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Personal Development: To Do

On Hacker News, ambition posted a to-do list inspired by / taken from this excellent bit of advice from Chris Wanstrath. Which got me thinking about what I want to work on and with in my spare time.

I've been meaning to organise my side-projects better. Like everyone else, I have lots of ideas and little time to make anything of them. I have a folder packed with projects at 95% completion, sitting there unloved because I got distracted, or found something better to use.

The problem with that is that taking projects to 95% is ultimately demotivating. It breeds guilt, and that's not helpful. And a project at 95% doesn't pay you back for the time you put in to it. You eventually need to release something if you don't want to end up looking back and seeing missed opportunities and wasted time.

In addition to a collection of projects on the go and ideas, there are technical skills I want to develop. I'm learning Python, and Linux server administration. I'm interested in looking into Objective-C and Cocoa. jQuery is great but I need more time with it. My "Dave! Play with PostgreSQL!" post-it is faded it's been on my wall for so long. And I need to stay sharp with the languages and technologies I use day-to-day.

Some fat needs to be trimmed.

I need to leave time for new things, too. Stuff I've not heard of yet. I'm always going to be distracted by shiny new technology. I think that's a good thing. But I want time to experiment and to tinker. If I earmark all my time for projects, I'm not going to suddenly lose interest in web technologies and tools. No, I'd start cutting into time I've promised to other things. Voila - the guilt's back and the schedule's shot. Back to square one.

So I've spent some time thinking about what I really want to get out of the time I spend on personal projects, and come up with a to-do list. I expect this to change over time, and while I don't expect for a second that you, the reader, will have the same goals or that this list itself will be useful to you, I hope if you're in a similar position it helps you to get a handle on things and get back to spending your time doing what you enjoy.

  • Keep on blogging!
  • Keep on making cheat sheets!
  • Move AddedBytes (set up server).
  • Thin out project folder and pick 2 to work on until finished.
  • Write a web service.
  • Write SVN Statistics app in Python (learn Python).
  • Rewrite site management VB app in Python (learn Python).
  • Learn Objective-C and Cocoa by writing a Useful Small Mac App (decide on what app!).
  • Learn a new PHP framework.
  • Get involved in an open source project.
  • Update and release more code from under open source license.

That should keep me going for a while. Next, I need to flesh out some of those ideas and work out how much time I can put into them.