Category : Productivity

Consuming or Producing

I am was sitting on a plane (to Boston) writing this. In front of me is a laptop (obviously), my Creative Zen Vision:M mp3/4 player (complete with around 10 episodes of dot net rocks and 4 of hanselminutes), a pen and blank paper, a couple of work documents that I have committed to reviewing. Of course there is also the 10 channels of in-flight movies and TV.

So, why is it I seem to be at my most productive on these long haul flights ??

My options right now are :

  1. Idle – sit back, snooze, have a few beers, do nothing basically.
  2. Consume – watch Shrek 3 (or reruns of Frasier and Cheers), listen to some music or podcasts
  3. Produce – get something done, deliver some work (or personal) task that adds some element of value

Well, I think I’m a pretty active guy, I detest not having anything to do, even for a few minutes, so I choose produce…

My quest for always doing something is not simply related to technical / work activities, it covers anything – when we’re on holiday there is nothing I hate more than laying in the sun with nothing to do – I will always ave a book in my hands, or be in the pool, or running, anything – anything but being ‘idle’

My wife / family think I’m addicted to email, because they find me sitting at the kitchen PC responding to email during the 2 minutes it takes the kettle to boil, or while drinking my coffee in the morning – but that is purely a symptom of my quest to always be doing something.
The same thing happens at work when I offer to make the brews for everyone. I walk across to the kitchen area, fill the kettle and switch it on. Then in an effort not to waste any of my time (or to ‘idle’ for the time it takes the kettle to boil), I will go back to my desk and start doing something (inevitably this leads to me getting focused / ‘in the zone’ and forgetting all about the brews until a short time later when Phil has made them.

My preference is obviously ‘producing’ – actually working on something over value. Obviously the ‘value’ changes depending on the task, for example I found an hour the other day and spent it (intensively) sorting out all my home PC / server backup strategy. At work I am (I hope ?)  ‘producing’ and therefore adding value every day in various technical, management, strategy areas.

Second is ‘consuming’ – reading, updating myself on things, taking in information. This normally happens just prior to a period of ‘producing’ (understanding the ‘producing’ domain), or if the time available is not long enough to start on a ‘producing’ task (like while the kettle is boiling) or the environment does not support ‘producing’  (e.g. on a sun lounger in Jamaica – although I have sketched out architectures and systems on paper in this kind of environment, just for the want of something to do – all books finished)

Last is ‘idling’ – I don’t do this very well, in fact I do everything I can not to be in a situation that forces me to ‘idle’.   Note: The exception is a glass of wine in a Greek taverna, overlooking a sandy cove on a hot summer day – this is the only real environment that I can tolerate ‘idling’ and even then for no longer than a couple of hours or so…

What are you – producer, consumer or idler ??     Now, back to writing that GPS code…

Current and Planned Reading List

Books I am currently reading :


Code Complete (Second Edition) by Steve McConnell
This is the second edition of the classic ‘software construction’ guide. It has been updated to bring it into line with current developments in the software construction arena.

It serves as a great reference, with some very easily understood topics, some excellent insights into the reasoning behind various aspects of coding, many a ‘best practice’ and numerous checklists. Print them out, lay them on your desk and cover it all with a desk sized sheet of Perspex.

Not so much of a read from start to finish book, more of a jump around various chapters and then keep it on hand to refer to on a daily basis.


Smart and Gets Things Done by Joel Spolsky
This is in the format of a pocket book and contains a whole bunch of stuff that can be read on Joel’s blog, I expected a lot more from it.

That said it is a good reference to all the hiring related topic / knowledge. It follows Joel’s well known ‘give them all private offices with a view of paradise and pay them just ever so slightly more than the annual cost of running the international space station’ philosophy.

Just after buying this (July 2007) I had an opening in the development team at C2C (job advert here), so pretty opportune and a great refresher before the interview and hiring tedium hell process.


Books I plan on reading:

fourhourworkweek The Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss
Not that I want to escape the 9-5 or join the new rich (although that would be good…), simply I’ve heard great reviews about it in terms of helping productivity and getting clarity on what is important versus not so.

He was interviewed by Scott Hanselman on Hanselminutes and Tim’s blog is here – seems like a very focused guy, puts his mind to something and makes it happen.

Note: I had real difficulty getting this in the UK (not sure why ??), but should be able to pick it up in the US this week.

lifehacker Lifehacker by Gina Trapani
I have been meaning to buy this since I (also) listened to Scott Hanselman interviewing her on Hanselminutes.
Again, more productivity ideas….

The website can be found here.