Scott Hanselman

Bring out of your element breeds productivity?

November 27, 2003 Comment on this post [4] Posted in ASP.NET | XML
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As I look at my blog calendar (currently up and to your left) I see that I have blogged less this month and previous.  To say I have been heads down lately would be an understatement.  And let me tell you, when it rains it pours. 

Apparently I am such a complete wimp that even something as challenging as the stairs in my home have the power to crush me.  Yes, my back is out, and it happened on the 11th step.  Was I lifting something?  Something heavy?  A computer monitor?  Some new myterious hardware?  No.  Lifting my wife? Sweeping her off her feet and into the Master Bedroom.  Sadly, no.  I was holding nothing heavier than a bottle of Formula 409 to clean the can.  Long story short, this is the first day I've been able to walk without pain like you can't believe.  The prognosis?  Good.  The cause?  My sedentary lifestyle.  I am the fattest thin man you'll ever meet.  I'm like 65% fat, seriously, it's just thin and stringy.  Anyway, what doesn't kill you, makes you write more code, right?

So we've been working on this fabulous ASP.NET site for a bank that is using our glorous eFinance XML Application Server, Voyager.  We've been hitting milestones left and right, and tonight was a big one.  Over the last few months, I've been "Chief-Architecting" less, and "Programming my ass off" more.  Gotta exercise those carpal-tunnel crippled hands, right?

Anyway, I've come to this conclusion.  Working in your office is ONE kind of productive.  But, when you're in a bullpen, or more generally, when you're working ELSEWHERE, that's a different kind of productive.

If you've travelled you know this.  If you're on a plane, you can catch up on an INSANE amount of email that you'd NEVER answer in the office.  From New York to Portland can find me with 30+ emails in the outbox, tying up loose ends I'd never have otherwise. 

I work with some talented engineers at Corillian, and while there have been some great late-night coding sessions alone, there's something to be said for being shacked up in SOMEONE ELSE'S cube.  No phone, no interruptions, just pure dual-brain programming.  We got some great stuff done tonight.  I was so far out of my element that I was in the zone. 

I've decided that being off-kilter a smidge, being elsewhere, can bring on a level of creative thought that is stiffled by the home office, or the work cube.  I've gone and coded in the lobby, or in the elevator, up and down, just for a change of venue.  The results - for me - speak for themselves.

Where do you do your best work?  Home office?  Starbucks?  Always changing?  What about that/those location(s) makes your little gray cells turn better?

I've decided to stay frosty by moving around.  It makes the work fly by.

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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November 27, 2003 21:01
I do my best work when I'm alone in the mountains walking my dogs! There are no distractions and I can really think things through. No computer, no nothing ... Just my mind to think things out and prepare myself for the next time I sit down to code. I've solved more problems this way! As a plus side, you get to exercise!
November 28, 2003 5:49
I tend to do better early mornings, during shower, and on my drive to work. Kinda lets me put some twist to my thinking cap!
I was checking your website, liked that tree control(smooth expand and collapse style), but on the whole looks like a bunch of static html camouflaged in Is there any functionality specific pages that's exposed in your website that uses some of the specific feature set of
November 30, 2003 4:10
" ...tend to do better early mornings, during shower"

Good call on the shower bit. I think I've had most of my good ideas in the shower, although that's coming to an end now that I live in an apartment that doesn't have hot water, but I still remember the glory days...

+1 for the shower.
December 03, 2003 7:32
I'm quite the opposite: If I'm out of my element (i.e., working at home or out of the office), while I will be more likely to come up with solutions to nagging problems, the amount of code I will churn out will be *less* than if I'm sitting in my sensory deprivation chamber at work. Why? Call it ADHD - there are too many things "out there" that I'd rather be doing than sitting and coding... Art projects, working on my own personal code projects, playing with my cat, watching movies, playing games, etc.

Being at work, I have more of a sense of dedication to the task at hand - I'm at work so I can WORK.

I solve my problems best in the shower or in the car in the morning. I'll figure out how to deal with that tough code issue while I'm driving to work in the morning or coming home at night. Once I'm going to code, though, I need to put the headphones on (music with no words - trance/techno seems to be best for me) and not answer the phone or see any distractions around me. Otherwise, the workflow goes kaput.

Tandem programming? Not for me. I generally have decided what I want to do and how to do it long before I could possibly explain it to someone else on my "team," so I'd much rather just get into it and get it done than have a huge debate on the whys and wherefores. I think I'm much more comfortable in a modular format - I'll make my module, you make yours, and we'll bring them together when they're done.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.