As a precrastinator, I’ve found that the Covid era has given me a taste of Zen. Right now, I’d normally be trying to make spring break plans for the kids, researching summer camps. (Yes it’s early but, as a New Yorker, you know you have to move fast, or poof! Someone else got the camp slot, hotel room, airline tickets you wanted.) But now, there’s nothing I can do but wait. Will a vaccine be distributed by then? Maybe. Maybe not. Should I block my calendar for the conferences I usually go to? Possibly, but probably not. So many tasks and decisions can be deferred now, guilt-free.
“First impressions…are tightly connected with the enduring biases subjects bring along,” write Schiller et al in their 2009 study on a neural mechanism of first impressions.
I then realised that if I had used a separate feature branch and then handed it to the testers, I would have saved myself and the team a ton of energy and time. Always aim to keep new code on a separate branch as long as possible until it’s been thoroughly tested. This will allow you to make fixes faster and isolate fatal bugs from production builds.
But trying to fit in the extra colors with a consistent set of shapes led to eMail being just an M now. There is no envelope for context anymore. The Docs icon is too similar to the calendar icon, which is too similar to Meet.
But the other reason I think I feel more peaceful is less mundane. In a culture that avoids talking about death, we’re finally having a collective existential moment. And for those of us who have the privilege to stop and think, we’re realizing that, if we’d like to pause the ride for a bit, the time is now. Go ahead and procrastinate. It might be your only chance. Not just because the pandemic will eventually end but because, this winter especially, the possibility of becoming gravely ill hangs in the air. The virus doesn’t give a sh*t that your third quarter was off the charts, or that you’d hoped to have your book proposal done by now. Tell your colleagues you’re having a the telemedicine appointment for your acne, then sit and listen to the wind collecting leaves outside your window. And little girl, if you’d rather lounge on your bed and daydream as your crimson fish flutters her translucent fins nearby, go for it. Staying still feels good. If you’re lucky and healthy enough to do so, stay home and making it through this wonderful day.
In software development, the inertia/resistance involved in starting to create a new feature usually manifests itself in a number of ways: having to go through lengthy SDK documentation, understanding what exactly the business requirements are, or even trying to figure out which dependencies are needed.
I was excited when I got my first major dev task: refactoring a feature to use MVVM and be written in Kotlin. However, I wasn’t experienced enough to know how to properly test my own code, and so I sent it to be merged into master while it was buggy as hell. A couple of days later, the testers on my team were in a furor and I had a flood of bugs to fix for two straight weeks. I was holding the team back because I was too lazy to properly test my work, and since all my changes were merged, there was a real possibility that the next release was going to be delayed.
The problem, as a lot of us will recognize, is that when humans get put under any kind of pressure conversationally, we don’t tend to make good impressions. We’re prone to talking too much about ourselves and forgetting the names of those we speak with.
Scientists say that charging forward is a way of dealing with anxiety, getting things off your plate. It’s also great for making sure you get scarce resources, which explains why pigeons are precrastinators. I also have a theory: that technology has exacerbated this tendency (OK, maybe not for the pigeons). But, for the last decade, we humans have been trained to be responsive, rather than truly productive. We get pings, DMs, and Reply-Alls, giving each one our precious attention — whether it’s bad news from your mom, or a text from your phone carrier. There’s been a flattening effect in how information and news are delivered. Compound that with the exponential amount of it — we’re so tightly wound that we can knock out three Twitter posts in under 60 seconds, but we’ve lost the muscle to sit our butts down and think about what’s best in the long run. (This is different from what academics call The Urgency Effect, which explains why some strive for Inbox Zero but never quite find the time to write the novel they’ve been thinking about for decades.)
There’s another, more analog reason I think some of us precrastinate. It’s simple. We just want to frickin’ RELAX, already. It sounds like laziness, but I think the impulse is more existential than that. In a world where the list of things to do feels like it could crush us, precrastinators look for ways to shake off that guilty feeling, the one that haunts you and mumbles, don’t I have something I should be doing right now? My daughter wants to get her homework done so she can just lie on her bed and look at her fish. If I could, I would brush my teeth for three days straight instead of twice a day for the rest of my life. No need to remember to buy toothpaste or pack my toothbrush ever again! What would I do with that extra time and brain space? I don’t know… read a book. Finally REST. If you’re thinking, well, that kinda sounds like… death, you’d be right. Which brings me to what I’ve found to be a morbidly positive side effect of the pandemic.
One thing is constant whenever anyone starts something new: inertia. We all experience it in many ways. When we need to get out of bed, our body behaves like an unresponsive blob. When we want to learn something new, we can’t get ourselves to join a course. When we want to diet, we get bogged down in the details of what we should eat, how often, etc.
But this fight for attention also comes at an expense of jarring color combinations. If you’re a UI designer, you probably know not to mix green or blue with red at high saturation. That combination actually makes the edge bleed and your eyes hurt.
Community forum websites provide an organized way to publish discussions on a specific topic. Users can register to start and contribute to existing discussions. Forums tend to help users solve technical issues, a great example of one is the WordPress support forum.
Luckily, the benefit of having monkey brains that often let us down when we most need them is that they’re relatively easy to hack. You can train yourself to remember people’s names, for example, by using some simple mnemonic devices. You can subtly influence your own actions and those of others with material priming. And you can learn to make better first impressions just by changing the language you use.
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