The Ultimate Productivity Hack: A Love Letter To Side-Projects

A Sob Story: How I’ve Stopped Liking Programming

I’ve started programming when I was 7 years old.
I got hooked instantly and started programming every day.
Then, I had tons of crazy projects that didn’t work, but I had so much fun!
At this point, programming might occupy more than the majority of my skull.

… but here’s the sad part…

… I started working…
… and, what has been my favorite activity had become a terrible chore…
… customers are angry…
… clients want me to work more…
… boss (rightfully) points out that I’m late for the deadline…

… more and more, I associated programming with being overwhelmed and frustration.

I Can’t Take It Anymore!

BUT! No more!

About two weeks ago, I’ve created micro-habits that pushes me to use my programming skills on stuff that I like

  • reading academic literature (Readwise is remarkably good at this)
  • experimenting with new tech
  • writing a WearOS app for Complice

And the results have been outstanding…

IRL example

Week 1 of my new habit

Green: fun side-projects
Red: not fun work
Productive time: 19 hours (13 hours = work)

Week 2

image

Green: fun side-projects
Red: not fun work
Productive time: 25 hours (19 hours = work)

Mechanism of Action

Don’t get me wrong, I was having similar numbers in the past.
However, they were really hard to attain. Every day was a struggle.
Now, I feel more way more inclined to start working (which is 50% of the battle IMO).
I had kind of a block that made me say “oh I should work, but I really don’t want to”

I feel way happier at the end of the week; like I’ve done stuff that will last instead of putting out fires.

With all of that being said, I believe that the easiest possible way to become more productive is to associate work with pleasant intellectual experiences.

TL;DR

If you feel burned out, or that you are burning out…

Make sure to dedicate time to activities that you love!

  • if you are a painter, take some time to paint for fun
  • If you’re a programmer, take some time to do programming for the joy of it
  • If you’re a writer, write a bit of fiction instead of spending all your days writing ad copy

You might find out that your happiness increases with each minute spent on side-projects :slightly_smiling_face:

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I love that you’ve been able to find joy in programming again! It’s so interesting that it’s made it easier for you to do work too. That’s good advice about dedicating time to fun projects.

Do you use the Android Tasker app? It’s one of my sources of fun coding.

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Thanks for chipping in. Indeed, what an irony! I love the Tasker app, that I bought three days ago. I received your message as an email exactly at the moment I was finishing my second NFC + Tasker integration.

So far I’ve built the following:

  • NFC tag when walking out (beeminder)
  • NFC tag for shower
  • NFC tag for brushing my teeth
  • NFC tag for stretches

I’m tempted to put tags outside. Like a tag 1km away from my house.
If I don’t scan it by 12am, I loose.


Do you have examples of workflow that you are implementing in Tasker? I’d love to see what you are up to

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Ha, I love it. You could bury it in a secret spot and tap your phone on the ground to get the +1!

This reminds me that I’ve heard of people treating it as a serious constraint when buying a house or getting an apartment that it be walking distance from work but, importantly, a long enough walk that you’re forced to get a decent number of steps in every day. It kind of boggles my mind that people can, when it’s framed the right way, have so many thousands of dollars of value for certain commitment devices. Think about the massive increase in overall welfare if those people removed the “not too close to the office” constraint and instead beeminded their steps!

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I’ve been developing my Tasks and Scenes for many years, so they’ve become both highly useful and highly complicated. :slight_smile:

Probably my most useful one is a Scene that displays my morning routine. I can (optionally) tap on an entry when I’ve done it and then if I close and reopen the Scene, everything at and above that point are hidden. Also for some items, a tap will cause another task to run, such as starting a Toggl timer (e.g., to track how long I spend on garden work) or submitting data to Beeminder (e.g., for drinking water).

I have a similar Scene for stretches, and tapping on each item will show me instructions, start a timer that ends in a beep, and append the stretch name to a string that is later submitted to Beeminder as the comment for a datapoint.

My most recent Task is something I use as soon as I wake up. It increases the brightness on my phone and starts a 15 minute timer. I have to get out of bed when the timer goes off (otherwise I can’t add +1 to a goal). I’m thinking of changing that so it’s 5 minutes by default but Tasker would automatically add more time if I had gone to bed early the night before (Tasker already knows when I go to bed because I run another Task for dimming my phone screen and setting volumes to zero).

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I might actually do it

Yep… Too bad people don’t know Beeminder.
Evil mondial real estate elites might be trying to hide our existence as we speak.


@alys thanks for the inspiration! I’ll try making a scene for my evening routine. I like the screen dimming, it makes me think of an app that I was using to go to bed that diminished the sound volume of my phone over a given amount of time.

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