Notifications and Meetings

So I shut them down. No more banners, no more app badges, no more sounds, no more jumping dock yelling at me about IM, email, calendar, … well no app interrupts me anymore - unless I chose to. The payoff after one day: it felt more productive than usual. I wrote properly worded emails, a report, reviewed 3 pull requests worth of code, drafted a proposal on how to improve our documentation and helped out some engineers by arranging a training for them. At the end of the day I felt a sense of accomplishment, I felt refreshed and ready to take on something new. On a Monday. That's a first this year.


…but wait… all other Mondays left me drained…


Let's take a few steps back: Recently I've been thinking a lot about the mental condition of engineers, how work makes us happy or unhappy and why. The creative side of software engineering is so rewarding, after a couple of hours flow, be it designing, coding, refactoring, reviewing etc. I feel awesome, I feel powerful. I feel like I just rocked the world with my engineering genius - even if it's just a tiny git precommit hook that formats java code (and never creates conflicts 😃).

On the other hand doing a lot of the menial work that team work in big corp (apparently) requires feels draining. Reacting to tons of emails, comments on issue trackers, support inquiries, scheduling meetings, reading HR manuals, navigating the 20 odd floor of the office building in search for a meeting room. A meeting room in which I'll spend 30-60 minutes with 6 other people, but only really pay attention to 7 minutes of the whole afair. After a day chopped up by these disruptions I feel drained. I feel like the energy was sucked out of me, right alongside a part of my soul. Even if it was pay day.

While thinking about these things I came to the Basecamp Employee Handbook. It describes a company that strives to enable employees to have more happy-flow type days and less soul-sucking-corporation days. What strikes me most is the generousity with which Basecamp approaches the employee-employer relationship. Many companies in tech try to fashion themselves as great places to wrok with free food, beer, soda, casual drinking on fridays in the office and group activities. My company tries as well, but the crucial mistake is that they only assemlbe the ingredients (free meals, office with gym, hairdresser, dry cleaning, massage studio, cafe and convenience store) but don't prepare a great meal (metaphor borrowed from @DHH): It is just not genuine, in parts of the company people are expected to work pointless overtime, the open office is really just a way to pack workers with maximum density, hiring practices show a lack of interest in the people. It's just checking off boxes on the “how to be a cool tech employer” checklist.

In the Basecamp Employee Handbook I found that they produce the Rework Podcast which I started listening to. There is great stuff in there and most importantly it genuinely feels like the people I hear an that show actually live and work by their handbook… actually not quite, it seems like the handbook is an expression of their work & life philosophy. Which excites me. Shortly after I watched Jason Frieds TED talk on “Why work doesn't happen at work”

Drawing some inspriation from his words I will log the number of scheduled meetings vs attended meetings vs meetings in which I am distracted. Moreover I will note down all the interruptions during the day (or at least try). I started today and the pure awareness of interruptions made me silence all the communication tools, turning them from communication that is pushed into my face into something I actively seek out. Pull » Push. This has made for the most conscious Monday this year, I'm curious how the rest of the week turns out. I encourage you ot turn off all interruptions at work!