Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Need to "Catch" Emerging Task While Coding

Coding is a thought-consuming task and that makes the utilization of the brain very high which leaves little space for anything else including other coding task. So, if programmer has another task that come up in the middle of doing a coding task, it is most likely that he will get overwhelmed.

I think this is where the perception that programming is hard comes from, at least one from many other reason. There are just so many things that should be put in the brain's RAM. There are lots of abstraction and associations to keep in mind at the same time. However, knowing this we could make it less hard by not putting too much of it in our brain.

Let's illustrate a little. Let's say thought capacity of our brain is a 100. If a thought-consuming task takes 80 then we only have 20 left, so there's no way another 80 point task could fit in there or anything not under 20 for that matter. To make things flowing, just keep the brain from being too occupied. Keep what's in it within manageable (and fun) amount. In short, keep it sustainable.

We then need to put the surplus aside first and this is why programmer need system and discipline to do this in effective manner. I don't think we can do middle to large programming task without some kind of checklist to keep the subtask in order and cath the emerging tasks along the way. We need to only allow stuff related to current "theme" in our head and push others out of it immediately to other system before our brain start the chain reaction of spawning the emerging thought (or distraction) into someting that disrupt or flow of thinking. We could revisit this buffer afterwards, prioritize and pick the next task.

The system could be pencil and paper, text editor or, in my case, mind mapping application. It doesn't matter as long as you can depend on it as thought-catcher i.e: simple, instant entry and keep your mind clear on one single task.

There's one "sacred" principle here : There should always be task. If the task, when you work on it, proven to be insignificant or false or you find that it should be something else, do something about it first before doing something else. Cross it, rename it, whatever as long as you don't just uncounsciously forget it. One forgetting could lead your mind to wandering state and after some unproductive time you end up with "mmhh, what am I trying to do just now?". Don't let our mind do the thinking just for the fun of it. We are not maintaning our mind, give it good food and rest, just so it can have fun by itself aren't we :).

I find that being really strict to just doing one, relatively small, very concrete, well-defined thing at one time help in get more programming task done (meaing more feature added, bug fixed, etc... as oppose to more mess :) ).

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