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A Riff On Environment

I’m working from home today because. . .well, mostly because I’m an idiot. See, Thursdays are Lunch Date Days where the love of my life and I meet for lunch. Because of that, I couldn’t go to the gym at lunch and thus, needed to go before work since the after work gym crowd is fairly difficult to navigate without accidentally bumping into someone’s silicone or an asshole on roids who wants nothing more than to kick sand in your face. So I bounded out of bed around 5:15ish, sat in the dark in the living room for about 15 minutes thinking about how much I love waking up at 5:15 and then finally staggered out the door with all my usual accoutrements that I had carefully laid out the night before.

I drove to the Irving gym, thinking about how nice it would be to work out before work since that always puts a nice start on the day, never once thinking that things you always have on normal mornings when you aren’t going to the gym might not be included on mornings when you do go to the gym. Like work clothes. Just sayin’. So I strolled into 24 Hour Fitness at 6:25ish, put my gym bag on the bench in the locker room and prepared to put it in the locker when it hit me. No work clothes on hangers because they were still hanging in the bathroom where I had put them on the off chance I didn’t make it up in time for the gym.

I muttered “Fucking shit” in a voice I thought was mostly to myself but based on the sideways glance of the probable rabbi next to me, must not have been. At this point, I had three options:

  • Work out then report to work in a sweaty t-shirt, shorts and tennis shoes. I briefly considered it before realizing that attire probably didn’t suit Business Casual Thursday.
  • Go home, get dressed, drive back in prime rush hour traffic, have a perfectly grumpy day because not only did I not get to work out but I also had to drive to Irving twice (contributing my part to global warming which I don’t really care about but still) and go home to find out I was out of scotch. This also briefly crossed my mind but since I gave up kicking the dog for Lent and it stuck, I figured this option was out too.
  • Drive clear back across town to the Parker gym while traffic was still light, work out, drive home and work there today. Hey, we have a weiner! While I was still muttering what a colossal waste of time the morning had been, at least I’d get a workout in and save my sanity as well as the dog’s behind.

So that’s what I did. Why am I bothering to write this all up? Because of this: the effect of environment on productivity CANNOT POSSIBLY be overestimated. In the three and one half hours I’ve spent writing code from 8:30 til 12:00, I have done more than I did the previous two days combined. While no one probably wants to hear that, it doesn’t make it any less true.

Here, I have peace and quiet (with the exception of the occasional pissy cat), all the cokes and snacks I want, perfect temperature, classical music playing in the background, almost zero interruptions (see pissy cat above) and a great view out my back windows when I need to gaze at something besides the screen while pondering something. The ability to concentrate is uninterrupted by anything external other than the rumbling of my stomach which I can ignore when I’m into a problem.

Environment is important critical to productivity. It is the difference between a jumbled, irritated mind and a clear focused one.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think we should all go into our offices when we get to work, shut the door and not come out until the clock strikes 5. But there are places for communication and there are places for concentration and those places are MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE. When they are combined, less gets done in more time with more distractions leading to more defects.

Now the lunch hour is over and it’s time to get back to work. I’m actually looking forward to the next four hours because I’m going to get things done. Tomorrow, I’m going to the gym in the morning again. I won’t forget my clothes. But I won’t get as much done tomorrow either.

The Daily Palliative: Simon’s Cat

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