Being Busy

I have seen many other programmers with this behaviour and I do it to:  making yourself busy.  I’m sure you will recognize one or more of these:

  • Checking your e-mail more often than you get important new mail
  • Visiting news sites more than once or twice a day
  • Refreshing Adsense stats more often than they update
  • Twitter (It’s almost unavoidable to check the updates frequently)
  • Going through a fixed set of websites without really paying attention to the content (just checking if there are any updates)
  • Watching a news channel on tv, more than 10 minutes

All of this comes down to two thing:  feeling busy  and the need for something ‘new’.  You can tell yourself that these are things that do need to happen, which makes it much harder to stop doing them that often.  Furthermore,  if you stop doing one of them it is just replaced by some other time waster.

One thing I’ve done to counter part of this behaviour is:   switch of all notifications.  Beepings, blinking windows, etc. make it almost impossible not to check stuff way too often.

The other thing I am trying to do, is to consider the alternatives: What could I be doing instead?   To force myself to be more aware of this, I decided to leave the computer immediately when I find myself clicking back and forth.  Now there is time to evaluate:

Why am I doing this?
If it’s because I don’t want to do a certain task, what is holding me back?   If there is not enough information: go get it.  If you don’t know the solution:  sit down (away from the screen) and think about it.  The Pomodoro Technique I wrote about can help some times to commit to actually doing the task. Especially regarding sitting down to think about the task (with 100% focus) as part of the task itself might make a difference to you as well.

Can I do something else that is at least more useful?
If you don’t have the energy to work on the task at hand, maybe there is something else you do feel like.  Getting done anything is better than failing to do anything while trying to do the most important task.  I especially suggest:

  • Study something that will give you some inspiration (maybe some development / time management / marketing techniques)
  • Writing a blog post (Even if I don’t feel like coding anything at all, this often works)
  • Walk the dog ( It needs to happen some time, so better when you are not in the middle of being productive)

Can I do something more fun?
If things really aren’t going (you know those days) consider if there is anything more fun to do.  It might be better to just take the day of and really do something fun.  (Ok, I know… this isn’t an option for most with a regular job)

If all else fails, even staring out of the window might be a better spending of your time.

Disclaimer:  I haven’t really put all of this into practice yet, so more will probably follow.

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