Ben Barbersmith

Life (January 2020)

— Posted on Feb 5, 2020

I’ve been back to work full-time for a month now. It’s been about as difficult as I expected to balance family life with full-time work and a long commute. What I hadn’t anticipated is that having very little time to myself for personal projects and self-learning would also really get to me. I think I’m going slowly insane.

Home life

Going back to work after a year of paternity leave has been really tough. Working 40 hours per week at Google and commuting for almost 3 hours per day is just insane when you also want to spend time with a baby who goes to bed at 7pm. I’m working from home 3 days a week, which really helps — clawing back the commute and spending lunch time together makes a world of difference. But it doesn’t leave me with any time for myself or my own projects, and that leaves me really antsy.

I’m not a happy man right now. Frankly, I’m strongly considering just quitting and taking a couple of years to try and build my own business.


I’m working on Caster Level before dawn and during commutes. Trying to grow it from a hobby business (£4k/yr) into a sustainable lifestyle business (£20k/yr). I’m working on marketing Spell Tracker for Pathfinder 1e to grow revenue while researching and prototyping Spell Tracker for Pathfinder 2e.

I’m also spending a few hours every now and again to scope out potential businesses relating to race organization and running club management. I think it’s a pretty exciting area with a lot of opportunities that fit into the categories of “stuff I’m interested in”, “stuff that small businesses might pay for”, and “stuff I have the skills to build”. Watch this space.


I’ve spent my time on the train brushing up on my Go skills via Exercism and the aforementioned Spell Tracker for Pathfinder 2e prototyping. I like the language. It somehow slows me down compared to Dart, but I also find myself naturally considering performance and more carefully considering how to structure code rather than just blindly building class hierarchies.


I’ve been reading a lot on my phone about effective altruism and related topics like existential risk. I decided to donate 10% of my post-tax income to some of the top GiveWell charities in 2020. I’m considering taking the Giving What We Can pledge to make it permanent next year.

I’m also reading Traction by Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares. I love how action-oriented it is, and I love the fact it gives a clear framework with practical advice. So rare in business books.


I’m running around 50km per week without any particular plan. I’m trying to find a way to fit a weekly long run (half-marathon or longer) into my routine, but it’s been hard.

I’d like to try and run sub 1:27 at Wokingham Half Marathon or Reading Half Marathon, but I need to start training if that’s going to become a reality.


I’m trying to watch my weight after putting on 4kg since the end of my paternity leave. I’m finding it hard when I’m not in peak marathon training hyper-fitness mode, and even harder with access to Google’s amazing food at lunchtime. More willpower is required, and if that fails I’ll have to resort to calorie tracking (yuck).

Feb 5, 2020 @benbarbersmith