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Background: I'm a microsoft DBA/IT type person by day, an iOS and Mac developer by night. I have one app in the App Store and another one in the works. I try to spend as much time as possible working on my two apps, but with a new daughter and other (non computer) hobbies, I find it hard to spend more than a few hours every week programming.

I'm wondering how this compares to other developers. I see a lot of apps out there written by single developers who don't do iOS development as their main job. Are they spending 4 hours a night working on their projects, or do they just plug away for a year or two before releasing anything?

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With a job, a child, (presumably) a wife and other hobbies I think a few hours a week is doing pretty well. I'm in the same situation and I don't think I have more than a few hours a week to myself, and that's in a good week. –  Jon Hopkins Nov 11 '10 at 15:57
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8 Answers

For me it really goes in streaks. I have a lot of hobbies, one of which is extracurricular programming. Like most hobbies, I get into it for a while, then lose interest for a while, then come back to it later when I'm sick of all my other hobbies.

When I'm on a hardcore hacking streak, I'll go a few weeks where I spend 4-5 hours a night and a good portion of my weekends programming just for fun, in addition to the programming I do at work. During these times, programming is constantly on my mind. Then I temporarily burn out and give it a rest for a few months. During this time, I spend some time on another hobby and for a while, and do almost no recreational programming. I maybe spend an hour or two a week on bug fixes for my existing projects.

I find it very hard to just consistently spend a few hours a week because to write really good hobby project code, I need to be thinking about it all the time. On the other hand, such effort is unsustainable in the long run. The result is this extreme bimodality.

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+1 Exactly how it happens for me. –  Ryan Hayes Nov 11 '10 at 15:45
    
Yep, me too. I will have more time now that the side job has wound down. –  Tangurena Nov 11 '10 at 15:48
    
+1 As soon as I started working in programming, my time spent on other projects went down. –  Michael K Nov 11 '10 at 16:29
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Not nearly enough...


Belatedly - its hard to quantify, it can't be a hard number because there are too many other variables but it should be sufficient to have a measurable achievement every week and I'm certainly not doing that.

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Can you quantify that at all, it's not very useful in it's current form. What do you do at the moment and what would be enough? –  Jon Hopkins Nov 11 '10 at 15:58
    
But it's funny :) –  DominicMcDonnell Dec 6 '10 at 1:55
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If I can squeak in 2-3 hours then that is a good week for me. Unfortunately my aspirations require MUCH more time than I can give them currently, due to a number of factors.

Ideally though, I'd be able to take 1-2 evenings a week and spend 4 hours + each time in large chunks. If I know I only have an hour to work, it's hard to get into the 'zone' and get the really hard work done.

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+ agree totally. "aspirations require MUCH more time than I can give them currently" and "it's hard to get into the 'zone'" definitely ring a bell. By the time, you get in the zone, the "go to sleep else you'll crash at office" alarm clock starts ringing. I have to be in my office at 8.30 am and considering a 2 hour commute, it means I have to wake early sigh. –  Mamta Dalal Nov 12 '10 at 7:29
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None

There are a few side projects I'd love to do but honestly, I don't have the time. I'm lucky I have a job that keeps me learning new things regularly or I'd probably never keep up on new technology!

Actually I do have some time to myself, but I prefer to use it to do things other then coding.

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Not enough as I'd like to.

I used to basically spend most of my time doing just that uni. Then when I began to work I was spending most of my evenings and week-ends working on personal projects (some relating to my job to try to improve ways things were done at the office) and to learn new things.

Then I switched to jobs not allowing too much personal development at the office if not relating to their core-products.

Then I met someone.

Then I had a kid.

Guess soon I'll have a garden and that will be the end of it :)

I think there's no "appropriate" number of hours for this, but needless to say that if you want to be and remain an expert at the top of your game in your areas and even in emerging areas, then you need to spend an awful lot of time.

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As much as I can.

Easier said than done, coming from a full time university student. Schoolwork must take priority, of course, but I try to block off a couple of hours every few evenings, and on weekends, to work on one of my numerous projects.

Classes just finished, so I have some more time on my hands, and plan to put it to good use. I'll have to remember to squeeze in some study time for finals!

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I love hacking on code whenever I get a chance. It gives me time to learn new languages and probably newer APIs. My work generally involves working with PHP, but during my free time I build applications with python and enjoy doing them.

I even maintain a list of applications as soon as I get the idea for them and when I find free time I try to build them one by one. I find that programming is probably the only way that I relax or I'm able to empty my mind of emotions.

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It all depends on your goals.

If you want to spend more time with your spouse/kids/family, then you need to put that first. I hope you're aware that the time spent with babies is unlike when they're older/bigger and therefore less dependent, so it's worth treasuring. Once they go to nursery/daycare/school, you have a lot less influence and quality time.

If you've got a great idea for an iOS app that could potentially earn enough to make a difference to your life, that sounds like a candidate for vacation time off work to get it done and perhaps several evenings a week where you negotiate with your spouse that you're left alone to have interrupted project time.

Finding a balance between these is hard, but it can be done. For example, after dropping the kids off and then going to work, do a full day with a short lunch, you could then come back to do evening routine with them. After they're in bed, you could have some time to be able to crack on with various programming projects. Obviously, your wife won't get a whole lot of your attention with this arrangement, so weekends should be reserved for quality family time, and a decent proportion of any money you make on the projects should be spent treating the family.

Whatever you do though, I'd advise against giving up the day job unless your iOS app has paid off the mortgage already and you have a year's worth of savings, as the market is a rapid-moving target.

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Good answer. I'm also looking for answers of the type: "My app is selling 200 times a day and I wrote it in 4 months by working x hours per week" –  kubi Dec 6 '10 at 0:25
    
I'm sure there are some people with great success stories like that - but they won't have time to spend on this site, IMO. –  JBRWilkinson Dec 6 '10 at 17:36
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