AlexaDev Tuesday: Time Management Tips For Weekend Coders

All of my Alexa skill development work to date has happened on nights and weekends. After over two years of running my Alexa dev game as a side hustle, I’ve got some time management tips for weekend coders that can help make those precious hours more productive and successful.


Overwhelmed Programmer


1. Don’t give the day job short shrift, make sure you get enough sleep.
Your end game may be self-employment as an independent developer, but if you’re subjecting yourself to the day job / side hustle grind, you must really need  that day job. Staying up through the wee hours while you’re in The Zone may seem like it will get you to your ultimate goal more quickly by accelerating more skills through your pipeline, but you don’t want to end up fired or targeted for layoff due to poor performance at the nine to five.

Resist the siren song of The Zone when your time or energy is limited: you won’t do your best work under those circumstances anyway. Personally, I won’t trust myself to work on code-in-progress with anything less than three hours to burn, or when my energy’s already pretty tapped from a full day at work, illness, or heavy physical activity.


2. Do the easy stuff on weeknights.
Eventually you’re going to have to set up your skill in the Developer Console, write up a short and long description for it, create a small and large icon for it, write an Intent Schema and Utterances file for it, and if your code is running from Lambda, set up a placeholder function for it.

These tasks are all time-consuming, but not brain-intensive the way coding is. When you haven’t got enough time to court The Zone but you still want to get something  done, work on these things.


3. Weekends are two days long, not two and a half.
After putting in 40+ hours at the day job, dealing with the commute and day-to-day errands and responsibilities, you’re not in the best possible shape to code. It’s also not realistic to expect never  to take any  time off. Keep your Friday nights free from programmer tasks, and spend them relaxing and getting to bed at a decent hour so you can attack Saturday and Sunday fully rested and focused.

Make it a gaming night, movie night, date night, family night or whatever else floats your boat, but make it part of your weekend coder routine or risk premature burnout.


4. Move around a little.
Sitting more or less motionless (except for keyboarding and mousing) for hour upon hour does nothing to help keep your blood circulating, and since your brain really needs that blood to keep doing its best work, it’s a good idea to get up and walk around or at least stretch every hour or so. Set a timer if you’re likely to forget. Step or stretch in place in front of the computer screen if you’re afraid of losing your train of thought, but get up and move.

Those junctures where you feel stuck and find you’re mentally regrouping are great times to get up and walk around. Sometimes the best thing for becoming un-stuck is a literal  change of scene.


Good luck, and hang in there.