Commitments

I have too many interests. Fiddle. Guitar. Piano. Board games. Reading. Biking. Skiing. Hiking. Jogging. Video games. Generative art. Juggling. Card magic. Web development.

I don’t know if this is a common problem, but I suspect I’m not alone. If I were still childless and single, I might be able to find time to indulge all of these interests. Maybe.

That last one is the real problem, though: web development. Because that’s also my job. I’m lucky to be interested in something that led me to a relatively lucrative career. But it’s a double-edged sword. Because I get ideas for side projects, and then I want to spend some of my free time doing basically the same thing I do for work. Which usually means I’m not practicing my fiddle, or reading an interesting book.[1]

There’s nothing necessarily wrong with side projects. I’m not here to judge how people spend their time. In fact, this isn’t even about me taking on too many side projects, because I don’t.

This is about how I get an idea for a side project, and it just hangs around in my brain, even though I’m not working on it, and I probably won’t ever work on it. But it’s there, in my brain. It weighs on me like a commitment, even though I haven’t committed to it. And it will never go away, because I’m not actually working on it.

In theory, this is why I keep a list of “someday” projects.[2] In theory, an idea for a project pops into my head and I write it down so that I don’t have to keep thinking about it. But in practice, I do keep thinking about it because it interests me. At a certain point, I’m supposed to look at my list of someday projects and recognize the ones that I’m not going to do and remove them. But usually they linger on that list much longer than I should let them.

I’d like to get better about letting these ideas go. Letting them go when I write them down. Striking them from my someday list when it becomes clear I’m not interested enough to actually start.

My hope is that if I can stop carrying these pseudo-commitments around in my brain[3] I will have more space in my life to read more, or play games with friends. If I can let these project ideas go, then I won’t think of my weekends in terms of when I’ll have time to sit at my computer to work on something. Planning get-togethers with friends won’t feel like it’s taking away from time to work on something.

Perhaps even some of the interests I listed at the start of this fall into the category of someday projects. Maybe I need to let go of some of those hobbies to make a little more room in my head, too.

It’s like Dieter Rams said: “Less, but better.”

Maybe a meditation practice would help. I guess that’d be another interest I could add to the list…


  1. The other culprit is, of course, TV. ↩︎

  2. Something I learned from Getting Things Done. ↩︎

  3. And spend less time watching TV. Maybe it’s time to cancel some streaming services… ↩︎