This is the third post on my ongoing series of soft skills I learned at work, with the first two here and here.

Turbocharging work days feels good but not sustainable

Some of my work in my current project at work becomes quite clear to me after I’ve created a well documented plan of what needs to be done. In the past week, I turbo-charged myself and worked over 12 hours each day. Including lunch and supper time, I stayed in the office for probably over 14 hours each day. That must be what the word “sprint” means, when it’s used to describe work instead of sport, right?

That feels good because I could readily see lots of progress in my project. However, that didn’t last long. I became so tired each day and fell asleep soon after I got home. Last Saturday I even slept till late afternoon. This week, I could still felt the aftermath. What’s worse, I couldn’t make up things I’ve already finished during our daily stand-up, so I had to say I worked on less important things, such as finishing training videos that are long due, etc.

Having a reasonably well planned Sprint and finishing the tasks on an even pace probably is better.

Battling “background noise” when working

In Robert Martin’s The Clean Coder, he mentioned the notion of “background noise”, and professional programmers should learn to battle it, or at least, not work under background noise because low quality work will be produced without being noticed. I encountered such an event recently. Sometimes I could not do anything, but waiting for an response and worrying about when to send a request for update, or when to escalate the task, made me very anxious. To battle this, I took a simple approach. I ask myself three questions: (1) Can I do something about it? (2) Is that going to get me what I want? and (3) Should I do it now? Surprisingly that worked pretty well.

If I answer “no” to either of the first two questions, I just put it aside. The first question is a quick action decision making. If I can’t do anything, then why worry? The second question is very important. Sometimes if I answer “yes” to the first question, that is, I think I could do something, that “something” may not be the best thing to do, may not get what I want, and may even make me regret if I did it. Having this question in place really have prevented me from doing many silly stuff (too bad I realized this too late and still did stupid things).

The last question is another firewall to background noise. Even if I can do something, and that something is the right thing to do, it doesn’t mean I should necessarily do it at the moment. This is especially true in the morning or early afternoon, when I am getting started for the half-day’s work (after morning commute and after lunch). Unless absolutely necessary, now I usually postpone and batch non-work related things all together, and finish them before I go home. This proves to be both effective and worry-free.

Stand up for yourself against groundless claims

Again, without details, what I did in this event was to have written a 1,200-word email, stating facts, arguing with somebody else, defending some false accusations against me, and expressing my concerns about ineffective team communications. I spent close to 2 hours on the email, on a Friday late evening, after work, and got no reply for that email afterwards.

If I were to decide again, probably I would just try to have a big heart and laugh it off. Oh, by the way, I won’t write 1,200-word emails again. In fact, in the beginning of this year, I’ve made a decision to not write long email. Maybe this event is a perfect timing for me to enforce this rule on myself.