Finding the Time: Perspective

So I'm writing this series of blog posts based on a short talk I gave at C4[3] to people interested in becoming independent Mac/iPhone developers or in improving their practice in that area.

"Someone else" pseudonymously left a comment on the first article, which I think is genuinely important:

"Dont you think that working all day and then getting your kids to bed at 7, and then working till 12 would seem just as futile, to someone other than yourself, as sitting watching the tv or surfing the internet or on a console. Surely a balanced life is the key. I know that what your saying is hypothetical really but it seems a little strange to have an opinion on what people do with their free time espicially if they are not using it to sin. I suppose someone else could put it like this if they wanted "And what did we do with that free time? Well, mostly we spent it reading clay shirky". ps. that wasn't a dig i promise just trying to emphasise the point that we all have opposing views."

Perfectly valid point to make. Perfectly valid. This comment reminds me that I haven't really set the scene for this series. Let me do that now.

I was speaking to people who are or want to be independent software developers. Many of these people are trapped in jobs they don't particularly like because of the inertia of the family-oriented consumer lifestyles we all lead these days.

The first thing you need to understand, coming to this blog out of context, is that I am absolutely not advocating the behaviours I describe as a path to a happy, relaxed, broadly-based lifestyle.

A dinner conversation with Mike Lee brought this home to me. Mike made the observation that software development is quite possibly the psychologically worst job in the developed world. Think about it: long hours, often alone, working on problems of hellish complexity that are probably beyond the capacity of the human mind to solve.

When you've spent ninety hours on a two-character fix, there are two kinds of personality that come through. The first says "That was agonising and pointless", the second says "That was great! What's next?".

Depending on which side of Mike's observation you land on, your response to what I'm writing here is probably similar. Why on earth would you deny yourself TV? Why not play computer games?

The answer, for me, is because I'm compelled elsewhere. I'm a workaholic with a family that I love and what I'm presenting here are some of the tips I've developed to get that work done and spend time with my family.

You're all very welcome to argue that you prefer to do something else with your time, but I strongly argue that you're not going to transition out of your current job and into indie software development without at least some of the focus and sacrifice that I'm writing about here.