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warm up your brain

Yesterday I started with four hours of one project then ended with four hours of another project. The first was slow going. Trying to get back into the swing of a long delayed project can be very tough, particularly if there’s a critical mass of detail you’ve forgotten, making every step harder. The second project was much easier, even though the amount of forgotten detail was even greater than the first project.

So what made the difference? Well, in the second I was using a debugger, stepping through code, trying to find some well defined bugs. In the first, I was also troubleshooting, but without a debugger. Mostly configuration issues. More than anything though, in the second I had momentum and in the first I had none.

Momentum makes an enormous difference during development. When I’ve got my mojo working, I’m much better at understanding, coding, and testing. There’s a flow that becomes its own reward: line ’em up and knock ’em down. The time flies.

So how do you get some flow going when you’re threading needles with boxing gloves? Try warming up first, like we do with physical activity.

3. Warm up your brain

Start work with something small, well-defined, and fun.

Of course, small warm ups can turn into a string of unnecessary tasks (see rule #2). Make sure you limit your time on the warmup if it’s not a priority (see rule #1). And once you get your momentum going, try to insulate yourself from distractions (next rule).

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