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Created December 13, 2012 20:50
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Go Get Some Popcorn

I was working on what I thought would be a not-too-dirty and not-too-premature snippet of code to cache some rendered Django templates when I realized it was going to be more complicated and in fact a little uglier than what I'd hoped. "Oh well" I thought, and decided to move on to more critical tasks. First though, to go grab some popcorn (the radioactive looking yellow stuff from Popcorn Factory in case you're wondering).

Not surprisingly, while in the kitchen it hit me that I was thinking about the problem incorrectly and that the solution was at hand. Welcome back, quick psychological win! I assume most people are aware now of the consequences of distractions on productivity. Another part of being effective is changing your context (physical surroundings, environment, etc.). I suspect many of us with technical or creative careers overlook this important aspect.

Researchers still have a lot to piece together about how the different subsystems in our brains work together, but evidence is mounting that our subconscious may play a lot more into what we typically consider our rational, conscious thoughts. Anecdotally, we've known this is the case for a long time. A common example is having an inspiration while in the shower.

I'm fortunate that I'm able to work with a distributed team. Just as important, the team understands the value of minimizing interruptions and not relying on outdated collaboration techniques like regular team-wide meetings. Not only does this arrangement keep us from wasting money, it also allows us to each work in our preferred locations. I usually work from home, which means I can get up and get some popcorn as much as I'd like. You won't hear my crunch, crunch. I can walk around the house, wander around the yard, and marvel at how my brain goes from stuck and defeated to "I got this" in a matter of seconds. I'm not distracting anyone else; no one has to worry about my habits, and things get done with confidence.

Whatever your situation is, try to shake it up a little. When your boss asks why you were outside sketching squirrel wars for 15 minutes, tell them you just saved the project from making a serious technical mistake. Now, go get some popcorn.

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