Programmer, Interrupted

Okay, interruptions kill productivity. Another recent article mentions planned interruptions to make things even worse. They talk about meeting appointments, for example.

But I dare say: interruptions are only ruining your day if they are external. If you take a break, things don’t look that bad. You can train yourself to re-focus. And I argue this is a useful skill.

It took me a while to train this skill, but nowadays I’m interrupting myself at my home desk every 30 minutes, get up and move a bit to stay healthy. I don’t need 10 minutes to refocus. I sit down, take a deep breath, and continue to write code. Just like that.

Heck, I even wrote an annoying break timer to force me to get up.

Talking makes things worse, though; makes it harder to re-focus. That’s pretty obvious, isn’t it? After all, you switch contexts and engage in a different activity that uses a lot of your attention. Socializing is important to us pack animals, so there’s no way to not read faces and listen for subtleties in intonation. It’s just what we do. And it pulls all of our attention away from other things.

If I have the work break for myself, though, I can continue to mull over a problem in my head. In this case, getting up and leaving the keyboard means to interrupt an activity that may not lead anywhere at the moment. I bet you know this situation: you can’t seem to figure out how to fix a bug because some components are too entangled; whenever you try to change something, something else breaks. (Of course this never happens in your own projects.) A break then interrupts the need to type on the keyboard and produce code. It helps switch from typing mode to thinking mode. It’s like facilitating the proverbial ideas you always seem to get in the shower.

If you’re afraid of interruptions eating away your productivity, I challenge you to install controlled breaks every 30 minutes to get used to the flow. Sitting for an hour straight already kills your body. You won’t notice if you’re not reasonably healthy; it just feels normal, but it isn’t normal.

I bet that my training to do regular work breaks makes me more resilient to short external interruptions. Put me in an office and see for yourself 😀

Move! Review at Softpedia

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My humble work break timer Move! has been reviewed by Catalin Chelariu over at Softpedia. I didn’t find any Twitter account or anything to thank him, so here it is: thanks for the review!

Catalin had one wish, though:

However, it would be great if there was an option to postpone the break, as it simply may not be possible to interrupt your current activity in certain situations.

I have to say that I totally understand where this comes from – I used AntiRSI and similar software in the past which offered a postpone button. It was useful. But it was also opening the doors to hell.

So I’m sorry to say that if your job demands you to sit down for whatever reason, then Move! isn’t going to be your app. It’s made for everyone, because everyone needs to get up more often. 30mins really isn’t that bad. Some corporate environments don’t care about your health, though, so you may need to increase the work duration.

What I wish for this app myself is the ability to start a break early, i.e. when I have to leave the desk for a while. Or a setting for work hours, so that it doesn’t interfere me watching a movie after 9 p.m., for example.

Move! – Work Break Timer Now Ready for El Capitan

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The Apple Watch is all the hype since it gently reminds you to stand up and move regularly. That’s a very good thing. A gentle reminder won’t cut it for me. That’s why I created a solution which jumps right into my face.

Look at the project page of Move!.

It features responsive timers: when you don’t touch your input devices, the clock will not start to tick. Only when you sit down and work will the timer start and make you stand up soon.

Move! is now ready for El Capitan. The upcoming OS X update can come!

Move! – Work Break Timer Release

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During summer, I have created a work break timer called Move! which really works. It gets in your way, it cannot be postponed. I created it to make me get up and stretch and do something else for a couple of minutes every half hour.

Sascha and I plan to add exercise instructions later. Right now, we’re happy to have a tool which forces us to get up every now and then and get healthy. (Backed by research, mind you!)

Try it.

It will get on your nerves. Continue to take breaks when it tells you to.

You’ll hate it.

You’ll yell at it.

But it will make you feel better in the afternoon.

Do yourself a favor and try to do some diagonal stretches or a healthy 1-minute routine.

Download Move! on its dedicated page now and experience it for yourself.