March 23, 2014

A month's evenings

I was a bit restless for the last few months.

During daylight I am working trying to give life to a startup with a couple of colleagues, which is an adventure big enough to keep me entertained. But then, at home, after my son goes to sleep and while my wife works around her professional associations, I sit down and doze for a couple of hours, watching trivial TV programs, or reading something easy under low lights (or on the phone, as I keep moving my library to electronic format).

The thing is, usually when I go as an employee and not a founder, generally I have a couple of side projects to maintain the illusion of having my own adventure. But for some months it sounded as too much to have a second startup after the first one, because, if I have time and energy, shouldn’t I have been putting all the effort in the main one?

Many years ago the answer would have been that yes, I had to put every joule of energy behind the main plan. These days, I realised that at least for me, having a startup is a journey and not a destination, and if I arrive wrecked I will not be able to do it again for a long time. Then, instead of obsessing with one thing, I am trying to keep my mind open to other adventures along the road. Not too big, not too difficult, but still interesting enough to wake up ready to solve new challenges in the morning.

The problem then is to pick something to do, something I find interesting enough to be engaging, and simple enough to be solved in a short time. Being happy with the Pomodoro approach to programming, why not to put a time limit in my side project, and see where am I at the end? I really enjoyed following the progress of 3 weeks to live, even their equally fast death, and wondered if I would be able to do it myself. In fairness we tried, very loosely with a couple of friends to do it, but not having full time dedication proved to be a killer for a team trying to work fast.

Would be different if I work on my own, instead of as part of a group? Have technologies evolved as much as I think, to enable to get professional products with off side dedication? That is what I would like to know, and here is the plan to find out:

  • Every evening, for a month, spend an hour or two implementing some code, or learning a piece of technology, or deploying a service, and see how I feel after it.
  • Before going to sleep, or in the early morning before going to work, spend ten minutes wrapping up here the findings of the evening.
  • At the end of the month, see what happened.

The aim is not to have a commercial product, or to make an open source project, or to master any particular technology. What I want to know is what can I achieve if I systematically spend some time for a short period, without external dependencies and not being limited to the technologies I know by trade.

We will see what happens, and hopefully will have some answers by the 24th of April.