In the beginning there are so many things to do and so many paths that can take you off focus then add in that because you are a bootstrap and not willing to do a leap of faith your having trouble coming in under your self imposed deadlines due to externalities. Something outside keeps pulling me off and I'm just thinking I need to establish critical path and a priority method so I can at least get to release.
I'm in that frustrated spot right now where I thought I knew how to get something completed then realized it’s got more research until it will work right and then real life of course comes in as well. So I'm not the first to try this and I've read those that have succeeded so looking for that laser beem of insight and how to keep focusing on the important critical path stuff.
C'mon Man! You can get an hour a day and two on the weekends.
Set a time and place to work. Beg, borrow, negotiate, plead, barter or whatever it takes to get this time for yourself.
Let everyone around you know how important this is to you. They need to know that you HAVE to do this. Hopefully they are not so selfish that they can't respect the time you set aside to work on it.
Don't abuse the time you set aside. Make sure you are focused and get things done.
I know exactly how you feel, I am in the same boat. Every time I start getting frustrated I remind myself that this is not supposed to be easy, I'd like to think that the harder it is to get to release date, the greater the reward will be :)
Keep it up, remember the reason(s) you started working in your project in the first place, that usually helps me get the fire started every time.
Also, take your startup seriously, that means you have to set some time to work on it and be religious about it, if you don't take your startup seriously no one else will.
I find it hard to be productive int he few hours I have - but when I do focus the time is very valuable. I was used to working with large blocks of time. This has been one of the hardest challenges - finding ways to use 30 minutes here and there. I still have not gotten a handle on it.
In any case, prioritization is key. Communication is really important with your family. It is all up to you how to balance the work - some days you spend lots of time on your business, others you just spend with family and go with the flow.
It is important that you remember that this is like pushing a stalled car, it's going to be hard to get started but once you build momentum it gets easier and finally the thing really starts. After that it becomes a whole different experience.
I am the only programmer in a team of 5 and it has taken 3 years, and 3 completely different builds of the site, to get us to a point where we can finally launch something that might possibly earn us some money. We all have day jobs and there have been many times when I thought we would never get to the end.
In my experience there are times when you can just give an hour each night or every other night, especially in the beginning. At this point "real life" can come first. Then towards milestones, e.g. first release, "real life" has to take a back seat, at least for short intense periods.
During these times I have taken to working all Sunday and almost all Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday evenings on the project and taking Thursday/Friday evening and most of Saturday to focus on family, friends and relaxing. The last such period before our recent re-launch went on for about 6 weeks. Right now I am back to an hour or 2 every other night.
Part of the reason that this works though is that there are other people in the group who can handle the non-technical stuff so I don't have to worry about that.
Hope this rambling helps in some way and good luck.
For me, planning is critical. Regularly identifying what the critical things are to move forward and scheduling time to do them in my diary.
However, I do find it hard to settle down and focus in short bursts and I find it is easy to lose motivation working this way as something always seems to be interrupting my focus. So the thing that keeps me motivated is having a short and punchy focus statement that sums up the reason why I am doing this. Keeping the purpose in mind is what motivates me to keep going towards my goals.
Great question and I'm feeling the same too.
I'm working to my startup stuff in the very rare spare time, since a baby boy, a lovely wife and some other personal issues.
I'm trying to keep myself motivated asking support to my friends and to my family too of course.
And when I loose my focus, I remind my self "stay hungry, stay foolish" Steve Jobs' commencement speech and I move on.
Forget planning. Specifically, forget time planning. You'll soon find out that things (life/family/social/events) keep getting in your way. Just try to get as much work done as you can in the spare hours you can get. Plan your features to define a global path, so that you know where you're heading, and know what to do next. That's it.
Keep a constant focus on your project but don't forget there's a real life out there and that your family is alive and you are a part of their lives (I keep forgetting that myself).
Things I've noticed so far: