Here’s the scenario:
You cruise in to the office at 8:45, get your coffee, check the reddits, and ignore that email from your parents asking if their computer picked up a virus because McAfee won’t stop popping up a tooltray icon helpfully informing them that they’re totally vulnerable. Right around 9:15, you get motivated to tackle that 2 point user story for the current iteration.
You head over to the wiki, check out the specs for the requirement, find out what the Trac ticket number is and see if there are any comments with last minute advice or dependencies. None? Good. . . let’s get started!
Oh, huh. . . it’s 9:40. There’s that all-hands meeting at 10 o’clock. I could get started, but I’m not really going to get anything done in 20 minutes really….and that link to the keyboard-cat-three-wolf-t-shirt did look interesting.
The 10 o’clock meeting runs a little long, and then there’s the lunch train, and suddenly it’s the afternoon and you haven’t been in The Zone once.
We’ve all been in The Zone – that magical place where time appears to stop and you rock out an insane amount of code in what seems like 10 minutes, but when you look up from your keyboard the sun is down and the cleaning crew is giving you a weird look because you didn’t realize you were trying to sing along to Sigur Ros.
Trying to force yourself into The Zone is like trying to force yourself to see through those stereograms (hint: it’s always a Schooner). And as hard as it is to get in The Zone, it’s annoying easily to get out of The Zone.
There are a lot of recommendations out there to help create “zone-friendly” work places including:
- separate offices
- ambient music
- leaving something intentionally broken the night before to give you that excuse to dive in the next morning
- shift your tasks to the upper right
- Paul Graham’s thoughts on the matter
- etc. etc.
We were wrapping up our all-hands meeting yesterday when the ever-perceptive Dave noted that our weekly meeting schedules were really not all that Zone-Friendly. With a couple of exceptions, we had standing meetings along the following schedule:
And keep in mind, that’s just the standing meetings, so it’s the bare-minimum one would expect. Now let’s add some “procrastination shading” to that calendar to demonstrate the actual standing meeting impact:
If we shuffled some meetings around (especially around the meat of the middle of the week), I think we could end up “finding” 2 or 3 hours a week more conducive to The Zone:
Of course, this is an idealized example, but it’s something we’re thinking about and playing with.
What do you guys out there in development land do? Any recommendations of particular effectiveness?