when do you think?

Posted by anton
on Sunday, December 10, 2006

i think it was rutherford that upon noticing that one of his students spent all his time at the laboratory experimenting, exclaimed, "but when do you think?"

work feels like a rat race these days, and i almost have no time to catch up with blogosphere, let alone spend some time playing with things that are interesting and somewhat unrelated (interestingly most of the stuff that i am proud of at work, the stuff that is actually cool, i did as a skunkwork project in my spare time).

i am glad to report though, that i finally found a way to listen to podcasts. ideally it would be during commute or walks at lunch time, but since the city is small and walking around suburban expanse of parking lot is anything but inspiring, i had to come up with something else. it turns out that podcasts work wonders at the gym.

my problem is that these days i get too easily distracted, so confining myself to the tedium of a workout is the best way to focus. it used to be like that before, where i could think through designs or really listen to music, but i never made the leap to podcasts (or audiobooks) until past few months.

i need this time alone, this almost meditation-like state where it is just me and one subject/object that i am dealing with. this is the time when i get ideas, when i am creative. as long as i complement this with regular feedback from others, this is a perfect combination. speaking of feedback from others - it is best to get the team to eat together; it is amazing how well it works not just for bouncing ideas off each other, but for the overall health of the group.

at home achieving this state of concentration is often difficult, since at the same time there are too many distractions, and not enough difference to be inspiring. it turns out that these moment of solitude are most productive when offset by the din of the coffee shop, or even a bar - this way any distraction is short-lived.

at work not having an office, or even a cubicle until recently results in constant context-switching (or even thrashing, when operation duties of looking after others' code clash with any design/building). so i am trying to minimize distractions as much as i can, maximizing the time "in the flow"; it starts with simple things - on my machine all the interfaces are as ambient as possible - no popus, no sounds; but most often i work from home if i want to get anything done.

but back to podcasts - so far i have been catching up with jon udell and itconversations. jon's stuff is always a pleasure - sometimes i rewind and replay just to get everything, sometimes i pause and think - even if the topic itself is not that interesting, or the interviewee is not particularly impressive, jon always finds a way to trigger a thought, providing this inspiring jolt of ideas and connections.

i tried a few channel9 podcasts, but they were sickeningly patronizing and so bland and boring that i switch off in just a few minutes (i cringe easily so any kind of off-color jovial behavior rubs me the wrong way; i can barely take the elevator music and soothing radio-voice introductions of itconversations as it is). now that jon is joining channel9 at microsoft, i am looking forward to their improvement.

now i just need to broaden my search and see if there are any other podcasts worthy of interest (and i guess they do not have to be it-specific, as long as they are spoken word).


Leave a response

  1. antonJuly 31, 2007 @ 10:09 PM
    just received my copy of slack, so we'll see if the subject is worthy of a book-length discussion.