Browser Tabs & Procrastination

Although my procrastination is usually “do something else”

First day back in the office as the cold recedes. Feel like I could happily stay in bed, but am worried my legs are cramping up. Distracted trying to get to the blog. Can’t think of a title. Ended up applying for MailChimp’s nonprofit discount. It’s that process of closing old browser tabs. The motivation is to try and stop the tabs from getting out of control. On a bad day I can have 10 browser windows each with 30 tabs. You can see how this relates to the state of my desk. Somehow it’s all tied into levels of motivation. I’m motivated to write blogs. It feels good. It would almost be painful not to write a blog, but the “Garden waste collection” letter on my desk from the council that I need to process will likely involve navigating to another website and getting my debit card out to pay for the next year’s worth of garden waste collection … just looking at it made my heart sink. There was another piece of paper on my desk relating to the guarantee on our new windows. Somehow that was easier to cope with. I just needed to file it and I used that as an excuse to transfer one folder from the old filing cabinet to the new. Mission accomplished, although even just twisting around to do that wasn’t entirely pleasant. It’s pretty chilly here at the moment (freezing fog) and I’m stiff from walking the kids to school.

Where was I? Browser tabs, right. So just like I’m trying to stay on top of my physical desk organisation, so I am trying to manage my browser tab addiction. Closing a few when the opportunity arises makes sense, right? Then I find myself getting distracted by what I’m closing. I just closed about 10, the detritus of the second half of yesterday with tabs related to:

  • Pull request from Corey on the homepage event live status for WebSiteOne — getting CSS loading for “Whos me the page”
  • MailChimp pages that I was showing the new marketing intern
  • WebsiteOne waffle board and other issues I’d opened in a flurry yesterday

Perhaps if I were a well-adjusted non-parent I would be closing the above sets of tabs at the time of use, rather than this morning. I go to them partly to find a tab I don’t need so that I can use it to navigate to (rather than opening yet another new one) from where I start creating blogs. I used to just open a text editor, but after discussing the flow with folks, I followed Arreche’s suggestion of editing directly through the GitHub web interface, which I am pretty much enjoying, but it does have the associated danger that I need to open a browser to do it. I guess the “safer” thing to do would be to just hit command-N and not try to clean up the old tabs? It’s funny — seeing the MailChimp pages, I just felt a spurt of motivation to apply for that discount. It took maybe a minute or two to navigate to the right place and get a message sent off through their website form. That slowed me from getting to the blog, and could have been done later, or perhaps even would have been better off being done by someone else.

Motivation, energy, enthusiasm, energy, it’s all very strange. I could easily spend my entire day procrastinating. With Slack and email I could spend my entire time just reponding to folks and thoughts, and totally fail to make progress on things on my todo list. There’s a sort of nervousness that overcomes me if I can’t get down to my allotted tasks, such as trying to get the blog done before 10:30am. I’m very conscious of how time can get frittered away with random things if you’re not careful. It’s interesting because in some ways what I’ve always enjoyed, and wanted, is to be able to focus on what I want in the moment. I remember experiences from my PhD (which in the UK can be very open-ended) where I was free to read whichever research papers I wanted, and research whatever I liked. In contrast to schoolwork with its prescribed curricular materials, I could start looking at something and decide to put it down if I wasn’t interested. I really enjoyed the complete freedom to focus on what was interesting to me in the moment. I love sitting at my computer and moving to the area of Slack, email or the web that happens to interest me; or working on the part of a codebase that I’m currently interested in looking at.

Having to sustain an income makes this more complicated, as just completely aimless meandering doesn’t seem to magically pay the bills. However I’m also somewhat enjoying the mental gymnastics required to work out which are the activities that are bringing in the money. It adds spice to the mental process of task switching. To go back to the tab closing, the items left open yesterday reflect previous fast paced task switching, and a strong desire to eke every last moment of efficiency out of the day. I had 10 minutes left before I was picking up the kids from their evening activity last night and I immersed myself in Corey’s pull request, working to dig up factoids and thoughts that might help. I think I got a nugget of insight, but it was then time to be taxi-driver for my kids, so it’s shut the computer fast, lots of tabs left open. In a different context, maybe I’d be taking the time to clear up after myself, but then again maybe I’m just a vicious task-switcher. The process of clearing up being less appealing or interesting than the digging up of info.

It also occurs to me that the data I sent to Corey would be more digestible and understandable if reviewed and reworded. I’m almost tempted to post in what I added to the PR here, but it’s longish, so here are the links:

Part of what I’m doing here is also trying to show him my thought process and the tools I’m using to investigate. I am verbose. There, I said it. I have a problem with verbosity. I like writing out my thoughts in detail, I like saying my thoughts in detail. Part of the motivation of blogging is so I don’t spend quite so much time boring folks to tears with descriptions of my thoughts. I am also afflicted with not being as sensitive as I might to other people’s comfort (or discomfort) levels when I’m talking. I am working on getting better at that! Unfortunately I really do enjoy my own thought processes. I guess this has become more a problem as I get older and more senior, and some folks start to feel compelled to hang around and listen. Apologies to everyone getting bored or frustrated with me externalising my mental activity. I know that people are more likely to read tightly focused blogs, than they are my daily brain-dumps …

I certainly wouldn’t have time to read and absorb from someone else the amount of material I generate. I don’t expect anyone to keep up with my output. Where I do want to get to is a process where I can generate a shorter book or manual that sums up all this stuff (that I’m thinking about Agile project management) in a more digestible form. I guess the other option is one blog a week where I spend one day generating and four days polishing, and changing, and making it shorter. We’ll see.

I was going to have this blog get into how yesterday I very explcitly didn’t pair program and instead did a solo non-invasive coding on the WebsiteOne Premium upgrade work. In parallel we got three small related tickets voted on in the WebsiteOne Slack channel, and I’m starting to feel like this is the efficient way to code at the moment, given my admin commitments. We’ll see. More on that soon.


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