Personal projects

I rein in work to about 40-44 hours a week so that it doesn’t run away with me. This gives me some time during evenings and weekends to work on personal projects. It’s a good idea to have clear personal projects in mind so that I don’t end up wasting the time mindlessly.

“Do you want to spend your time productively or unproductively?” I asked J-.

“That’s a leading question,” W- said.

“No, I’m serious about it. Unproductive time is good too, as long as you choose it consciously,” I said.

For example, I spend some time here and there playing LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean. I don’t do it just because I can’t think of anything else to do or I don’t feel like doing anything else. I play because I’m curious about how the game designers have constructed puzzles and all those little secrets that dot the LEGO world. That’s definitely not a project, though.

What are the things I’m working on? Spelling them out will make it easier to pick a task that moves me towards them when I find myself with blocks of time.

Latin: W- and I are slowly working our way through Albert Harkness’ “An Easy Method for Beginners in Latin.” We’re on lesson twenty-ish now. Most people are working off the scanned book in Google’s digitized collection, but because the scans are images instead of text, the file is a little slow and unwieldy. I bought the first edition (it’s now the oldest book I have) and we’re working on digitizing it properly, re-typing it in with all the finicky accents and footnotes. We’re less than a fifth of the way through the book, so there’s plenty of work to do on this front. Goal: Digitize the whole book and answer all the questions.

Gardening: I want to get better at planning and growing the fruits and vegetables we like. That means getting more practice at starting seeds and helping them thrive. Gardening is relaxing, too. Goal: Grow, harvest, and measure the yield this year.

Cooking: Our frozen meals get us through most of the week, but I also cook new things based on what we need to finish in the fridge. For example, today I’d like to do something with the asparagus stock so that it doesn’t go to waste. I’m also picking up the community-supported agriculture box today, so that will give me a new set of challenges. This helps me develop the eminently useful skill of preparing healthy meals. Goal: Experiment with and collect summer recipes, then put together other seasonal notes.

Writing: I enjoy writing. I like reading my archive and remembering the steps. I like practising writing every day as a way to share what I’m learning, and it’s a good way to keep learning about content and style. Goal: Review, rewrite, and compile into an e-book.

Drawing: I’d like to get even better at drawing. It’s fun, and I’m learning how to communicate through it. I want to feel more comfortable using colours and drawing shapes. It’s all about practice. Goal: Draw a graphical review each week for a month.

Photography: It’s good, and we’ve got all this equipment already, so I might as well. ;) Besides, I enjoy taking pictures of the garden. Goal: Post at least one photo a week for a month.

What are you working on?

2011-06-16 Thu 08:25

  • I have many personal projects but my favourite is “Playing Piano”. Instead of aimless fiddling around, I made the commitment to learn pieces properly. I have a weekly piano lesson of 30 minutes, and I aim to practice daily for 30 minutes. I usually miss 2 days a week of practice for a variety of reasons.

    I like to reach “completion” on a piece, by making an audio recording of me playing the piece. I am gradually building up a repertoire even if they are “children’s pieces”, eg Burgmuller’s 25 easy studies, Kabalevsky’s Children’s pieces and RObert Schumann’s easier pieces.

    I don’t like “Easy Arrangements” and prefer to invest the time to play a piece properly.

  • Leandro Fernandes


    Are you not writing a book about emacs anymore?

    I have many personal projects. To finish them I try to split them in very short tasks (that I call micro-task). This avoid procrastination and this avoid me to spend a long time without work in them. When you’re tired. Small tasks of 15 minutes are easier targets than tasks of 30 minutes. So I can keep all the projects flowing.

    PS: Sorry by my bad english

  • Nope, sorry! I passed the project on to Ian Eure, but I don’t think he’s been able to make much progress on it either.

  • Hi Sacha:

    I had a quick tour through some of your recent drawings. You are getting very very good! I’m jealous. What are you currently using, still Autodesk Sketchbook Pro? What would you recommend for a beginner?


  • Connie: Thanks! I’ve been using Autodesk Sketchbook Pro more and more these days. I really like its pen-based interface. When I was starting to draw, though, vector drawing programs like Inkscape were really helpful (still are!) because I could tweak my drawings until they looked more like what I imagined. For example, I could change the slope of a line, or move a corner from side to side until it looked right, or smooth out a curve. Try both styles and see what fits you!

  • Okay, thanks, Sacha!