For a long time my work life balance has gone through phases. Some weeks I would spend hours after work writing code. This would exceed to well beyond midnight in some cases. This phase was not sustainable but it appeared to be the norm.
My other hobbies such as reading and gaming were also neglected. These too suffered from weeks of focus, followed by quieter periods.
Over the course of a typical year this cycle would generally balance out, but never feel comfortable. There were always areas that lacked focus. One of my common complaints which I have shared with many other developers is around the lack of time to do anything additional to the day to day job. There always seemed to be a sacrifice.
The book Soft Skills recommends taking the first hour or two out of your weekly day to focus on important goals. This piece of advice was not going to work for me I thought. I was not a morning person.
Sometime after I discovered an article from the Art Of Manliness (AoM) which gave tips on becoming a early riser.
Instead of simply waking up a whole two hours earlier than usual, AoM offered an incremental solution. Set your alarm ten minutes earlier and live with it for a whole week. Each week reduce by a further ten minutes until you hit your target.
This process took about three weeks to see any real benefit. While this can be considered slow progress the act of doing so was incredibly easy. Incrementally reducing the time also provides time for your body to adjust, meaning it's a lot easier to stick with.
The obvious downside here is that the two additional hours you gain in the morning are removed from the end of the day. In other words you'll find yourself going to sleep earlier. Having a good balance between work, hobbies and free time means this trade off is well worth the change.
One area this technique cannot much provide benefit is with children. Developers with children would find it difficult to use an uninterrupted block first thing in the morning. Not being a parent myself means I cannot provide any alternatives.
Like most things in life, small changes add up to big things over a long period. Thanks to this change I nearly doubled the amount of blog posts I wrote back in 2015 when compared to 2014. I've read more books and watched more technical videos during this period than ever, while still maintaining a healthy balance in other areas of my life. Give it a go, become a morning person.