Unclogging your brain: adventures in work & adulting

LincLinc OwnerDetroit Icrontian

I had a really interesting experience today. It was a complete "oh, duh" moment that was months in the making and solved a bunch of issues, and the circumstances of it are worth recounting.

A few months ago, one of our most experienced developers announced she was leaving. The R&D team had been rotating one of them being the primary support developer every two weeks, but as we hit a changing of the guard for this and other reasons I decided to take it over for a while myself and see if I could diagnose why the work was taking so much time / dragging us down so hard, and/or what could be done about it besides simply passing it off regularly so no one burnt out.

From here, my job slowly morphed into a Dr. Seuss rhyme:

so all we could do was to
and we did not like it.
not one little bit.

I had a hundred things I wanted to work on, but this thing was weighing me down. And then a bunch of other similar stuff piled on, and it just killed my work buzz. I was getting cranky. But I still had no better idea how to handle it all without making things worse for the team. So I waited some more.

This weekend I built a Magic deck, went to a game store with @dark_arches and played sealed deck all afternoon, listened to Irish music in a bar with Aaron, planned the schedule for Expo, and then Sunday night I got so excited about something I was working on for Icrontic I stayed up til 2am working on it. I haven't done that in a long damn time. My mind was drifting back to Icrontic stuff all this morning, and then my Nintendo Switch arrived at lunch and I spent a little time getting that set up.

"OK, gotta really focus now", I thought as I turned back to the support queue. And that's when I realized what position we needed to hire next at work, and 15 minutes later I'd written a job description & proposal and bounced it off two other managers. It solves the problems, is a solid job in itself, and will make my life way better again. And, in retrospect, is perfectly obvious.

Yet I could not see it until I unclogged my brain and got it fired up about something else entirely.



  • AlexDeGruvenAlexDeGruven Wut? Meechigan Icrontian

    That's how it goes. It's easy to get stuck in a spinlock and not be able to see your way out of it. I've run into projects like that a few times and completely disengaging from it was the only thing that allowed me to look back at it with a critical enough eye to see where the real issue was.

  • GargGarg Purveyor of Lincoln Nightmares Icrontian
    edited May 2017

    From Relaxation & Creativity: The Science of Sleeping on It
    One lesson from Wieth and Zacks study is that when it comes to moments of insight, it’s important to approach a problem with a relaxed state of mind. Historical examples of this include Henrí Poincaré, who conceived non-Euclidean geometry while boarding a bus; Arthur Fry, who thought up the Post-It note while singing hymnals in his church choir; and Archimedes, whose eureka moment came during a bath (though this is likely a myth). Repose, not Red-Bull, is key when it comes to moments of insight.

    I've certainly found the same thing in my experience. Reducing stress, better sleep, and better nutrition all help me think better. Stepping away and letting the problems marinate while I sleep, do dishes, or mow the lawn helps me think of more creative solutions when I feel stuck. I think reducing stress and giving yourself the right environment for creative solutions are technically separate actions, but are related in practice, and doing both helps you to be the most effective/productive/happy.

  • NiGHTSNiGHTS San Diego Icrontian

    Have been reading a ton on job burnout lately - that was definitely happening to me. The most simple items were solved in the most complex and roundabout way in my mind and I could hardly focus on the task at hand.

    Glad to see you started breaking up the day to day, that's exactly what most of these articles are recommending you do.

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