Jacob Gorban is an independent software developer who like many of us, lives with a work culture in which taking time to think feels like a luxury rather than necessity. In this post, Gorban argues for "Thinking Time" and suggests how you might include it in your work week, regardless of the kind of work you do.
Being an indie software developer, developing products and running the business, takes lots of time. I work during normal working hours and then often have a "second shift", when the family, or at least the kids, fall asleep. Still, I have enough planned stuff to do, when I'm near my Mac, to fill months of work. And most of this better be done sooner than later.
I'm pretty sure that if you're an indie software developer, a designer, a business man or almost anything where you have some control over your time and work, you know what I'm talking about.
In this state, we may become so reactive to the tasks that need to get done that we just don't stop, take a step back and reflect on the whole situation. We may just forget to think deeply, strategically about the business and even about the work tasks themselves.
Enter "Thinking Time"
When I was at the uniquely great NSConference 2011 this March, I had the opportunity to discuss some of this with Matt Gemmell during a dinner there. Matt is a well-known Cocoa developer, conference speaker and, should I say, thinker. He appears to think deeply about stuff and publishes many of his thoughts in the articles on his blog.
So I asked him how he approached the thinking about software design, and his answer included something like "I take a walk, in the nature, by the river, and only take my Moleskine and a pen with me." It's not a quote but the gist of his reply.
And I thought to myself, "Why, that's a good idea. Step back from the monitor, the distractions, and devote time to just thinking for some time, writing thoughts down with analogue pen and paper".
So, on my way back home I grabbed a couple of notebooks at the airport (they just happened to be Moleskine, of course), one for me and one for my partner, Kosta, and decided on having "Thinking Time".
I put it in my calendar, weekly, as the first thing to do each week. It's a good way to start a new work-week. While most of the population rushed to the jobs thinking "It's @#$%@#$ Monday again", I start the week slower, walking the streets or sitting on a park bench or under a tree to write things down, breathing real air. If the weather doesn't allow being outside, I'll sometimes go to a cafe, instead of skipping it completely.
During those couple of hours I can make good progress planning software architecture, sketching application design, preparing a conference talk, or thinking about strategic business stuff.
Then, by noon, I come back to my home-office, feeling refreshed, satisfied that I already did something important today, and overall feeling inspired for the rest of the week.
Try it yourself
If you don't yet have such "Thinking Time" on your schedule, I suggest you to try it. The beginning of the week works the best for me. But maybe you'll feel that the middle is actually better because it splits your work week and you get some kind of a break from your regular tasks.
In this age of Internet and social networks with all the fun distractions that they provide, it becomes more important to go away from it all at least for a couple of hours each week, sit down with a pen and paper (or even an iPad running some notepad-type application), and just think it all through.
Jacob Gorban founded Apparent Software, an indie software development company for the Mac OS X and iOS. Along with writing code, he loves the business side of things, plays guitars and listens to progressive rock.