Programmers, keep your wits about you and Code Mindfully
I was talking with Patrick Cauldwell the other day about what makes a "Good Developer." We talked about a number of different characteristics.
My intent was to write up a list of good personality characteristics that describe effective programmers, but Patrick said, "The real problem with most developers is that they don't keep their wits about themselves."
This was like a slap in the face to me. I realized when I was going through the Programmer Phases of Grief that I hadn't kept my wits about me.
You ever have the very frightening experience when you're driving along, perhaps lost in thought, and next thing you know, you've driven two miles and you don't remember the driving process that got you there?
Many of us who've been programming for a long time, or folks who are very gifted and take get from A to C while skipping B, can have these fugue states while programming. I don't literally mean that one blacks out while coding, but rather one goes "running down a one-way dead-end street." A lot of time is wasted before we realize that some original assumption was wrong.
I think one can be a more effective programmer if they can avoid not-thinking. Call it Mindful Coding if you will. The act of actually thinking while writing code is challenging, especially when your mind is jumping to the next idea or if you're writing code you've written a dozen times before.
Sometimes I'll catch myself asking a question of someone around here, and halfway though the question I'll realize that I haven't really THOUGHT about the problem space. For me, and my learning style, this might involve explaining it to someone (often my wife, who nods in all the right places, but cares not about such things) or drawing a picture.
For many, analytical thinking isn't a passive thing. Often just making the decision to "sleep on it" can be all that's needed to break through a hard problem.
"If you can keep your wits about you while all others are losing theirs, and blaming you. . . . The world will be yours and everything in it, what's more, you'll be a man, my son." - Rudyard Kipling
So, I say, programmers, keep your wits about you. Code Mindfully. I vow to try harder.