almost 7 years ago

      Same as you, in the morning I save the most interesting reads to Instapaper to read on the subway (no 3G/wifi) for about 40min each way. I also try not to start too many things at the same time when I know I have limited time, I typically have one or two things going on at a time at most. Weekends are a good time to get more stuff done, but I find I tend to just stay home all day, in the longer run I feel better when I go out and do something unrelated. So far my routine is 1-3 hours, 1-2 times a week, when I have time

      0 points
  • Andreas HAndreas H, almost 7 years ago

    I put time for it into my calender. 2hrs every Thursday morning. Works great.

    0 points
  • Jenni LederJenni Leder, almost 7 years ago

    I don't have a child yet, so I don't have the ability to help you there. But, I do many side projects and the only way I can guarantee I work on it is to make it into a routine.

    Some people get up an extra hour in the mornings (I can't think clearly then, personally). I always work on my projects on Sundays at 5pm. That's what's good for me, of course things come up and I don't always do it EVERY week. BUT having something scheduled on the calendar really helps me make time for these things.

    0 points
    • Kris Kim, almost 7 years ago

      Thanks for replying! Yes having scheduled calendar sounds good way to start. I know something will always come up, but I'll try to work that out.

      0 points