I’ve experimented with focus blocks before, where I’m working a large percentage of the time and when I’m not working I’m only engaging in distractions that are centering, rather than divergent. Following in the footsteps of some other entrepreneurs that I admire, I decided to make this entire weekend a focus block. I closed out my email inbox friday afternoon, and didn’t open it again until sunday. And I got a lot done.
Like the others, I made a timelapse video. I’m kicking myself now, because I didn’t confirm that I had a functional system on Linux for recording my webcam and then turning it into a timelapse. Meaning it took me way longer (read: several hours today pulling my hair out while staring at my screen) to create this video than would have been reasonable, and it’s not even sync’d the whole time. But I know how to do it better next time, and can probably push out a video with 30mins at most of post-processing, provided I set things up well at the start. I learned a bunch about the
sed tools though, which was helpful. I’ll post my scripts once I fix the aforementioned problem.
An app that pings you at totally random intervals and gets you to tag what you’re doing. The pings are on average every 45 minutes, but sometimes will be within seconds, or hours apart, so you never know. tagti.me »
This third one is the only one I’m upset about. I had the Complice User Visible Improvements twitter window open (this was okay). Then, I saw that one of my users, who I’m following, had posted a blog post. I clicked on the header just to glance at the post and see if it meant what I thought the header implied, and at that moment—TAG. The TagTime window popped up. And as far as I recall, that was my only moment of clear divergent distraction, tagged or otherwise. On one hand, I could be annoyed that it tagged me right then, because it saddens my data. On the other hand, I could be pleased because it likely served as a perfectly-timed reminder of what my focus was.
I ran into this app a day before things started, and on a whim decided to install it. It does stats on your computer activity. whatpulse.org »
My wireless mouse batteries ran out midday Saturday, but I was super into the coding I was doing, so I went to a convenience store to get more. Even though the trip ended up being shorter than some of my bathroom breaks, I felt somehow that I had to prove to those watching me that I wasn’t slacking. So I took a video of myself sprinting. It’s here. Most of what I say in the video is pretty incoherent.
TagTime is an awesome way to stimulate conscious attention to Gambler’s Fallacy. Gambler’s Fallacy is the tendency to misunderstand true randomness. People tend to assume that if a fair coin just had 4 heads in a row, it is more likely to be tails the next time. Or that if a ping-you-at-random-intervals app like TagTime has just pinged you, then it won’t do it again for at least a few minutes. And vice versa: that if it hasn’t pinged you in a few hours, you’re “due”. With many things, including probably some other apps, that might be true. But TagTime has no such property. I had observed this before, but I usually take a more passive role with respect to TagTime, so I didn’t feel it so strongly until this weekend, when I was measuring my success by how many dev pings I could get.
If something will make me 1% more productive, it’s worth ~12 minutes to do. When I first started, I had an issue where when I switched workspaces, my browser wouldn’t focus. This slowed me down for testing my changes, because before I could refresh the page I needed to click to focus. I figured restarting my computer would fix this, and it did—what I’m noting is that I might’ve let it go on a lot longer if I weren’t in maniac mode. Since I was, it was obvious that I would want to fix it rather than continue with the annoyance. Relevant: this chart by xkcd.
Don’t let silly things stand in your way for lethargy’s sake. The batteries were a great example. Last time my mouse ran out of batteries, I wandered around the house asking my housemates if they had any, and it took awhile and I ended up with only one half-used one, meaning that it died again weeks later. It took me 6 minutes to get new batteries. Six minutes. And it came from a certain single-mindedness. My mouse isn’t working? Well, I can’t develop as fast without it, and I need to be at top speed. Better make it work again. This is related to the point above too.
The Devil is in the details. I had what appeared to be the bulk of the reports→entries refactoring done within the first 3 hours of starting it on Saturday morning. It took me another 16 hours of work before I actually shipped it. Some of this was spent coding other stuff, but still. It probably could have benefited from a bit more planning how-to-approach too.
Overview: I refactored the terrible old database format that stored all of users’ intentions and outcomes for all of their goals, into a new format. The new format speeds up both development and server response times. I improved a bunch of the latter by adding some caching and other tweaks. I also fixed a few bugs and made a few other improvements.
I feel like I could have been a lot more productive than I was, but was stymied in some cases by trying to find solutions that were more elegant than they needed to be. Or… yeah. Next time I do this, I’m going to track my focus much more rigorously.
As measured by Complice itself:
Constantly consciously expanding the boundaries of thoughtspace and actionspace. Creator of Complice, a system for improvisationally & creatively staying in touch with what's most important to you, and taking action towards it.
Moritz » 13 Dec 2015 »
are you standing while programming? I have this impression from the video
Malcolm » 13 Dec 2015 »
Yep! I work at a standing desk nearly all of the time. It took a few weeks to get used to, but now it’s sitting for long periods of time that makes me sore 😛
Raymon Johstone » 22 Jul 2014 »
Very nice Malcolm the video is super amusing to watch too. 🙂