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Make 2020 the year of your programming side hustle

GoDaddy just sent me a notice to renew the domain names I registered right around this time last year. This micro-aggression was an unwanted reality-check and reminded me that the passion project I worked diligently on for two days during last year’s holiday season has sat untouched ever since. I’ve promised the same thing to myself every year for the past 10 years, but since 2020 marks the start of a new decade, this year I’m going to get serious about finally getting my programming side hustle off the ground.

Pretty much every passionate programmer I know has a personal pet project. These side hustles range from authoring a book, writing a software program that will have positive social impacts or developing some slick mobile applet that just might pocket them a handsome retirement nest-egg. But at the same time, every programmer I know is too busy with work, family and life to allocate time to it.

“Family. Religion. Friendship. These are the three demons you must slay if you wish to succeed,” said Montgomery Burns from The Simpsons. It’s sound advice, although perhaps just a little too harsh.

But the fact is, if there is a personal software project that you feel called upon to complete, you’ll need to make some sacrifices elsewhere that will inevitably take time away from both loved ones and life’s leisurely pursuits.

Jordan Peterson, in one of his “12 Rules for Life” lectures, talked about overcoming this time allocation challenge. Although he addressed the topic in the context of authoring his first book, it still rings true for programmers. “You can always not write. It’s not that important that day,” said Peterson in his Being a Victim podcast. “And there might be more pressing concerns. And there probably is. Including people who would just like to have something to do with you for a while or do something nice.”

Often times, success in your personal pursuits often means putting up a proverbial barbed wire fence between you and the people who will vie for your time. And, that means turning away people who have no ulterior motive other than wanting to enjoy your company.

One key I’ve found to find the fortitude to invest your free time into your programming side hustle is to know why you’re pursuing it in the first place. I’ve written down the reasons why my own personal pet project is so important to me, along with the types of regrets I’d feel if it never made it to fruition. Clear objectives are easier to aim at.

It’s human nature to regret the thing we do less than the things we don’t do. A written reminder that articulates why your programming side hustle is worth pursuing invaluable. As Friedrich Nietzsche famously said, “He who has a why can bear almost any how.”

I know I’m not alone in putting a personal project or two on the backburner. But for this new decade, I’m going to do my best to steal some time away from some other leisurely pursuits and instead work towards the goal of making my ephemeral programming side hustle a reality. And I wish for all my fellow programmers out there to care out enough time to do the same. Life is best lived without regrets.

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