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First off, I just wanted to mention that I did do a bit of research on previous questions, but they don't seem to fully fit my particular problem. Although, I did learn something interesting from the following.

How to manage multiple simultaneous private projects?

I have a seemingly exponential growth in accumulation of projects and goals going on as time increases, and they all have potential to be great, successful accomplishments given a sufficient amount of time, work and energy.

I would also like to note that I am working as a full time computer programmer on cloud systems. This is already 40 hours a week less that I have to work in my spare time. Do keep in mind, sometimes the coding projects and my personal research and development are topologically ordered so that sometimes I need to do research, then I'll do some pragmatic coding, and then go back to coding, etc.

Personal Coding Projects

  • I have partially built a website with an auction mechanism, which is fully functional. I just need to add the ecommerce credit card handling, but I have never worked on that particular mechanism before, which may be why I slowed down on it. I'm currently using Apache PHP and Mysql, but I was considering porting it all over to using Java servlets.

  • Working with inverted index Lucene to do a particular type of full text searching. This one also requires research.

  • Finite State Transducer in OCaml. I'm working on this as a proof of concept of lexical parsing, which is part of my Natural Language Processing research.

  • More Accumulating, such as creating tools that will generate code for me that will make me more efficient. I also want to do some projects with Artificial Intelligence, Neural Networking.

Other Personal projects (Not Coding)

  • I would like to sell answers to exercises that I solve in books.

  • Start back up a blog

Self Teaching Goals

  • Review Advanced Calculus from College (e.g. Real Analysis - Multi-variable) I have made it to 3.3 sofar.

  • Review Algorithms from College, which is two books one is (Algorithm Design by Jon Kleinberg and Eva Tardos) the other is (Intro. to Algorithms MIT Press). I would personally like to do All the exercies in the former book.

  • Review Abstract Algebra from College.

Personal Research and Development

  • Natural Language Processing and Semantic Analysis as well as Corpus Creation and Natural Language Generation.
  • Complexity Theory in particular the P = NP or P != NP Problem
  • Network Security Research
  • Programming Language Security Research

Books I am currently reading

I am currently in the middle of reading at least 20 books, and of course, my goal is to finish them all. Here is a sample.

  • Multi-dimensional and Spatial Data Structures by Hanan Samet.
  • Handbook of Natural Language Processing edited by Nitin Indurkhya and Fred J Damerau
  • The Critique of Pure Reason by Immanuel Kant
  • A Mathematical Introduction to Logic by Herbert Enderton
  • Contemporary Abstract Algebra by Joseph Gallian
  • Patent Searching Tools and Techniques Edited by David Hunt, Long Nguyen & Matthew Rodgers
  • etcetera

It seems that every day there is more stuff that I need to do, learn, research. There just doesn't seem to be enough hours in a day. Sometimes I don't sleep, but I usually get 5-8 hours so don't worry to much. Any help, advice, wisdom is greatly appreciated. Thanks!

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3 Answers 3

up vote 11 down vote accepted

TL;DR

  • Pick 5 books.
  • Shelf the rest.
  • Pick 2 Projects
  • Shelf the rest.
  • Pick one knowledge area until you are skilled enough to be able to answer the majority of questions on SE.
  • Shelf the rest until that moment comes.

Steve Jobs famously said (likely paraphrased from elsewhere0 that the most effective people know which projects to set aside.

I am similar you yourself in that I maintain numerous (20+) personal and work projects at any one time and I used to bask in the awed admiration of colleagues and family who would explain where do you find the time?

The truth is; you are not finding the time. You are ruining all of those projects since you cannot do any of them well as did I. Websites and blog half-finished with no optimisation or poor configuration; books not enjoyed due to skipping, rushing or the time they took to complete.

This is a question of prioritisation. You must pick the items on your list that you feel most compelled to complete. I recently dropped a TEDx conference I was organising and two books I had half-authored to focus on greater productivity at work and more time as a father.

Guess what; those projects will still be there waiting for me in 2015 or 2016 or 2020.

I could suggest a number of tools for you to manage your Portfolio of Projects but they would be useless since you don't physically have the time to read 20 books, research those subjects and create effective sites.

Consider this cold, hard fact - even if you dedicated 15 mins per book you would need 300 minutes per day purely just to advance 1/2 a chapter in each. That is 5 hours per day to advance a fraction of the way through each book.

If you devoted 5 hours per week (still rare for most people) then you will finish your 20 books in approximately 9-15 months from now (without adding any other titles or collecting any other reading material.

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I think your first step should be to prioritize those goals. That's a lot to have in your head at one point. The more you are doing at the same time, the more "state" has to stay in your head. Which makes it harder to get moving on it.

For example, you are in the middle of at least 20 books. Pick a couple and FINISH them. Then move on to the next book. I am usually reading two books at any given time - one fiction and one non-fiction. This lets you get moving faster.

Think about why you want to do all those projects. That will help with the prioritizing. You probably won't get to them all. Think about what you'd rather COMPLETE rather thna merely "make progress" on.

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I use GTD, so I have a

"Someday / Maybe" list

Take a look at your projects list, so put all your coding projects, cashflow ideas, and personal improvement goals on one list. Now as you look at that list, decide what you want to put on hold, and move them to your Someday/Maybe list. The rest stay on your Projects list. These will be your focus.

A "Someday/Maybe" list could also be titled "Backburner" or "On Hold"

For your reading materials find a separate spot on your bookshelf for a "reading queue", and select a few for your Read/Review pile.

A Someday/Maybe list is not static. It needs to become apart of your review process, looked at and reviewed just as often as your Projects and Actions lists. It is unwise to focus solely on 1 or 2 projects and ignore the rest.

Priorities, situations, and opportunities fluctuate all the time. You may have to move something off the Someday/Maybe list and into action before active projects are finished, shelf something you're working on because your interest has declined, or deal with the unexpected new opportunity.

These things are in flow, so you must review and update your lists freely. They are your roadmap

Other things you can put on a Someday/Maybe list:

  • Skills to learn
  • Hobbies
  • Creative expressions to explore
  • Gear(!) to acquire
  • Things to build for your home
  • Organizations to join
  • Trips to take

You may have start creating categories for your "list" after a while. It may become your favorite thing to explore, review, and update.

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+1 IT Bear. Here's a link to the GTD book thingsweuse.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/blog-post.html –  Confused Aug 23 at 14:49

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