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Making time for your project


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My presentation to the Release Notes conference on productivity and time management for indie developers.

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Making time for your project

  1. 1. Release Notes Making time for your project leaving time for you
  2. 2. Rachel Andrew @rachelandrew
  3. 3. My job 4 Operations 4 Filling in baffling forms from the government 4 Marketing 4 Website copy 4 Front-end development for our sites 4 Working with accountants and bookkeepers 4 more forms from the government
  4. 4. I also … 4 research and teach emerging CSS 4 speak at 30 or so conferences a year 4 write books, regular columns, magazine articles 4 make the dinner, be a mother, try to stop the house turning into something from an episode of Hoarders 4 train for and run half & full marathons
  5. 5. I know something about time management
  6. 6. “Goals are dreams with deadlines” 1 Diana Scharf Hunt
  7. 7. “One worthwhile task carried to a successful conclusion is worth half-a- hundred half-finished tasks.” 1 Malcolm S. Forbes
  8. 8. Start with something small It will show you how to ship.
  9. 9. Making time
  10. 10. “Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson and Albert Einstein” 1 Life’s Little Instruction Book, compiled by H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
  11. 11. “In truth, people can generally make time for what they choose to do; it is not really the time but the will that is lacking.” 1 Sir John Lubbock
  12. 12. Make your project a first class citizen Don't treat it like a hobby.
  13. 13. Try to schedule a regular slot Plan in advance the things you will be doing when you next get to work on the project.
  14. 14. Use your down time wisely What can you do while ... 4 waiting for a train 4 on an airplane 4 commuting to a day job 4 waiting for children to finish sport or dance practice
  15. 15. “It has been my observation that most people get ahead during the time that others waste.” 1 Henry Ford
  16. 16. Always be ready to jump into your project
  17. 17. If you are an employee Be very careful not to mix work and your own product. Even work done in your own time and at home can sometimes be claimed to belong to your employer. Check your contract.
  18. 18. Organise tasks by where they can be completed or the state of mind you need for them 4 at my desk 4 offline 4 to listen to (podcasts etc.) 4 needs focus 4 tired/distracted
  19. 19. Always be ready to work offline Store the things you need along with the to do item
  20. 20. Optimise for your situation Productivity tips are often situation- specific.
  21. 21. Optimise your environment How quickly can you switch into your project?
  22. 22. Say No To things that won't help you meet your goal.
  23. 23. Beware the entreporn You can do a lot of reading that feels like it is work, but is really just indulging success fantasies. Look for reading and listening material that is ... 4 actionable 4 relevant to your stage of business 4 relevant to the type of market you are in
  24. 24. Follow people who are good filter of information Find people who are a step ahead of you in a relevant type of business on Twitter, or who curate email newsletters of information. Use them as a filter for material.
  25. 25. Saying no to family and friends
  26. 26. Sharing your goal Help those you care for feel part of your progress
  27. 27. A realistic schedule Helps your family see there is an end in sight They might even help keep you accountable!
  28. 28. Schedules & Lists
  29. 29. You need a to do list 4 gives you somewhere to put things you need to remember 4 helps you see progress 4 keeps you honest in regards to getting the most important things done 4 means you can pick up quickly in downtime.
  30. 30. “In a nutshell, the idea is to start with the end-goal in mind, then divide it into smaller and smaller increments.  Plan all of the actions in detail beforehand, then get to work.” 1 Brian Casel,The CascadingTo Do List
  31. 31. What is needed to ship your product? Decide on a launch date then outline everything you can think of: 4 research 4 development 4 documentation 4 pre-launch marketing
  32. 32. Break it down into monthly sections If your launch date is 6 months away create six lists
  33. 33. As you work, create two week sprints 4 What do I need to do this week, and what is coming up next week. 4 Don't forget to plan in time for other stuff
  34. 34. Each day you are working on the project 4 create a 24 hour to do list 4 this should contain the actionable things to do today 4 each will move you towards completing this sprint
  35. 35. I don't know how long anything will take! You need to accept a level of inaccuracy in your schedule. That doesn't mean it is pointless.
  36. 36. Why are time estimates important? Even if you mostly work alone schedules and time estimates are valuable, they mean you can ... 4 pre-announce a product or feature 4 work more effectively with others 4 understand what things are coming up that need preparation in advance
  37. 37. Work more effectively with other people. Hire freelancers in good time, help others on your team plan their workload
  38. 38. Booking launch advertising Take advantage of an industry event or conference
  39. 39. Help your family stay on board Let them see that the end is nigh!
  40. 40. Keep motivated as you progress towards an end date Picking away at something with no end date is a rapid route to never launch
  41. 41. Most people are terrible at estimating time 4 we tend to be over-optimistic 4 we want to please the person asking 4 we want to encourage ourselves that it “won’t take long” 4 we forget to factor in everything else in our lives
  42. 42. You can improve your time estimation skills Even when faced with things you have not done before
  43. 43. Find out how long things really take 4 estimate how long a task will take 4 track how long it really takes 4 compare reality against your estimate
  44. 44. Using the Pomodoro Technique to find out how bad you really are at estimating 1. Decide what you need to do today 2. Assign a number of “pomodoros” to each task
  45. 45. Do the work 1. Log how many pomodoros it really takes to do the work 2. Log any time spent not on the defined tasks 3. Do this for a week 4. See the patterns that emerge.
  46. 46. This technique gives you an understanding of where you estimate poorly
  47. 47. Don’t allow the fact that unexpected things happen make you feel that there is no point estimating time.
  48. 48. When the scope is overwhelming
  49. 49. You have too much to do You can: 4 extend the completion date 4 remove features, tighten the scope of the product
  50. 50. “The longer it takes to develop, the less likely it is to launch.” 1 Jason Fried, Basecamp
  51. 51. Ship something small Test the water. Is this a problem people will pay to have solved?
  52. 52. What can be pushed to post-launch?
  53. 53. Identify the one problem your product solves Solve that problem in the simplest possible way
  54. 54. The problem we solved 4 A web designer build a ‘static’ (html and css) site for a client 4 At the last minute the client wanted to be able to edit the site themselves 4 Perch v1 was a simple, drop-in editor for those situations
  55. 55. We left out 4 image resizing 4 new page creation 4 a developer API 4 … and much more
  56. 56. The missing elements will seem like a big deal to you. If you solve the problem you state to solve, that is enough to start with.
  57. 57. A presentation tool where I can’t design my own theme?
  58. 58. Launch and Beyond How to manage a growing product
  59. 59. “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” 1 Winston Churchill
  60. 60. Our timeline for Perch 4 We launched Perch at the end of May 2009 4 At launch we were still 100% booked out on client projects 4 Income from Perch was initially reinvested into Perch 4 January 2013 we made the decision to stop taking on new client work
  61. 61. A product should be given more time as it represents a higher % of your income.
  62. 62. Never promise a specific timeframe to customers
  63. 63. If your product is a side project there are many reasons you might need to delay a feature
  64. 64. We don’t publish our roadmap 4 It allows us to be flexible and react to customer needs and changing trends in web design. 4 It means that customers are not relying on the launch of feature X in order to complete a project. 4 It means that we can hold back a feature until we are absolutely sure it won’t cause anyone a problem.
  65. 65. Collect Use Cases not Feature Requests
  66. 66. Find general solutions that will benefit many customers rather than adding very specific features
  67. 67. Understanding the problem means we can help the customer now and optimize the solution later.
  68. 68. Delight customers by solving their problems and letting them know when you have done so
  69. 69. Make frequent, small releases
  70. 70. Protect the Core Use Case
  71. 71. Products benefit from clarity of purpose and ownership Don’t be afraid to say no
  72. 72. Don’t be led by a noisy minority How many people need that feature?
  73. 73. The happy majority are often silent Make sure you don’t bias development towards one or two noisy people!
  74. 74. Remember to enjoy the journey
  75. 75. “The worst days of those who enjoy what they do are better than the best days of those who don’t.” 1 Jim Rohn
  76. 76. Thank you! Slides & Links: I’m @rachelandrew Photo credits (CreativeCommons): - - - - - -