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Stage directions: This meditation takes place in a large clearing in Canada. Stage left is the hunter and stage right is the bear (suitably fierce and annoyed). The whole stage has mosquitoes in the air. As the scene starts the bear starts to charge the hunter, who (whilst loading his gun) speaks to the audience.

I often tend to think of developing software to a deadline as similar to shooting charging bears. At first the bear is a long way off, you can see it clearly and get a good aim. If you take your time and shoot it well - the job is done.

The problem is the mosquitoes. You see as you are calmly aiming at the bear you are constantly being bitten and distracted. If you are not careful by the time that you have slapped all the mosquitoes the bear is almost on top of you and any shot you can get off is rushed and not the clean kill that you had wanted.

The irony is that the bear (software) is the main target. But the mosquitoes (telephone calls, interuptions, unimportant emails) are the things that get your attention. No self respecting hunter is going to boast over his beer that he swatted twenty mosquitoes, but sometimes they are just impossible to ignore.

So here is my personal list of ways to deal with the mosquitoes:

  • Make a list of small jobs. Then do it from start to finish. ie line the mossies up and swat them all in one go.
  • Only do the small jobs when you know what the job is. If the job is not clear then you will have to do it again as you will not get it right first time. ie only try to swat the mossie when it lands.
  • Make it clear that there are times when you do not like to be disturbed. ie wear mossie repellant.
  • Switch off the phone, quit the email client, turn off the radio, lock the door.ie shoot from inside a hide.

The mossies are not important, they do not pay the bills. However they prevent you from getting on with the real work and so need to be dealt with.

Good swatting.

--tidiness is the memory loss of environmental mnemonics.


In reply to Coding to a deadline - why it is just like hunting bears. by EvdB

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