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Why you should introduce a cool-down period in your team

The cool-down period refers to that time you wait after committing code, the deliberate delay you introduce before making decisions, the conscious pause you take before… You’ve never heard of the cool-down period have you?

Excitement can be an excellent driver, it’s really when I do my best work. And I’m very easily excitable; when I hear something (or occasionally think it up myself) that is simple, elegant, useful, powerful, or valuable — my instinct is to get started on it right away, but I’ve learned to resist this feeling.

Here’s the thing about critical thinking — it takes time. We need to consider the idea (whatever it is) if we want to be sure it’s worth doing. The moments after the idea emerges, when we are fizzing with that addictive feeling of urgency and anticipation, is when we are most susceptible to brash decisions that could end up wasting time or resources.

Building in a cool-down period is vital if we want to increase the integrity of our conversations. And everybody benefits.

Learn to say:

  • Hmm, that’s a good question (even if it’s not) — give me some time to think about it and I’ll come back to you
  • Everyone agrees we should do X, but let’s let the idea cool-down before we do anything
  • Let’s book the AirBnB and flights tomorrow, if we still think its a good idea
  • I love that idea right now — let’s see how we feel next week

How long should you let things cool-down for?

I don’t know. It probably depends. There’s probably an algorithm that links the impact of the idea/suggestion/change to the ideal cool-down length that looks something like this:

Image for post
I’m letting the idea of doing a graph cool-down before committing to it — sure it sounds like a good idea… but maybe it will be clearer in a few days.

Don’t be strict on how long the cool-down period is. The point of it is to let our subconscious work on it while we’re busy doing other things. Don’t worry about forgetting about it; if you do — it probably wasn’t that great. If it were great, it would come up again soon enough.

Let code cool-down too

It’s not just hot ideas that need to cool down, newly merged PRs need to cool-down too.

After you’ve committed some awesome code to the repo (fully test-driven obviously, so you know it works brilliantly), don’t just move onto the next task. Take a break. Let the code settle down before working on it again. Code is like fresh paint, it needs to set before you can see the true colour. And other people need to get used to it too.

Instead, check the GitHub issues for an easy bug to fix, tweak the style of that thing that’s been bugging you or play with that feature you added last week.

But, wait a minute…

Startups are all about being agile, rapid and decisive right?

Startups are about having the flexibility and freedom to get things as close to right as you can without the pressures that build up once you grow or expand. That’s why you should introduce a mandatory cool-down period on ideas, code, decisions and plans.

Of course, you might decide that doing something fun or cool is worth doing for its own sake, which is fine — but at least you thought about it first.

Written by

Founder at MachineBox.io — Gopher, developer, speaker, author — BitBar app https://getbitbar.com — Author of Go Programming Blueprints

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