Bring a Snack to Work

Posted by Matt Farmer on June 12, 2012 · 3 mins read

Something that I’ve noticed about my development process in the past is that while I’m turning problems over in my head I’m really susceptible to distractions. In fact, I’m really susceptible to distractions when it comes to doing anything that involves what I call a “change of mental context” — or, rather, anytime my brain has to shift gears. Unfortunately for my desire to go all ahead full on tasks, I’m in the middle of a bug fixing cycle and this “change of context” thing happens a lot when I’m working on bugs. Worse yet, later in the afternoon when I start getting hungry for dinner, or if my stomach is agitated because of a rough cup of coffee, things get worse. If I don’t keep this aspect of my attention span in check I run the risk of blowing an entire afternoon of potentially productive time.
So, yesterday I decided to try something new. During my grocery run that morning I decided to purchase a box of the large Kroger trail mix. While packing my lunch, I scooped a few handfuls of the trail mix into a bag and packed it alongside my usual sandwich. In between my stints of working on the email verification feature that we shipped at OpenStudy this morning I was working on fixing various bugs that we had found around the site. Naturally, different problems call for different solutions and different solutions call for some thought into those solutions. These various thoughts about different bugs collectively represent a lot of opportunity for distraction. So, in an attempt to avoid any stomach-fueled aimless staring, I brought a snack to work.

Best. Decision. Ever. I felt like I got more done yesterday than I would have otherwise. (Even in spite of the discussion and fervent watching of MacRumors triggered by the WWDC keynote.)

I don’t know if you have the same problem with contexts shifts that I do, but this is just another reminder to me that methodologies that we often apply to evaluating software processes – identifying inefficient points in the program, determining what algorithmic optimizations we can make to negate those imperfections, evaluating the results of such optimizations – can be applied to workflow processes as well, even intrapersonal workflow processes. So, think about bringing a snack to work, or do whatever small change you think might help those moments when the context shift isn’t coming quite as easily as you would like. You might be surprised at how much easier it is to get your momentum going with an extra push. (I was.)

I’m going to continue looking at what other modifications I can make to my daily flow to yield improvements. Hopefully I’ll find a few that don’t have a caloric count associated with them. ?

As always, leave me some comment love and let me know what you think.