Why Self Directed Time is Important

Sometimes I love programming, sometimes I don’t.  Recently the importance of pursuing personal projects that you have a passion for has been re-enforced.

I enjoy a simple web game called “Canvas Rider“.  I’ve always wanted to make a cool track for the game, but the editor for the track is not very friendly.  Even making simple shapes takes a lot of work.  So I decided to try to write a converter that would convert files generated in InkScape to work with Canvas Rider.  While doing this I needed a better way to search through parsed xml in php and came across QueryPath (a jQuery like tool for php).

Once I became familiar with QueryPath (which I was highly motivated to do because of the personal interest I had in the project I was working on) I’ve since used it in numerous other projects.  From doing some Screen Scraping to read linked contacts, to auto-generating an sdk for “Wrike” from their documentation.  And now, again scraping a wholesalers site to send real-time inventory notifications to a reseller.

At Novak Solutions, every Friday after 1pm self-directed time starts.  The only expectation is that you eventually report what you did and learned.

Another company “TrackAbout” has a nice blog post about the benefits they’ve seen from implementing 5% self-directed time.  Dan Pink gave a very cool Ted Talk about motivating employees and how autonomy and mastery are 2 of the 3 major factors that impact employee motivation.  Self-directed time breeds these two feelings.

So, give it a try.  Give your employees some structured self-directed time for a little while and see what benefits you get from it.

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