Head down and focused

I didn’t feel completely ship-shape this morning, but after I’d got to work, drunk some coffee and been productive, I felt a lot better. I’ve been working on a mathematical problem that is actually quite simple, until you try to build it in a database and find what people expected was a whole lot more complicated than anyone thought.

Unfortunately, sufficiently advanced programming is indistinguishable from magic, and since magic must be easy to a magician, nobody thinks this can be anything difficult. That means I’m usually in a rush, and building badly optimized, inelegant spaghetti code that’s a horrible pain to return to a month later when you need to amend it. You’d rather throw the whole damn lot in the bin, but reinventing the wheel from scratch each time is also tiring, inefficient, and risks missing out some vitally important step buried in the old code.

So usually, we throw the whole damn lot in the bin anyway. After all, you’re not the same person you were a month ago, and do you really trust code some other person wrote (and failed to document, and apparently did it while smoking crack, and on purpose…)

So I did a few rewrites of code, and at least the office was mostly empty today so I could concentrate. I also made the winning move of switching my email client off, so my concentration span didn’t get dinged every five minutes with something urgent but not important.

If you don’t check your email, then sometimes there’s less of it, as you’re not drawn into drawn-out threads about nothing very helpful.

I’m thinking of going more proactive on this in the New Year: somebody sends me an email with an attachment of more than 100k? Straight to trash. Somebody sends me an email where I’m cc’d? Straight to trash. Somebody sends me a calendar invite with no agenda in it? Straight to trash. Better yet, if every time that happened, an auto-response went to the sender to tell them I wasn’t reading their emails, perhaps I’d inspire better email etiquette.

Or I’ll get a stern talking to.

Perhaps hypocritically, I was overjoyed to see there’s a Lync app for my phone. Lync is Microsoft’s instant messaging application for businesses (a bit like Skype, but fully integrated with Outlook, so you can see who’s online, run video meetings through it, and lots of other stuff you find interesting in a bureaucracy but probably dull outside of one). If getting rid of the constant interruption of emails is a good thing, how could installing another distraction on my phone be good as well?

Well, now I don’t need email to reply to people (particularly on one line answers), and I can turn it off on my desktop and just leave it on my phone. That gives me a better way to manage notifications (when I’m looking at my computer, I’m hammering through difficult stuff, when I’m looking at my phone, I’m focusing on communications and making sure I’m reminded of important appointments). All of a sudden I can have a clear division between the activities in these two environments, and perhaps do both of them better than before.

Now, about those hundred task items I have to complete before Christmas…

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