There's never going to be time

A few years ago, a silly checkbox animation I made got some attention on Twitter:

tweet text: y'all have so much time on your hands, I desperately want some

Even years later, the comment above stuck with me:

y’all have so much time on your hands, I desperately want some.

They were probably joking, but it couldn’t have been further from the truth.

They didn’t know that I recorded that video at 1:30AM the night before, or that I’d been up that late working on it three nights in a row. They didn’t know that I had a sore throat and knew I needed the rest, but stayed up to work on it anyway. They didn’t see my overflowing email inbox or my Elder’s Quorum interview backlog. They didn’t see the hours I was putting in daily, raising 5 kids and maintaining a 70-yr-old house.

I bring this up, not because I want credit or pity. It’s because I want my future self to remember that I didn’t have time for this but I made it anyway.

In fact, looking back at my other projects, I’ve never had time for any of them:

  • After Dark in CSS: I loved this idea so much that I put my side-business on hold and blocked out a week to work on it. I went to the public library so I could have uninterrupted focus-time to learn about web animations and figure out how to build this.
  • Powerpoint Karaoke: My wife and I worked on this together during our 5th anniversary. We asked my sister-in-law to watch the kids and we spent most of the time building the first version of the website.
  • Bouncy Ball: I set up an unconventional schedule at work, putting in extra hours on Monday-Thursday, so I could have free time to work on this on Fridays. Ultimately, this meant I had to come in early, leave late, take fewer breaks, and work with my clients to get it approved.
  • Music Box Fun: I organized a trip to Recurse Center to build an early version of this. Sparkbox covered part of the cost, but I needed to pay for the remainder myself and use some vacation days in order to stay the whole week.
  • Let’s Get Creative: My wife and kids agreed to cover my outdoor chores for me so I could spend a couple of Saturdays working on this. I ended up taking some vacation days to get it out the door.

Basically, every time I wanted to make something non-trivial, life stood in the way. I’ve had to let house projects languish, retire existing projects (many which still had potential, but were high-maintenance), or interrupt momentum in one area to pursue an opportunity in another.

And while it’s tempting to feel resentful, the truth is that this is just what life looks like when you’re a capable adult. Your time is valuable so it gets put to good use.

There’s never going to be time to build something great, because it’s hard to do great work without giving it your undivided attention, and undividing your attention always has a cost. The trick is to become ok with that.

Note: this post was influenced by Rachel Smith’s “I could spend the rest of my life clearing the decks, if I’m not careful” and “4000 Weeks”, by Oliver Burkeman. Read them both!