Brain dump — programmer productivity experiment #2

Brain dump — programmer productivity experiment #2

Many productivity techniques, including Getting Things Done, include the “capturing” step. In the case of GTD, we are supposed to begin with capturing all our “open loops,” everything that is on our minds.

The goal of this practice is not only to make sure we are using your mind to have new ideas, not to store them but also to make conscious decisions about those ideas.

“Getting “in” to empty doesn’t mean actually doing all the actions and projects that you’ve captured. It just means identifying each item and deciding what it is, what it means, and what you’re going to do with it” — David Allen

What happened?

Because of Polish Independence Day, I had three days off, so I could use least one of them to go through the process. It took 10 hours. I started at 1 pm and finished at 11 pm. After 10 hours I could not think about anything new.

After 10 hours, I finally stopped having new ideas. I put the pen down and decided that it is the time to take a shower and sleep. The state of having an “empty mind” lasted for about 5 minutes. I didn’t even manage to start taking a shower. I had to return to the pile of notes and write down another four thoughts.

Not all of those thoughts were useful. I had some ideas about blog posts to write, meetup meetings to organize, side projects, and some business/investment ideas. I also wrote down things like “I need to buy Christmas presents,” (thank you, Captain Obvious) “I want pancakes,” “How much time has passed?” or even: “This pen sucks.” It is fine. The goal was to write about everything I had on my mind.

Capturing everything was only the first part of the job. On the next day, I spend 3 hours sorting the notes and deciding whether each note should end up in OneNote, Todoist or a paper shredder.

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Why have I done it?

I expected that at the end of the second day I would have an actionable plan based on some of the ideas I was ignoring for the last few months. I have it now.

I wanted to stop thinking about the same things over and over again. I don’t do it anymore. Fortunately, for the brain, there is no difference between doing something and writing it down, so all of those things are done. Not literally done, but at least I am done thinking about them.

The best part of the “capturing process” is the mind’s inability to stay empty. I feel that I could repeat the process tomorrow and write down another 300 notes. It seems now I need to figure out how to generate more free time ;)


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Bartosz Mikulski
Bartosz Mikulski * data scientist / software engineer * conference speaker * organizer of School of A.I. meetups in Poznań * co-founder of Software Craftsmanship Poznan & Poznan Scala User Group