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Ask HN: How many projects do you work on at a time?
67 points by desertraven 9 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 77 comments
Just wondering how many projects people are working on simultaneously.

Also looking for any insight into your view on this. Are you spread too thin? Do you just have one big project and yearning for more diversity?




Whenever I have more than that I can never get anything off the ground.

I've been working pretty hard on this hardware/software project with my co-founder for the past year. The biggest takeaway is that marketing a product can often be harder than building it. You need to push hard to improve your messaging and hit product market fit, I don't know how I could do that with multiple products at once.

Yes this. Once you've got the product done with some sort of traction next comes the growth. I wouldn't say it's defintely harder but it's defintely no easier. It's like you have to get a series of incredibly difficult stuff done before you see the money roll in

> Sign up for campaign updates or reserve today to save over $100 when we launch.

Wait, this is going to cost significantly more than $100?

I simulate this by charging my phone in a room away from where I am working, but I always find myself needing to get up to perform 2fa.

Too many, such that all of them get neglected xD I'm happier working this way, but if one were to get lucky I'd allocate more effort on it.

[1] https://fdg.gg [2] https://rosetta.cards [3] several other projects not yet public

Yeah, I used to have multiples but realized that ended in nothing. Now I work on one project at a time and basically can either put everything into that one project or move it to the bottom of the list. This keeps me from just switching projects between 2 cool projects.

I have quite a few, though I generally try to make sure they overlap in some regard.

Right now, I have:

1. my YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/iamdavidwparker where I teach programming tutorials.

2. my website for my programming tutorials: https://www.programmingtil.com/

3. my product to help YouTubers/Podcasters with content creation: https://www.useproducer.com/

These three all overlap a good deal. I work on Producer or ProgrammingTIL's website, and I can generally use that code/parts of it for my YouTube videos.

Other ones:

4. https://www.listenaddict.com/ - my covid project last year. More or less automated now.

5. https://www.codenameparker.com/ - my portfolio I just refinished

6. https://www.davidwparker.com/ - my blog which I'm currently redoing in SvelteKit.

edit: formatting

Humans aren’t too good at multitasking. Context switching comes at a huge cost. Therefore I try to work on one project at a time. The problem is to say no to all the other interesting projects that present themselves, seducing with their apparent simplicity, while the project currently worked on is stuck in the thicket of nitty gritty.

The grass is always greener on the other project’s side ;)

I try to stick to one main project (https://issueembed.dev/) but do allow myself to indulge in one or two other ones when I need a break.

I also try to have my environment setup automated and some level of testing so that if I do switch between projects, I am not wasting time on regression or environment setup. This may be best practice but it is very easy to not bother with in a side project.

It used to be a free for all and I'd have a lot of different projects working on at different stages but I'd rarely finish anything or get it to a stage I was happy with. I now just track any other ideas I have in a Trello board and look at it occasionally to get inspiration.

Too many! I get distracted by shiny new ideas all of the time. In the last few months I have gone live with several small apps [1,2], and I have several ideas in the hopper. No shortage of ideas here, let me know if you need one! :)

These are mostly MVPs, that I consider side projects. While jumping from one idea to the other certainly diminishes the likelihood that any one of them gets traction or the marketing and promotion necessary to grow, I also like the idea of putting in effort where I have the most interest at the time and seeing if I get lucky with one of them.

[1] https://howsyourblank.com [2] https://textpost.me

Edit: And just put this one up today: https://leaderboardhq.com

Heh, if I’m being honest zero most of the time.

But recently I’ve had around 6-7 that’s my mind has been bouncing around. Currently, I’m focusing on one of them, but if I get too bored/stuck I may bounce around to work on one or two other ones.

I used to have multiple. Now, I have a list where I write down ideas for new projects, but I try to focus on only one at a time. I found that when I had multiple I never finished them, I was always flitting between them. Having one requires more discipline but is better for me.

I do have a couple of hobbies that I participate in, but I don't consider these projects, since I have no defined goals with them and can take them up at my leisure without feeling like I'm not accomplishing enough.

I used to work on three or four at a time, usually being distrated by a new one as the old one becomes a tiresome grind. It would be one or two serious projects and some floating toy projects (which could be experimental, seeing if something might work). I learned there are certain aspects I like and dislike of the common project process, and as the grind part kicks in my attention would wander elsewhere seeking out what I prefer to be doing. I had to learn to force myself to push through that part of it (which involves a small bit of mental suffering that you just accept as part of it; you have to do this, to get that; accepting that it's a requirement is important to limiting your brain thinking you can avoid aspects you dislike).

Lack of very narrow focus was always a mistake in hindsight. One or two projects is the max now, anything more than that is too much splitting of focus which is a killer. And two projects might almost always be one too many, frankly. It's extraordinarily difficult to build a successful business or project, there is a strong argument that on average to do so will take every bit of focus you have to give and diverting any of that focus to other projects dramatically increases the odds of failure (odds which are already very highly tilted toward failure by default).

I think the people who work more than one personal project are likely to be people with something ADHD, which I have, I work no more than 4 projects -

1. whatever I employed to do 2. Maybe writing an article 3. Longer term writing 4. a side technical project

I find that the longer term writing is something I can do when I am sort of burned out by the other things, it helps give me more energy (even though it uses up my time of course)

It depends what you mean by "at the same time". Perhaps 5-6 different side projects or so are ongoing concurrently, but not all of them are getting worked on at a given point in time. I'd say if I'm making reasonable progress in a week I'm only interacting heavily with 1-2 projects while leaving the others on the backburner. If I didn't have a fulltime job I imagine that number would change to 2-4 projects within a week (rotating projects in chunks of 2 days or so).

I certainly can end up spreading myself too thin on various projects which is why I've found cycling between projects to help. The major risk is that projects languish for months before they get the time needed to get them completed or generally up-to-date. Typically my side-project workload is about half large projects (multi-month 50+hr, typically requiring new tools or learning new skills) and half small (doable within 2 weeks under 10hr). Motivation varies month to month, so the rate of completions has a pretty high variance attached to it.

Overall I tend to yearn for more productive time to apply to projects as there's plenty of possible future projects to work on, but adding them to the queue would be irresponsible unless other projects were completed first.

I also wish I could focus on one thing more. I think most of my ideas are viable, but rarely get the attention I know is necessary for "success." And I often do the irresponsible thing and start new projects.

So many, it's pathetic. I have a projects folder with years' worth of started and aborted efforts. Several game engines. Several HN clones.

At the moment I've got two HN clients in Godot, one in C# and one in GDScript. Started a Starfox clone in Godot because I found a tutorial and always wanted to do a rails shooter, I've been working on a roguelike in C++ for a while now, and when I say "working on a roguelike" I mean "ive rewritten the code for the tilemaps half a dozen times." Lots and lots of support code like a vector math class for SDL because it has a float API now. A half-assed attempt at a simple SDL IMGUI (yes I know one already exists) and I made the mistake of trying to implement the Canvas API in C until I actually saw how complicated it is. I have a twinstick shooter in C++ that has yet to get past basic sprite controls - this is a rebuild of a project that itself was going to be Berzerk but I decided that was too simple.

I have a terminal addiction to starting projects then hating everything I do after I leave them for amonth and burning them all down with fire and starting over.

The only things I've actually managed to finish lately are SDL project templates for CMake and a vector class in C++.

In addition to my full-time job, I work on two projects.

One is already incorporated, but we COVID-19 messed our plans and we needed to go back to square one at the beginning of the year. The workload is divided between 3 people so it's not too bad yet.

Other one is currently me and my co-founder figuring out new product ideas to validate, and moving on to validate those next.

Definitely can get hectic at times but then I just work on less on the project that is not yet gone anywhere.

My preference is to have a main project, and 2 or 3 side projects with relaxed schedules. When I get tired on the main I shift. Usually the main is no fun, but the side ones are, so it takes a bit to shift back during the day. I usually shift back the next morning.

That said the reality is I have like 3 main projects and a solid dozen minor ones. Of the minor ones 3 are fun. Did I mention I hate my job? Will be looking for a new one soon.

Does the job count as a main project?

Sadly that was about my work.

In my day job in corporate R&D about 3 or 4 large development projects (in which I have different roles: system architect, integrator, code monkey, dev ops, a bit of everything) and always a few smaller "incubator" projects. I love to be able to work on various different topics at the same time, and it's a great way to avoid boredom and ensure high productivity by switching projects a couple of times a day (but not too often, of course!).

As far as side projects are concerned, I have 3 major ones that require regular care and about a dozen smaller ones. It's a very similar pattern to my work projects, now that I think about it! I enjoy working on all of them, but here I have more freedoms to leave one project idle for some time, and fully concentrate on one of them. Since all of the side projects are strictly non-commercial, I don't have to worry about what a customer says.

I tend to start new side projects quite regularly and with some pride I can say that I have only abandoned very few of them, most are still (after about 20 years) still alive and in use.

I hate to be idle :-)

Too many!

1. PredictSalary (https://predictsalary.com) A browser extension that can predict the salary range of job opportunities.

2. SwanLove (https://swan.love) A dating web app based on Linkedin profiles. Later, I want to expand to other social medias, such as GitHub, Strava, etc. Then I want to decentralize it so you can install it like GitLab or WordPress.

3. Mamba (https://mamba.black) A blockchain development framework.

4. ParttimeCareers (https://parttime.careers) A part-time remote job boards.

5. Pembangun (https://pembangun.net) A forum for Indonesian indie hackers (inspired by https://www.indiehackers.com/).

In the future, these projects will help each other. PredictSalary can be combined with ParttimeCareers. I already combined SwanLove with Pembangun. You can show your SwanLove account in the user profile in the forum Pembangun to show you are open to dating. This is to show you can add dating to any website while maintaining the main value in the website. Using Mamba, I will turn the forum Pembangun into DAO (Decentralized Autonomous Organization). That's not sci-fi enough for you? I can combine Mamba with SwanLove to create a decentralized dating application! You send "like" to people in a smart contract. You can also create a bounty in a smart contract for people who can introduce a wonderful person to you. :)

How are each of these projects doing? Are they bringing in revenue? I'm no expert but that sounds like a lot for me but hey if it's working out then good for you

> sounds like a lot for me

It does. If you're wondering why I have so many projects, the answer is complicated. One thing leads to another. Basically, I'm throwing many darts and see which one is the most potential. Right now, I don't know for sure. You can say I'm doing breadth-first search. Once I found the winner, I would reduce my involvement on other projects.

> Are they bringing in revenue?

PredictSalary: it got around 600 users. No revenue yet.

SwanLove: the product is still weak. It's still a long way to go. I think it needs investment. I applied to YC with this idea. But I think I failed. :)

Mamba: this is to keep my blockchain programming skills sharp. Right now, the blockchain space is on fire. So I think it's a good idea to have something as portfolio in blockchain. This is an open source project. No revenue.

ParttimeCareers: actually, right now I treat it as a bookmark for part-time jobs. I only update it once per month. No revenue yet.

Pembangun: I launched this forum a couple of days ago. I need to build an audience. You know, someone said that hackers always forgot to build the channel. Hackers only care about developing product. I try to avoid that mistake. No revenue yet.

My ongoing projects include a web app (https://cover.yoga - WIP), a mobile app with a website (https://sheepdiary.com - WIP), another mobile app (https://apps.apple.com/fr/app/beat-yoga/id1505203964 - revamp ongoing, although I forgot to renew the domain name beat.yoga and lost it), and a few non-technical projects (an online business bootstrapping YT channel, i.e. how to do it all yourself without raising money, and a yoga classes YT channel). I also want to start learning ethereum development and build something there. That's in addition to a full-time job. Hard to finish everything, but also hard to just focus on one thing.

Really enjoying this thread, feels like we're a community sharing the same problem.

You can really only be doing one, but I track several and shift attention to one or another as needed, but I try to minimize context switches. They are expensive.

In practice, I track 3 or 4 long term projects, and I'm dealing with 2 or 3 short/medium term ones.

But there's always only one that's the most important at the time. I try to give each at least a day of full attention at a time, and there are some days that are just planning and checking what's going on on the ones I've been ignoring with little progress in a specific project.

The trick is learning to not stress out on what you're not doing. If you're going to be great at something, you need to accept that you'll suck at something else.

You don't need to do everything, prioritize, prioritize, prioritize! Understand what's really important to the company. Failing to do something inconsequential is fine, nobody cares.

One at a time. This year I've boxed the main ones into my quarterly goals. Been a bit postponed so far, but deploying the first of the 4 today. It's easier to focus on only one goal for a short time than trying to work on everything.

The first two are personal projects so won't be sharing them.

I work as a Rails dev for a tiny company (< 20 devs, B2B, different internal apps for companies like a language school, an electricity trader, digital signage agency) and I'm currently the only person responsible for three projects that have all been going on for a year and are all in the "the last 20 % that takes another 80 % of the time" stage.

Yes, I feel like I'm spread too thin. I have to rotate work on all three (or at least two) of the projects every week and every week the clients expect me to deliver new stuff and actual, new, visible functionality.

I am not having a lot of fun and I'm hoping this ends soon.

I'd like to do some something on the side (not really a side project, but maybe a toy macOS app, play with some new technology or finally start a blog), but I'm currently too mentally exhausted.

I find one focus means more impact. I had many projects back when exploring ideas and prototyping, then all my time quickly went into WakaTime [1] for the last ~8 yrs. During that time, I had some small one-off projects [2] but mostly just open source stuff [3] that WakaTime used. Now I'm trying to diversify again with new prototypes for a second large project.

[1] https://wakatime.com/about

[2] https://github.com/alanhamlett/eufy-security-dashboard#readm...

[3] https://pypi.org/project/pur/

I usually have one main big project (currently https://getgumball.com) and a couple of smaller fun ones (currently https://cashbox.gift and http://listorama.io/).

But I have a list of 10+ other projects I'd love to work on that I constantly have to force myself not to. That's really a challenge to keep the focus on 2-3 max, like a lot of other creative people, I'm always tempted to try new ideas and projects, and it can quickly become an issue (never finishing the projects already started).

I work on one project at a time - making it better, implementing one single feature, fixing a bug - then move to the next project.

At any given time I have about five personal projects which I'm kinda working on. For example at the moment most of my energy is being spent writing an adventure game for CP/M. But at the same time I made a couple of changes to my RSS2email project, spent a while updating dependencies on my sysadmin-toolbox project, and later today I'll hack on my emacs init-scripts a little bit.

Outside of my day job I've got the following: 1. Old boat (1993) - which always wants/needs something. Currently about to rebuild the 350 V8 and switch from carb to EFI. 2. House - slowly just remodeling with a mix of my own DIY (framing/finish carpentry) and me contracting certain jobs out (e.g. drywall tape/float). This is a never ending stream of projects. But I do enjoy learning about the various engineering facets of home building. 3. Side-Hustle - been noodling on a speaker idea for the past few years. Almost ready to build a prototype.

4. And then there are my three kids aged 5-9. They take the bulk of my time which honestly I love about 85% of the time!? :)

I have one large, overarching project (https://couchmate.com) that I've had for the past 8 years.

Along the way, I'll take little detours into different projects as an escape from the main one, to keep things fresh, explore new technologies, etc. An example is I needed a better way to manage my Twitter lists, so I built Twitlistr in a week (https://twitlistr.com) to explore Nextjs/Next-Auth/Twitter API/Vercel.

I have a huge backlog (~10) of side-side projects I've started but stopped 30-50% of the way though because I got bored.

couchmate is looking good! Does it generate any revenue?

Nope, not yet. Really early days and working on user acquisition. I just launched it publicly last September.

I swing between some kind of superhuman 'do all the things' productivity freak, and a singularly focused person all the time. When the circumstances are right, I will go full `sprint mode` and achieve a lot in a small amount of time. Other times I am in `marathon mode` where many-littles-make-a-lot and something much more complex is completed.

I have no exact number of projects, since my work is so intertwined with other projects, so the number varies often wildly as time goes on. But if you wanted to force a number out of me I would say 6-7 major projects and many mini sub-projects which get better over time due to gradual microhabits being cultivated over time.

Full time job, and 1 - 2 side projects that never really get finished. My goal is to make something I can eventually turn into my own business, but I found my self encountering two main pieces of conflict: 1. None of the ideas are ever really good enough or directed enough towards a specific niche to be successful, and 2. I find I am usually happier when make myself take breaks instead of working on projects on the evenings and weekends, but I'm not sure how I can eventually have my own business if I don't.

I create my startup Animation CPU and help some projects on the web, gamedev VR/AR, crypto, ML. Here are some links:

https://twitter.com/acpustudio - mobile os and livecoding IDE with new programming language, all images and movies is procedural graphics

https://github.com/web3cryptowallet/Web3CryptoWallet - web3 wallet

Four. Mostly, small ideas that I’m hoping would evolve into something bigger. I do agree thought that it leads to a lack of focus at times.

https://podradio.live https://networkd.eu https://arounda.world https://3by3.app

I've definitely transitioned from being the talent to being the agent. At work, I usually have 3-4 projects that are in my important/urgent quadrant and I spend most of my time making sure other people execute those effectively (on time, on budget , meet spec).

At home with my kids I usually have 4 projects in important / urgent (2 / kid). I'm way more involved in the day to day on these.

Could I do more ? Maybe - especially if I could do something particularly leveraged.

At work?

I try to keep 2-3 going at once. This is mostly because I get bored quickly, and having another project to fall back on is much better than finding something else to goof off on.

In electronics I'm often stuck waiting for a circuit board to be fabricated or something to be assembled/3d printed, so I line up projects and swap between them: as I'm waiting for one board to be finished I write the code for a previously assembled board that's ready for debugging, then when the new board comes in I switch. This has scaled up to 6 projects until I started running into myself.

This system also naturally provides soft deadlines :)

I have multiple parts of my side-business and various hobbies, but I seem to have fallen into the pattern of only focusing on ONE thing.

I only have one goal that my subconscious mind and my energy is focused on. I deal with the other parts if an email comes up or I have an appointment, but outside of that specific time I don't think about it.

This seems pretty limiting, but I notice that this is very strongly my pattern...

I used to start and abandon projects to chase a new shiny idea, and I still do! So I started maintaining a blog, https://makeall.dev/ , it looks like a graveyard of unfinished projects but I'm hoping to improve its quality.

https://histre.com/ is taking up all my attention now and I'm thankful for it. In the past I've often worked on multiple projects. I have all these ideas, so I want to work on them, but that just means I'm not making much progress on any of them.

Hah. Almost every other month, I come up with a brilliant idea and I write it down. Most of them come to me while I am working on my current SAAS business. Don't have time/focus to do any of those but i know almost all of those ideas are problems I would love to solve as I face them already.

Depends entirely on how many things I’m chasing at the time.

Like many people here I’m generally limited to one personal project, but I try to spend part of my workday building tools that help me do my job better/faster, so those count too.

A few at my dayjob and then typically 1 side-project at a time though for a while my main 'side-project'[0] has other people, too and leaves me no extra time for other ones.

0. https://wpnt.org/

2-4. I usually have one ambitious project, and sometimes I’ll pick up smaller projects that are easier to build momentum. If an idea seems like it could take a weekend, then I’ll jump onto it. The danger is typically with scoping.

Two. My day job and https://try.sqljoy.com.

I might switch to a different project now though, I feel that itch again and I'm not sure if there is a market for sqljoy.

I’m confused by this. You created a backend service that runs arbitrary SQL queries from the frontend (presumably with some wrapper that makes it nice to use)?

I don’t think you can compare that to a back-end dev wasting $4900/month on boilerplate code, since they’d be able to set up a similar thing for less.

I agree that it would be nice to use from the frontend though. My hobby projects are much nicer since I figured out that I can use better-sqlite3 and node libraries in a nw.js React app (synchrously!).

> I’m confused by this. You created a backend service that runs arbitrary SQL queries from the frontend (presumably with some wrapper that makes it nice to use)?

Yes. Although carefully controlled, queries are arbitrary when developing, but fixed once deployed. You wouldn't want to let the internet at large query your database anyway they like. It also lets you define and run JavaScript functions on the server.

> I don’t think you can compare that to a back-end dev wasting $4900/month on boilerplate code, since they’d be able to set up a similar thing for less.

Those estimates are broken down on the page there, and based on saving 60 hours a month between boilerplate (crud endpoints) that you don't have write anymore, meetings and bugs avoided syncing between backend and frontend devs.

If you mean to say you can implement such a framework in 60 hours, you're dreaming. I've been building this full time since September, and there's a lot more to do.

> Lightweight: Adds only xxxx kb gzipped to your app

This suspense is killing me. How much does it add??

I haven't measured it, but the client lib is extremely light. Definitely under 10kb compressed, but I wouldn't be surprised if it's much less.

I'm working on three tabletop RPGs, a website for procedural content for RPGs, and a variety of real-world projects around the house.

I never work on more than one at a time - usually I'll spend a week or two tinkering with one before drifting to another one.

I used to work on 2 or 3 at a time but as a challenge for 2021 I've been laser focused on one project and it's paying off.

If you're curious it's https://thumbnail.ai/

You have debugging enabled fyi

> Column 'author' cannot be null

in case it helps, might as well pass on the error I bumped into haha

Just one.

It's too much context-switching otherwise and I end up not finishing anything. Right now, for me, that's https://findgoodplates.com/

I'm getting a 401 when searching for Croatian recipes.

I think it knows I'm actually Serbian

Thanks for pointing that out! There's a known bug where if the DB has less than X recipes for a given filter, it throws a 4xx. One way to fix it is to fix the bug. The alternative is to always have more than X recipes for a filter :D

That depends on the timeframe.

If you take 1 month, that probably would be around 10: 2 major interlinked ones, 2 require support and are not (currently) receiving new major features, and about 5 open source dependencies of the first 4 I had to submit patches to.

Agency life - anywhere between 5 and 50 things from dev, to code review to project managing. Just depends what’s in the pipeline that week.

Takes some practice to be able to flip between different platforms and languages quickly but you get used to it

I'm working on projects for my startup, right now at 3, but trying to focus on one at a time. I have a bad habit of doing this. I actually need a co-founder, but co-founder disagreements seem to break startups quite easily.

One, at this time - https://cinematicstudio.app

When I used to also work as a contractor, I usually juggled 6-7 at a time. Not that funny, but it was a must.

I prefer to focus on one at a time. My current project is a hypervisor that runs containers: https://kwarantine.xyz

Around 6-7 at any given time. When you're at principal level, you're expected to lead a couple and advise on another half-dozen.

And yes, it is _by far_ too much in these times.

I have one, but I split it into sub projects, that way I can move among them and get a bit of variety but still move forward.

Are you asking specifically about things that nobody is paying me to do? (Not at a job, not as a contractor)?

My initial interest was personal projects, then I realised some people may not have time to pursue these. So both!

To quote the great Hank Hill "Don't half ass two things. Whole ass one thing"

For money or side projects?


Ideally one.


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