Pointed Development


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I’m not perfect and neither are you. Let’s work together to build great things. Tomorrow.

My name is Jason and I’m a procrastinator.

In 2010 I read an article by Robert Biswas-Diener titled Are you a procrastinator or an incubator? At the time, I felt a kinship with the protagonist “Mark” that’s difficult to explain.

There are more of me out there!

For about six obnoxious months after reading that article, any time I was accused of procrastinating, I’d point a fleshy finger right back at my accuser and proclaim, “No! I’m an incubator!” I’d then pull up Google and point them in the general direction of the article.

I’d then go off and procrastinate furiously.

I have no doubt that I accomplish work while avoiding work during periods of deep reflectivity. It’s part of my creative process, the so-called four stages of creativity.

Indeed, complex problems require deep, reflective introspection. I’m not one for immediately jumping to a conclusion. In fact, an incubation period is a critical aspect of formulating ideas. My thoughts, ideas and designs must incubate before I feel comfortable with their implementation.

Identifying Procrastination

Let me step back for a moment and clarify: I do procrastinate. I dislike tedious coding exercises, for example. I’ll put off doing the crappy aspects of development as long as possible, while focusing my brain on the aspect I do find interesting. When I finally do get back to the crappy part, I’ll put if off even longer.

Eventually, I’ll realize, “Hey! Get that crap done!” And I’ll do it.

But I hate it.

“Getting Crap Done” may mean anything, too. Maybe it’s writing a database delta. No, it’s not crap work, but by comparison to the Complex Problem, it’s tedious. By comparison to the piece I find interesting, it’s completely uninteresting.

It’s a problem I’ve already solved.

How do I identify incubation, then?

Indentifying Incubation

How do I know, internally, that I’m actually incubating an idea vs. just putting off the aspect of my job I dislike?

… focusing my brain on the part I find interesting.

I’m back-burning something. I can’t articulate it. I can’t explain it. But I can feel it. It’s stewing. I see flashes of ideas. I have sudden epiphanies.

Sometimes, I can’t sleep because my brain has kicked into some sort of thought-overdrive.

It’s a problem I’ve not solved. And I know it!

I thrive on problem solving. It’s what drives my professional career and it’s what got me in to technology in the first place. It’s my bread and butter.

If I’ve already solved a problem mentally, it’s tough for me to follow through with whatever needs to be done to make it work. It’s tedious. Right or wrong, I mentally file that work away at a lower-level of priority than the Complex Problem.

Incubating to Succeed

How the hell do I ever get anything done, then? Do I ever follow through on the tedious tasks of development (and we all know there’s plenty of them)?

Of course.

But I’ve had to stay on top of myself. I’ve had to make a conscious effort to identify periods of procrastination vs. incubation. I’ve had to develop a system that works for me, which includes creating simple TODO lists, effectively managing my inbox, prioritizing action items, following up with coworkers… In short, being a professional.

At the same time, I’ve had to allow myself periods of incubation. I’ve learned to foster my backburner by recognizing I’m back-burning!

This has been my biggest professional challenge, but it’s a challenge worth undertaking. Some of my best ideas have came from the humblest beginnings to become full-fledged products simply by supporting and understanding my internal incubation mechanism.

So let your thoughts and ideas simmer.

The end result may blow your mind!