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Time management

Try and quantify the balance between production work and research.  I'll get you started by using the extremes as examples:

The heads-down coder: never bothers to check anything, including his own code, before implementing a new feature.  Thus he ends up rewriting the code to download a file via FTP four different times, where he could have a) found in his own code, b) found several candidate solutions via Google, or c) read up on his platform and used the 'preferred' library that EVERYONE knows about.

End result: his code is of poor/below-average quality, and his productivity fluctuates between excellent and abysmal, depending on how far off the mark he is.

The browser: never actually gets around to opening his IDE.  He just doesn't have the time: not until he's finished checking his 200+ weblog subscriptions, Google News, reading the newest MSDN article, browsing (and regularly posting) at 8-10 forums (most work-related, some not), and working his way through related USENET discussions on nine newsgroups related to his job.  And Slashdot.

End result: productivity is absolutely nil.  Scores a zero (0) on Joel's "Get it done" candidacy requirement.

So what do you THINK is a good policy for yourself?  Absolutely no browsing at work?  Allot exactly one hour at work?  Two hours at home?  One half-day to catch up on everything?

If you're brave, go ahead and mention what you ACTUALLY do/expect heckling.

And let me further clarify: we're talking work-related nonspecific research, e.g.,, not specific, task-oriented research, e.g. "I need to FTP a file, but don't know how.  Save me, Google Search!"

And a final note: yes, I've read Joel's Fire and Motion article ( ), this is somewhat complementary to the article.

Monday, March 29, 2004

I have the same problem at times. "General research" can be come a way to avoid some work (procrastination), often without even realizing I'm procrastinating.

One approach is to work FEWER HOURS but work only on productive work.  So, workon the productivity %. Then slowly increase your hours while still maintaininga high focus on productive work.

I'm currently trying to limit my "general research" in this manner... so...gotta go <g>

great article on this( and related topics) at:

Mr. Analogy
Monday, March 29, 2004

my primary method of motivation is to think to myself, "I can go home once I have my work done."  Sometimes this is true, and sometimes I have such a long list that it only serves as motivation.  Etither way, it usually works.

Now, back to work...

Monday, March 29, 2004

You mean JoS isn't work?

Monday, March 29, 2004

Hmm, ok, i'll bite. I would say on days when I am solely focusing on producing code, I, on average, spend about 60% of the time researching and finding the best solution, and 40% actually coding and testing.

This ratio varies quite a lot though, at the beginning of a new section of a project, I might spend days where it's 90% research and all i've written is test harnesses.

At the other end of the project, it's just cranking stuff out to my own notes and specs at times, so... But I would guess I propbably spend a bit more time reading than writing. Some might say i'm not a very good programmer because of this, but then they might also notice that my code has very very few bugs compared with most of my fellow workers, and I almost never have to rewrite things...

Andrew Cherry
Monday, March 29, 2004

Thanks for the link, Mr. Analogy. The irony of it though, posting a link to another web article in a thread discussing how easily "research" can turn into "non-intentional procrastinating." :)

Monday, March 29, 2004


Great link -- the inefficient examples describe me to a T.  I'm at the office 10-14 hours a day and go home kicking myself every night.  The habit is also fed by my willingness to succumb somewhat to a martyr complex -- the organization, like most, gives greater credence to  face time than productivity so it's an easy way to stay in good favor with those around me.

Monday, March 29, 2004

That article seems like a watered down version of this book:

How to Work the Competition Into the Ground & Have Fun Doing It
by John T. Molloy

In addition to an activity log, in a seperate column, you should note interruptions, what interrupted you, if the interruption was necessary, and how long it took you to get back to work once you've been interrupted.

Additional patterns that might emerge ONLY once you've actually analyzed the data are what time of day you're most productive, and in what kinds of things (research all morning and work all afternoon? or the other way around?), and non-obvious things, like having your desk facing the window allows you to daydream more.

Hang a note wherever you look when you stop working... the door, the coffee machine, the telephone, or make it the start page on your browser "GET BACK TO WORK." After a while it will become engraved in your memory and you won't need the note.

I'm also considering getting this book:

The Now Habit: A Strategic Program for Overcoming Procrastination and Enjoying Guilt-Free Play
by Neil A. Fiore

based on the reviews. I may pick it up next after the book I'm currently reading.
Monday, March 29, 2004

Time to pull out the Stephen Covey.  In "7 Habits of Highly Effective People," Covey describes a "time management matrix" by which all activities can be judged.  He divides everything into four quadrants. The columns are "urgent" and "not urgent,"  the rows are "important" and "not important.  So we get the following quadrants:

1. Important and urgent
2. Important and not urgent
3. Not important and urgent
4. Not important and not urgent

Each activity can be evaluated into a specific quadrant.  Quadrant 1 activities are high priority, and need to get done before we do anything else.  Quadrant 2 activities are generally benificial and are the things we should want to spend most of our time doing.  Quadrant 3 and 4 activities are not important, and therefore should be crossed off the list and simply not done.

(Aside) It's disturbing how many things go into quadrant 3.  Most telephone calls, drop-in visits, etc... are in quadrant 3.  Not important, but urgent.  Sometimes we confuse urgency with importance, and that can be a fatal mistake.

Anyway, back to what I was saying.  Quadrant 2 is where we want to spend most of our time.  If you're a software developer, reading books or things like JoS is probably good Q2 stuff, and should be done regularly so that the things you get from those activities never become Q1 problems.  For some people these are Q3 or Q4 activities, and they should just forget them and go do something important.

Once you figure out where your priorities lie and what's important to you, you will be able to figure out what goes into what quadrant, and act accordingly.  I can't describe the concept nearly as well as Covey does - for anyone who has not yet read the 7 Habits, I would highly reccommend it.  In fact, I would reccommend reading it before asking any further questions about time or resource management.

Monday, March 29, 2004

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People:

Monday, March 29, 2004

I started 7 habits, but couldn't get past "Define your values so you can act not react." I didn't get past the first 3 habits in general.

Can anyone tell me what makes 7 habits so great & why I should finish the book? And not just the "Read 7 habits it's the first and best" I keep  hearing.
Monday, March 29, 2004

*7 Habits* does not work for everyone, although it would for most people.  Also, even for the ones who would not be suited to the fine-tuned time management strategy, there are general principles which, if applied correctly, would certainly improve the quality of life.

The program takes the approach that you are a person who has not already defined what your values are, that you do not already make proactive decisions, etc.  So if you are already doing something, you can skip that exercize.

One of the coolest things Covey talks about is *Seek first to understand, then to be understood*.  Its amazing how well you can solve disagreements and diffuse conflicts when you apply that.  Another cool thing, loosely related to time management, is the *Sharpening the saw* habit.  Basically that means that you really need to take time for your own enrichment in order to really be effective in your work.  Goes right along with that Dexterity article linked previously.

Monday, March 29, 2004

My productivity is dependent on the following:

- Motivation.  If I ain't motivated, I ain't productive.  I'll mouse around, do a little here and a little there.  But not get seriously down to work.  Lack of motivation causes me to hit the browser too much.

- Stress.  If I'm stressed, I'm not thinking well/clearly, and I don't have as much energy for work.  I try to keep stress to a minimum.

- Work level.  If I'm overworked, I will burn out.  BTW this includes home-related "work".

I'm at my best when I can function with motivation, minimal stress, and a reasonable work level (hours per week).  Unfortunately, right now I'm in an environment that is distinctly unmotivating, stressful and workaholic.  So my productivity right now sucks.  Right now I'm in it for the money.  When that isn't enough reason to stay, I'll look for a new job.

Should be working
Tuesday, March 30, 2004

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