July 22, 2010
log it and leave it
Yesterday went half-well. I spent half the time scheduled for development and half the time scheduled for sales. The lost sales time went to a late start and a long lunch with Paula, walking around the new buildings on the south side. The lost development time went to unplanned useful tasks.
There’s the trap . . . “While I’m here, I should do this.” The day started with me saying, “I need to check the archived hawkmo media files on my firewire drives.” Since I hadn’t yet put them in their new spot behind my work chair, I decided to set them up there. “That UPS hasn’t worked in a long time.” So I remove the UPS. Organizing this, and organizing that, and before I know it, almost an hour is gone.
Yes, it was all good stuff to do. Yes, it was marginally related to my current project in a “clear off my desk and check the firewire drives” kind of way. But what should have been 5 minutes turned into 45 minutes and my timebox got smaller.
Even within a project there are many time traps. “I really should do this,” even though it has nothing to do with the task at hand. Some of these unplanned detours can end up taking the better part of an afternoon, or more. While you’re in the flow of coding it can be very hard to remember the big picture, the established priorities as the client understands them. Yes, there are small things that need doing that the client will never understand, but ever exploding “while I’m here” stuff usually goes well beyond what’s strictly necessary.
In the mid-90s, when I was finishing Vienna Estimator, I taped a piece of paper above my desk with the words, “Are You Closing The Hood?” This was my reminder to avoid unplanned improvements.
Put another way, we have:
If a new task isn’t necessary for the task you’re on, log it in your issue tracker and forget about it until later.
This has the added benefit of better documentation of tasks done. It also allows you to review competing tasks to determine if it really is more important than other things.
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