I have numerous projects on the go and many more waiting to be started. There are not enough hours in the day to work on everything on my to-do list.
I’m good at finishing projects, it is rare that I start something and do not get it to a useable point (though it can happen). I tend to only start a project when I consider it worthwhile, have a real passion for it or think I will learn something significant from creating it.
To try and manage everything, I loosely group my projects into three groups. These groups are “have to work one,” “have to support” and “want to work on”. I have not been able to think of better names so we will stick with these for now. I use these categories to prioritise my limited development time. All my projects get some development time, but the categories help me decide how much each group gets.
“Have to work on”
My API is the backbone for all the Apps under the Costs to Expect umbrella. The API is the only constant (for now) in the “have to work on” group. The API is continuously reviewed, and I try to spend a reasonable amount of time refactoring and rewriting. Continuously refactoring the API has paid dividends, I rarely find significant issues or bugs. Any section of the API which feel a little “meh” get reworked. When I work on the API, I try to make sure each new release include more tests and I try to improve the documentation.
“Have to support”
“Have to work” on and “have to support” are subtly different. “Have to support” means bug fixes and upgrades. “Have to work on” means bug fixes, refactoring, new tests, and any necessary development. Many of my Apps live in this group, I fix issues as they arrive and try to keep them all running well.
“Want to work on”
My “want to work on” group changes constantly, this is the new and interesting stuff. I’m writing Budget Pro right now; it is a new App for the Costs to Expect service. I am hoping to release the alpha of Budget Pro before the end of June. As soon as a project in this group gets to a “releasable” state, it moves into one of the other two groups.
When projects move between “categories” I find time for the new stuff. I might start something completely new; client work might come in or I decide to go back to one of my other projects.
You might think that over time it is inevitable that the “have to support” group grows too big for one developer to manage. If this happens, I will employ someone to work with me. I have gotten close to needing help a couple of time but so far, I’ve been lucky and always managed. Less active projects naturally get retired, either their times passes, or I’ve moved on.
I love having so many projects on which I can work. I can switch between backend and frontend at will, switch entirely to support or testing or just focus on something new, like C++.