Category Archives: Spiritual Programmer

Is Your Office Bad for You? Measure!

The other day, I was working at a customer site and had forgotten my noise canceling headphones (BTW, if you still don’t have a pair, I recommend Parrot Zik 2.0  – they’re awesome).

I could feel my productivity plummet each time other people in the large open office started discussing things, and it’s not just me. There is a lot of research showing that open offices are bad for many people, and since I track my subjective happiness (the “Life Score”), I notice that I’m one of the people not meant for open offices. My coping strategy is avoiding on-site work in open plan offices and failing that, headphones.

Does your office environment negatively affect you? To find out, start regularly writing down how happy you are with your life on a scale from 0 to 10. This gives you data to find out what work environment is best for you.

 

I’m writing about the Life Score in my upcoming book. For more tips on leading a happy, healthy and meaningful life in IT (and to be notified when the book is out), sign up for The Spiritual Programmer newsletter at http://eepurl.com/3z_0v and follow me on twitter @spiritualprog

 

The Value of Your Time

Do you know what your time is worth? This is important, because you should use this information to guide your life. Let me tell you how.

First, you need to estimate what you make per hour.

  • If you are an employee, divide your yearly salary by the number of hours you work per week x the number of weeks. If you are haunted by the specter of unpaid overtime, remember to use actual worked hours, not what your contract says.
  • If you are a freelance consultant billing by the hour, your time is worth whatever your average billing rate is.
  • If you are a freelance consultant working on fixed price projects, you need to register your time to calculate in order to calculate what you make per hour.

This number is what an hour is worth to you right now – it is the exchange rate between minutes and dollars. You can use this to guide decisions about how to spend your time and money.

Some decisions are simple math: If it takes you half an hour extra to drive to a cheaper shop, are you saving more than the cost of the 30 minutes? If you save $200 by taking a flight with a connection instead of direct, is it worth the extra travel time?

Other decisions cannot be calculated as easily, but the value of your time can still guide you. Do you think knowing another programming language or technology would get you a better job? How much more would you make, and how many hours would it take to acquire the necessary skill?

Figure out what your time is worth – and act accordingly.

 

For more tips on leading a happy, healthy and meaningful life in IT, sign up for The Spiritual Programmer newsletter at http://eepurl.com/3z_0v and follow me on twitter @spiritualprog

You Have Too Many Meetings

At this time of year, many people here in Denmark are returning from their holidays. And like office workers the world over, they come back to a calendar full of meetings.

Many of these are regularly recurring meetings. Interestingly, the world did not end while you were on vacation and did not participate in these. So maybe you don’t need to go at all? Or maybe nobody needs that meeting at all?

The people behind the web-based project management tool Basecamp  have written a free book about how to build web software, and it contains many tips that are generally applicable even if you don’t build web software. It turns out they hate useless meetings as much as I do. In the chapter “Meetings are Toxic,”  they propose that the few absolutely necessary meetings adhere to the following rules:

  • Set a 30 minute timer. When it rings, meeting’s over. Period.
  • Invite as few people as possible.
  • Never have a meeting without a clear agenda.

I encourage you to try it and see how it works for your organization.

And by the way, all regularly scheduled meetings (apart from the Daily Scrum  if you are doing Agile) should be cancelled.

 

For more tips like this, sign up for The Spiritual Programmer newsletter and follow @spiritualprog on Twitter. 

Rate Your Vacation

I’m just back from vacation (where I did check email), and maybe you are too.

If you’ve booked your vacation online, chances are that you will be deluged with requests to rate accommodation, restaurants, travel websites etc. These ratings are not important, and you can do them if you like. But one rating is important: Your own life score during your vacation.

As I describe in my upcoming book The Spiritual Programmer, I think everyone should rate their life satisfaction regularly on a scale from one to ten. I call this the Life Score, and rating also applies during vacation.

Your Life Score might be high or low during your work week, but it should definitely be high during vacations. The Life Score scale goes to 10, and if you are not rating your vacation days at an average of at least 9, you need to stop and figure out what’s wrong. Coaching and mentoring IT professionals, I’ve seen many reasons this score is low – business you didn’t manage to finish before leaving, relationship issues, or simply taking a type of vacation you don’t really like.

If your vacation doesn’t score 9 or above, figure out the reason so your next vacation becomes great.

 

For more tips on leading a happy, healthy and meaningful life in IT, sign up for The Spiritual Programmer newsletter at http://eepurl.com/3z_0v and follow me on twitter @spiritualprog

Self-Esteem Booster: Know Your Stuff

I’ve found that many of the people I work with in IT are worried. Worried that their code wont perform as required, worries that their boss don’t like them, and worried that their job is going to be taken over by someone being paid half as much as they are.

The number one antidote to worrying is knowing you are good. And a good way to get good is to read books. Not blogs, not forums, not random comments. Real books. I’ve written several, and the process that goes into creating a book creates much higher quality than random blog posts. If you don’t have any specific IT book in mind, I’d recommend a classic:

The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineering, Anniversary Edition (2nd Edition)

Too Productive? Try a Smartwatch

I love gadgets at least as much as the next tech guy (or girl), but I have a hard time finding a use case for smart watches like the Apple Watch. If you have spent any time at all investigating productivity, you will have found that interruptions are the bane of efficient work. It’s bad enough that we have laptop, tablet and phone to constantly beep interruptions – why would I want a fourth device to do this?

I’ve carefully disabled notifications on my mobile devices and run my Mac in “Do Not Disturbmode. I can’t see any reason to strap a device to my wrist whose only purpose is to disturb me.

Fortunately, it seems that many people are wising up to the fact that the Apple watch is a solution in search of a problem:

Apple-Watch-Sales-Slice-Apr-to-Jun-2015

I challenge you to come up with a reasonable use case for wearing a smart watch all day.

Think Before You Start

The other weekend, my Triathlon club was hosting one of the events in the Danish Championship series. As you might expect, there is a lot of stuff to prepare in a sport that requires a swim route, a transition area (T1), a bike route, another transition area (T2), a run route and finally a goal area. I was part of the team preparing T2 where participants change from bicycling to running. For that, we needed to set up a lot of these yellow barriers and link them together:

Triathlon barrier
 I was on the left side (where you notice a double barrier). We finished before the other side even though we were fewer people and had twice the amount of work. Why? Because we took one minute at the start to find out how the barriers hook together. The other side just started working, and had to life each element to hook it onto the next.

A great many things can be done in several ways. Before you start, take a moment to reflect on what the consequences of each way is. You’ll save a lot of time.

The Weight of an E-mail

What does an e-mail weigh? Nothing, you say, it’s just bits in a computer somewhere.

Wrong. Each e-mail you allow to pile up in your inbox is weighing you down. It’s another item on your to-do list, in addition to all the other to-do lists you have lying around on post-it notes and in half-heartedly maintained task management systems.

Every e-mail in your inbox is an open loop and a load on your brain. You need to establish a procedure for getting your inbox to zero every day. You don’t have to do everything, but you need to have processed everything and have placed it into a system where you are sure nothing gets lost.

Personally, I’m using SaneBox to help me keep my inbox empty, but any procedure or tool is good. Free your mind, empty your inbox.