I was asked by our 5 interns at Omnitech this summer to come to lunch and talk about my time management, speaking and sharing information experiences over the years. I appreciated the invite and wrote up some rough notes on a few sticky notes. We had a good discussion and in the spirit of sharing, I wanted to share with all of you.
Uncle Bob Martin, The Pragmmatic Programmer book and others have been talking about software craftsmanship for years. I want to continually improve and master as much of software development as possible. As I was doing some projects at home this weekend, I thought of a few important words that we need to keep in mind.
I want to the best I can at my job and I’m blessed to enjoy it at the same time.
What motivates you?
My job is ultimately to solve problems that accomplish business goals for our clients. Most of that comes through creating and maintaining software, but also through knowing what the right tools are for the job and learning from experts throughout the field. One big push and pull of my daily work is when and how much time to devote to reading/learning articles. I’ve found it very valuable to keep up, so I’m usually reading something while I’m waiting for a build to run or a response from someone. However, we need to limit distractions as much as possible.
Time: I have used my free-time during lunches for many years. This time added up to many certification tests passed, books read, Pluralsight courses watched and MSDN articles read. I’ve also read in the evening and attend several lunch and learns through the week. I also listen to podcasts on my bike ride commute. A little time consistently over a long period adds up over the years!
Priorities: We all have to decide what’s most important in life and in learning. For me, I try to put my faith, family and church, others first, then myself and career. I’m not always successful in that order. However, I’m able to keep learning throughout the day, whether it’s taking a bit of time through the work day to check Twitter and read a new article or sitting on the couch and reading MSDN or a book. I try not to put that in front of my wife or children.
Other things that may compete for time and energy are entertainment, friends, sports, hunting, fishing, biking, trips and kids’ activities. Not everyone can or should prioritize learnin and technology highly. Evaluate what makes sense for you and your family.
Setting Goals and writing them down will help. I’ve been using a Google Spreadsheet to set starting and completed of goals I have. Some Examples are:
Sprints of Learning: This was suggested to me and I really like the idea. I’m interested in a lot of technology areas. How do I ever dig deep when there are so many areas? Create personal sprints! Example: I needed to study for the 70-532 Microsoft Azure test. I decided to ignore as many articles as I could, skip some Lunch and Learns and use that time for learning and studying about Azure. It paid off with a pass on the first test take!
Avoid Interruptions and keep focused: Emails, newsletters and Twitter links can quickly pull me off task and I lose 15 minutes easily. The Pomodoro Technique can help you stay focused for 25 minutes, then allow guilt free breaks and email checks. I’ve enjoyed it when I’ve tried it, but I still need more discipline in this area.
CodeAlike is another tool I’ve used off and on to track when you’re I’m most focused. It’s fun to try and get to an “on fire” day.
Take Breaks: Sometimes you just need to get out for a walk or talk to someone (avoid distracting them) to get your head back in a good place. Sometimes the solution just pops in your head. Inviting a few people outside for a 10 minute walk is a great break and way to get to know your co-workers.
If you’re stuck on something for more than 30 minutes or an hour, take a break, re-pose the question. Is it time to ask a co-worker or for some Rubber Duck debugging?
Manage your energy, not your time was a helpful idea for me. Many times I’m feeling tired by the afternoon and evening. I need to be aware of this and not just power through to do extra work or side projects at home. Taking time away from computers at night (which means I miss out on all the latest games), spending time with my kids, reading non-fiction and getting enough sleep have been essential for my success as an employee.
“The first wealth is health” by Waldo Emerson. I’ve learned as I’ve gotten older and battled with fatigue that what I eat and what I avoid are very important. Eat to Live from Dr. Fuhrman helped me understand more about the Standard American Diet (SAD) and how we intake way to much sugar and carbs. Excercise is important to. All this is an investment in productivity and enjoyment of life for years to come.
Tools: I often need to be reminded to take a break for my eyes and brain, stand up and stretch. Workrave has been helping me do that for many years.
Ditto is a clipboard manager that works on Windows. This saves me a bunch of time when developing.
What good is knowledge if you keep it to yourself?
I’m driven to share links and lessons learned on Slack/Teams, Twitter, blog articles, in person and giving talks. I sometimes wonder why that is?
I want to help others be more productive and avoid time sinks that I’ve been through. If we know the right tool or read the right approach we can save time, have a more enjoyable project to work on and acheive great things for our clients and users.
I encourage you to give back as well. Over the years I’ve been active in several areas on-line and around Sioux Falls.
Check out my homepage for my Twitter, StackOverflow, Github and Geekswithblogs.net links.
I try to fit in time when I’m in the office to take a walk, check in on how a project is going, ask for company time to teach about Unit Testing or Dev Ops or grab lunch.
When I figure something out at work, usually by reading several blogs and links, I don’t send an email or write it all up in the pull request. I make the solution more generic and blog it. Then I share that with others. In this way, I maximize my keystrokes and possibly help more people. This has added up to a lot of blog posts over the years.
If I can do this stuff, surely you can do things too!
Do you have other suggestions? Please let me know in the comments.
“Blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding, 14 for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold. 15 She is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her.” Proverbs 3:13-15
“23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” Colossians 3:23 & 24
I found Raise your signal to noise ratio to be helpful as well.
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