Saturday, April 5, 2008

A great article

I was flipping through Steve Pavlina's website and found an article that really interested me. I knew that Steve completed two bachelor degrees in 3 semesters - that is not a misprint - 3 semesters(!), but I never read the entire article on how he did it.

His article is titled Do it now and, in my opinion, it is a must read!

One big affirmation I received from this article was his point about guarding time. In this section he states:

To work effectively you need uninterrupted blocks of time in which you can complete meaningful work. When you know for certain that you won't be interrupted, your productivity is much, much higher. When you sit down to work on a particularly intense task, dedicate blocks of time to the task during which you will not do anything else.

I have preached this principle for years to our management but they like the open atmosphere where anyone can just walk up to your desk and interrupt you at will - and they do.

Steve goes on to say:

The state of flow, where you are totally absorbed in a task and lose all sense of time, takes about 15 minutes to enter. Every time you get interrupted, it can take you another 15 minutes to get back to that state. Once you enter the state of flow, guard it with your life.

I have suggested that as software developers we should be isolated from all interruptions so that we can focus on the tasks at hand. I believe doing so will greatly increase productivity. It's funny but those same managers that like the open environment wonder why no one is motivated and really getting the work done!

Up until now I have approached this problem with a victim mentality - we need our managers to make it happen for us, we are not responsible. I no longer subscribe to this paradigm. Now I have a more proactive approach. When I really want to get some work done on a project, I don't do it at my desk. I find a conference room, schedule time there and do my work.

It's my experience that if interrupting you is easy, such as walking up to your desk or instant messaging you, then people will do it and they will do it often. But if they have to spend more than two minutes tracking you down, they realize that what they need probably isn't that important and they will get with you later.

I try to find a conference room on a totally different floor and one that has few if any windows. I also make sure our instant messenger program is turned off. I keep my cell phone turned on in case of emergencies but find that most people will think twice about how important their question is if they have to call you on the phone - weird!

My company is very results oriented but they don't maintain an atmosphere conducive to getting anything done! So, since our bonus and annual raise is judged on results, I, as a proactive person, have to make it happen by creating my own atmosphere. It's sad, but true.

Anyway, I suggest you read Steve's article. It's a long one - It took me about 45 minutes to get through it but it was very enlightening.

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