Twelve-Percent Time Monday, Jun 14 2010 

Twelve-Percent Time
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Twelve-Percent Time


When describing my various projects to others I’m often asked “how do you have time to do all…this?”.  In the past I wasn’t sure myself, so I struggled to answer the question and usually said something to the tune of “stop sleeping” or some such nonsense.


When I decided to start developing iPhone applications I knew that I would need to dedicate time to the learning process, so I blocked out the hours from 9:00PM to 12:00AM each night; this gave me 21 hours a week, or a little more than a part-time-job worth of time to learn how to write code for the iPhone.


This worked so well that after completing my first app, I continued to keep this schedule and develop additional applications.


I got so used to having this block of time allocated that when the time came and my iPhone projects wound down, I felt like I had “extra” time to take on something new.  It was at this time, when I went into Google Calendar to change the description of the appointment from “iPhone Dev” to just “Dev” that It occurred to me: this is the personal-life-equivalent Google’s “20% Time” policy[1]


In a nutshell, Google employees are encouraged to spend up to 20% of their work week working on their own personal projects, outside of their regularly schedule tasks.  Ever since I’d heard of this policy I’ve tried to encourage my employers to adopt it, but so far I haven’t had any luck. 


…however it never occurred to me though to apply it to my personal schedule…


This all seems obvious in retrospect (as most things do), but it wasn’t until I literally put the appointment in my schedule (and stuck to the schedule) for a month or so that I myself adjusted to this pattern; at that point it was harder to stop than to keep going.


So if you find yourself wanting to work on a project but seem to never have enough time, my suggestion is to set a schedule and stick to it.  If you don’t know how long the project will take, just find a slice of time, even just an hour a week but schedule it as a repeating appointment and if you find yourself not needing the slot, spin up another project to fill it.

[1]Not exactly 20% in my case (more like 12%), but you get the idea

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Download now or watch on posterous

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