Lifestyle / Tech

My struggle with making time for open source contributions

Photo by Aron Visuals on Unsplash

As you might already know, I’m a fan and supporter of open source software. One of its largest advantages is that everyone can contribute to said software, so that we “build something great together”.

However, things got a bit out of hand with my contributions to open source. In 2020, I spent 300+ hours on it in my free time. While I learned a lot, got to meet awesome people, and really got things moving in several open source projects, I struggled. Working full-time and doing things like this on the side is challenging to say the least. While burnout is common in open source, I still felt good because I’m passionate about it and “it doesn’t feel like work”. I mean, look at this chart 😃

Contributions to open source projects on GitHub. Source

However, I do need to admit that I’m most productive and happy when I get proper rest as well. Now, I hardly ever sacrifice my sleep, because those 8 hours help a LOT to clear up and refresh my mind. But I also started to notice that I should spend more time off-screen and off-work to clear my head properly. That basically means no computer, no phone, no notifications. Like going for a walk (not listening to podcasts at the same time 😉), going to the gym, kite surfing, etc.

My game plan moving forward

I think it’s obvious by now that I do want to stay active contributing to open source projects. However, it shouldn’t occupy such a large part of my personal life anymore. That’s why I’m now hard-limiting the time I spend on open source to 2 hours per week (details below).

In those hours, I will be doing the following:

  • Replying to questions/comments in issues I reported or Pull Requests I created;
  • Interacting with open source maintainers/contributors through other channels;
  • Working on new/updated code through Pull Requests (with a transparent planning in this GSheet).

This means that my pace of open source contributions will slow down significantly, but become more consistent and reliable over time.

2 hours: the details

So, those 2 hours result in 8 hours per month to open source. I currently can’t commit to more, as I’m working on a new business plan and need to add “offline days” (more on that below) to my schedule to remain happy and productive.

If you want me to spend more time on open source software, please consider donating through GitHub Sponsors. Every $50 in monthly donations will allow me to spend 1 extra hour per month on open source. If there’s a specific open source project you want me to work on, we can certainly discuss that. Feel free to drop me a message so we can talk about the options.

Final words

I’m confident that with these measures, I can get more of a hold on my open source contributions and be more reliable towards others. My public planning document should also be a major help in terms of transparency.

Apart from my open source planning, I’m also introducing the following measures to my personal Quarterly Objectives:

  • Every week, spend at least one day “offline”, no screens involved.
  • Every quarter, spend at least 3 days in a row “resetting my head”. I noticed that this really helps me to zoom out and look at the bigger picture of my personal and business goals.

… this will ensure that I remain focused on my top priorities, both in private life and in business.

Once again, in case you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to reach out!

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