Adventures in brine

A blog about code, beer, and bread.

Shutting the world out

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There is never enough time. Last year in particular, it always felt like there wasn't enough time in the day. Running a company, where your work is also the primary source of income, is no easy task. I was always looking for ways of squeezing more hours out of day; tweaking processes, finding better tools, writing scripts. It's become a bit of an obsession for me, finding "better" ways to get more stuff done. I was pretty good at it, I think I still am. But as the end of last year drew in, it became clear that I was spreading myself too thin.

I was a manager, a sales person, a support desk, a developer, and was switching these hats constantly throughout the day. My goal on any given day, was to get to the end of the day without any major mishaps. If I managed to progress at all, in terms of significant progression of a project or a more efficient way of doing something, well that was amazing.

The problem was concentration, I couldn't stay focused on a single task, without being distracted by someone or something craving my attention. We experimented with a few different ways of tackling this:

  1. Switching off access to email at specific parts of the day.
  2. We decided that I should not answer the phone.
  3. Further than this, I wouldn't participate in a phone call unless it was me that initiated it. If someone wanted to talk to me, a time would be arranged for me to ring them back.
  4. Allocated time to perform specific tasks.

These feel obvious to me now, but they weren't back then and had a huge impact on my ability to get through work. Even combined though, these were not the silver bullets I was after. I'm too nosey for one thing, if someone else picked up the phone, my ears would prick up, brain on overdrive wondering what they wanted and were the requirements being dealt with correctly. And who can blame me, it's my company after all.

I needed a way of maintaining concentration, without completely removing myself from the office. My salvation came in another, now startlingly obvious, epiphany; headphones. It'd never really occurred to me in the past to try headphones, because in the past I've typically opted for in-ear earphones, which are uncomfortable over long periods of time. I'm also pretty negative on headphones in an office environment as rule, because I hate sound leakage. But I didn't see that I had an option and it's made the world of difference. My earphones use noise reduction to completely immerse me in the task at hand.

An unexpected and corny side effect of the headphones has been trust. I am nosey because I believe I need to be involved in every decision, that my opinion always needs to be considered. Switching on the headphones has demonstrated to me that I'm not (always) the centre of the universe, and that many facets of the company can run without my constant interference.

I'm okay with that, because I spend a lot more time on the stuff I like doing now.