Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Code Blocked

I love coding.  Once I get started, I get lost in the groove very easily.  I love thinking about the best way to organize objects and design my UI.  It feels good to find elegant ways to solve problems.  So the fact that I haven't done a lot of programming lately really frustrates me.


If I was working in industry right now, I'd be coding every day.  The nature of my current projects in grad school require a lot of preliminary non-coding work (especially reading).  But it would be wrong to blame grad school for my lack of coding.

In fact, there seem to be two larger problems at play here.  First, I have a hard time wanting to do much of anything work related in the evenings.  This is partly because my husband and I value balance in our lives, like to cook real food for dinner and keep the house in good working order (easier said than done when you own a 130+ year old place in the country).  My poor eyesight and need to wear hard contacts may also play a factor, making my eyes too tired to focus on a screen all evening.

But perhaps more frustrating is the second problem.  The amount of momentum I need to break the code block barrier has grown to be fairly immense.  I don't know why this is.  Once I get started I can't stop, but it seems really, really hard to make the first move.  To open Xcode or or Eclipse or Visual Studio and just start coding.  It may be related to my dislike of doing something for only a short period of time before having to put it away again (probably the same reason I still haven't finished playing the first Portal).  I'm not sure.

I have more than one project that I've very nearly finished.  I could easily be tinkering away on these projects when I need a break from reading or during a quiet evening at home.  I want to break this code block and be consistently programming throughout each semester.  How?


Kate said...

What about switching up when you make time to code? Maybe setting a dedicated 30mins-1 hour in the morning by getting up earlier would do the trick? Or, you'd hate it so much you'd get something done in the evenings, haha ;)

Gail Carmichael said...

I think I need to first make time for coding before I can switch when that time is. :P

catwell said...

If I were you I would not try to code every day. You know the Zone they talk about? It exists. And that's when you'll be the most productive if you code during your free time (it doesn't work as well when you do it as a day job).

So I would try to group other tasks and get three hours of free time dedicated to code one or two days per week rather than eg. 45 min every day.

As for your eyes problem, I have some too. I don't have eye contacts though, if you can you should try to buy glasses yo work instead. Buy a good monitor (not brilliant like iMacs) and lower brightness to about 40%. Use slightly-darker-than-white text on a black background and try to have homogeneous lighting in the room.

If you can't focus on the screen for two long, take 15 min every hour to work on paper instead. It will actually help you design your software better. It does miracles for things like data structures, data flow design and even API design.

If you wonder what the perfect state to enter the Zone is, I found out it works best when I am a little tired but not too much, and when I've drunk a little alcohol (like 1 pint of beer or 2 glasses of wine). Music helps to focus for the kind of code where you know approximately what to do, silence is better for more theoretical things when you need to think.

Good luck :)

Gail Carmichael said...

Alas, glasses are not an option for me. I have keratoconus. :( I've never been a fan of white text on black backgrounds, but maybe I should give it another chance. Music is pretty much essential for being in any kind of zone for me - I tend to like electronic music without too many words. ;)

Basu said...

I've been having exactly the same problem: lots of reading and absorbing, not enough hacking. I'm personally trying to focus all my reading/writing for Tues and Thurs when I have classes and time gets sliced up anyways. I can generally easily get some reading done in 30 minutes but far less hacking. On MWF I have longer uninterrupted blocks which are better for long hacking sessions. I also work in pretty dense languages so I can get some visible progress with not too many LOC.

Another thing in my favor is that I'm hopelessly single and hence have no incentive towards balance :-P. On a normal day I generally work till 4 or 5, take a few hours to slack off, eat and get dinner and work again from 8 to 11, bed around midnight.

Riccardo said...

I was reading your post and I was thinking: "it sounds like my situation".
Actually I like coding my own stuff in the evening/night, but now family is in the mix (a baby too) and also the special contact lenses (keratoconus too).
In my case a good LED display and big fonts really help :-(
And I had to switch to light background and dark fonts.

Music usually helps and I recently "discovered" smooth Jazz. Mindy Abair and Candy Dulfer became my favorite coding soundtrack.

Gail Carmichael said...

Wow, our situations really are alike! Glad I'm not the only one who finds the light background easier on the eyes. Seems most like the reverse.

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