Sitting And Thinking

Sometimes it is a little uncomfortable for me to sit still and think about something. Different parts of my mind chime in with thoughts like “you don’t have time for this right now” or “what if you don’t think of anything and this time right now is just wasted?”

These thoughts just went through my head a couple of minutes ago. I’m sitting in my car, waiting to go into a meeting. I have nothing meaningful to do (I’ve already been through my Twitter feed and email a few times and read everything in my RSS feed) and yet these thoughts still come up when I sit here for 30 seconds to think about what to write about today.

Thankfully, this time these thoughts were the inspiration for what to write. Most days, they are discomfort that I have to fight through.

June Daily Learning

I didn’t do a great job of keeping track of my daily learning in June, but it was all about WWDC. Once a year, Apple hosts a conference called WWDC for their developers where they teach them about the new technologies that are being introduced and how to improve their use of the existing technologies.

Apple provides all of its videos online for free and in June I watched 23 of those videos. I’m not even half way done with them so most of July will be the same.

I Should Have Known Better

Five self destructive words that are only good for destroying your self confidence and wasting your energy.

You couldn’t have known better, or you would have.

It is in the past and you can’t change it now.

Learn and move on.

A Giant Castle of Toothpicks

Some days software feels so fragile. I’ll be notified about two or three completely unrelated issues from a few different applications and it feels like everything is broken.

On those days it feels like I’m building a giant castle out of individual toothpicks, none of which are held together by anything more than gravity and sheer will.

I know that these applications have a solid architecture and that bugs are unavoidable. I also know that I’m the go-to guy when no one else can solve a problem – so I’m going to see a lot more brokenness than most.

But knowing that doesn’t help the feeling that I’m going to bump into a wall and accidentally knock the whole thing down. I’ll just have to sleep that off.

Traffic vs Highway Travel

Two metaphors for how to view life: like morning rush hour traffic or like out of state highway travel.

Morning rush hour traffic is all about you wanting to get to the same place faster than everyone else. When someone cuts you off, she gets a little ahead and you get a little behind. This dynamic rewards aggressive behavior and doing what you can to ensure that no one takes what is yours.

Out of state highway travel is all about you getting to a distant destination. Some others on the roads with you might be going to the same place, but the farther the distance the less likely that is. Most of the time you are surrounded by people that are going their own way to their own destination which is different than yours. They have no incentive to slow you down or cut you off because you achieving your goal has no effect on them achieving theirs.

You can choose which life you want. You can go after the same things that everyone else does and fight your way to the top (or be out-fought and remain somewhere in the middle.) Or you can decide your own path which doesn’t involve direct competition and allows you to peacefully make your way towards the place that is right for you.

I’m choosing the second.

Not Being Connected

Today we drove to Colorado and we are staying in a camper on a piece of land in the mountains. This place is remote and has no power, water, or cell phone connectivity.

It wasn’t until I was here in this place what it is like to not be connected. Before leaving, I didn’t even think to tell my friends and family that I’d be in reachable because the very idea of being unreachable is so foreign to me.

None of my devices work for the things I usually use them for. My phone can take down this blog post as a note, but it can’t get my email or tell me what the weather will be like later today. My watch can tell me the time and track my movement and heart rate, but it can’t tell me when the sunset is going to be.

I don’t think that being disconnected is bad, but it is very different. And will require some more planning ahead next time.

Equality

Far too slowly our country is starting to put into effect the kinds of policies that represent the America that I was told that we were while growing up. But thankfully, one more legal barrier to equality has been knocked down and now everyone can legally get married.

We still have a long way to go to get where we need to be – a place where we all treat our sisters and brothers as though they are just like us.

But this is one momentous step and I’m so happy to see it happen.

Trendiness

I’ve never been the kind to follow trends, mostly because I’ve been oblivious to them. I never knew what was the cool thing to wear so I never went to the effort to buy it and wear it. This has led me to be picked on quite a bit when I was younger, for silly things like wearing black socks to school.

Recently I realized that it is really easy to know what is trendy – simply pay attention to what people are doing. In fashion, look at what people are wearing and see the patterns. If you repeatedly see the same item or style then it is probably in fashion at that time, most likely for some reason that seems completely arbitrary and makes no sense to me. Like how black athletic socks are now trendy and white ones aren’t – the opposite of what I grew up knowing.

But I still don’t have any desire to be trendy myself. That takes a lot of effort and money and caring that I just don’t have. But I do find it interesting to observe. I can get an idea of what group a person wants to belong to by paying attention to what they wear.

Changing Business Plans

Today I heard from a local small business owner about how often he has had to change his business plan because the plan didn’t fit with real life. We’ve definitely been doing the same thing and I think it is critical to running a business the right way.

Since we want to help other small businesses, we have to look at what they need and how we can provide that. We can’t just stick with our initial thoughts about how the world works even though we’ve gathered more information that tells us different. And we can’t just do what we want to do if we truly want to be in a role of serving our clients. We have to go to what they need.

You’ll always need some limits of “that type of work isn’t for us,” but I’d recommend reevaluating those each time you confront another decision about them. You might be clinging to old data and world views. It might be time to change plans.

Scheduling White Space

A couple of weeks ago I was in the midst of working on a project that required more intensive thinking than I’m used to for most software development. It had to deal with drawing lines and vector math and linear algebra that I haven’t had to dig into in a while.

I’d estimated the entire project would only take 60 hours and I had some free time in my schedule so I was sure that I could get it done in two weeks – I mean that’s just 30 hours a week, that’s easy!

So it turns out that when I’m thinking about hard things there is a limit to the amount of productivity I can get out of sitting at the computer and tapping away at a problem. And at that limit I just need to walk away and offload the problems I’m having to my subconscious.

And this brings me to the title of this post. Good scheduling, like good design, needs white space. It needs empty periods of not working to give shape to the work periods.