I suspect this is what many of us do (based on my own behavior and what I observe of others), but I’m not sure we outright say it or embrace it. Mood Driven Development: Work on what you feel like working on.
I should say: there is some inherent luxury to this. A lot of people don’t have jobs where you can do whatever you want whenever you want. Or have any flexibility at all.
But what is highly prized in our industry is productivity, in whatever form it takes.
“Hey, I refactored some of our mixins to be more efficient and made sure they are used properly site-wide.”
“Good morning, I looked over a lot of the copy around the site and have some ideas on what we can change to make it more clear and cohesive.”
“This afternoon I closed out a couple of long-standing bugs that have been bothering me.”
Any place I’ve ever worked, any of these things would have been applauded. Especially if they relate to the current team/project at hand. That’s what productivity is.
That’s too bad, since you are being productive anyway. You’re following your mood.
I mention this, because I suspect that working on what matches your mood makes you far more productive and excited. If you’re fighting against your mood, you’re slower, more mistake-prone, and fueling burnout.
I also suspect that the mood to work on certains things balances out. Those things I really need to do? The mood to do them will come along. Perhaps even sooner if I’m not forcing myself to do them.
If your mood is: play video games all day. Then you’re probably already burned out or in the wrong job.
I can’t vouch for any particular employee embracing this way of working. Perhaps your manager will get pissy with you if you did some seemingly-random thing rather than what they envisioned you working on. I hope not, though. As working your mood is probably best for the both of you.
Actually, I think it’s smart to craft your day around moods. I keep a rolling To-Do list that has some criteria about what counts as a “high priority”, so that it evens out to one or two high priority things a day. The rest are get-to-it-when-I-get-to-it tasks that I pick away at based on mood – I just make sure there is some meaningful task for everything. Like, I huffduff a lot of youtube conference talks so when I feel like getting away from the screen and taking a walk, I am catching up on a talk or podcast; I let me email and other repetitive or low barrier of entry tasks build up until I really don’t know what I want to do, so then I clear out the inbox. I have tasks when I’m being a hermit and tasks when I’m feeling social.
The key to this is that there really aren’t a whole lot of hardcore deadlines. That’s sometimes a reality you deal with. Honestly, a lot of shit can wait. You’re likely to be way more efficient when what you’re doing jives with how you’re feeling.
Absolutely great idea, one danger is that you do get so caught up with the low-hanging fruit that you don’t do the really important bits. I used to come up against that a lot with people I was paying to help out; because I was kind and allowed them to work on what they were in the mood for I had to work harder. It killed my morale and ultimately their jobs one-by-one. Sad to say by the time they were all gone, I didn’t even notice, because they would take too long with the comfortable.
Of course my experience could be a fluke, bad luck or simply that I should be more heavy handed, but I suspect you have to have someone special to grant them the freedom to do as they please. With great power comes great responsibility and all that.
Some related stuff from Alex Sexton:
I face a damn similar situation one too many times these days. Holding off from getting into Angular 2 and React coz I have to build products that would pay the bills.
I’ve heard this referred to as “Structured Procrastination”, and I think it’s a very good thing. There are certainly times when you need to focus and do stuff that isn’t the fun stuff, but doing “fun work” before that can help speed up the process immensely.
Working harder works in the short term, but working smarter is the long term solution.
There is something significant here, even if semantics might be wiggly. I tend to conceptually divide my tasks into two buckets: implementative (not a word) and generative. Implementative work like pounding out non-novel code I can usually “make myself do” productively, even if I don’t feel like it.
On the other hand, generative work—writing articles or blog posts, creating talks, high-level architecture, biz strategy—is something that varies so wildly in productivity that doing it when I am not in the right mood is directly harmful. If I’m not in the right mindspace, I don’t write well and I waste a lot of time for everyone involved. It’s not a question of laziness so much as…well, I can’t put my finger directly on what it is. There are certainly days when writing code sounds really fun and other days when it does not.
Fortunately, I have a flexible enough schedule most of the time that I can “call it” when it’s hopeless and turn my attention to more rote tasks. But because I don’t always have this luxury, when I make estimates on generative/creative tasks I give them more headroom than implementation estimates, because I can’t be sure I’ll be as productive as I want to be.
Another reality I’ve recognized is that, for me, there’s no way I’m going to be able to hammer out an 8+-hour day on deeply creative tasks. 4-6 hours on a good day is all the reservoir holds, so I try to distribute other kinds of work throughout my day-to-day schedules, and try not to cram a big writing or creative task into a single day, ever.
Well-known graphic designer Jessica Hische refers to (something like) this as “procrastiworking.“
Balance – taken to far either way is bad. Take a call center. If the focus is completely on you must successfully answer so many calls or you are out vs talking with a caller and learning their life story. If you are a boss you have the most difficult task of helping people stay on target yet keeping them engaged. As an employee I found it handy to have a 3 part list. Hard puzzles, best to nibble at daily and when the breakthrough happens jump on it, short easy repetitive fill in daily, and those tasks I hate. For those I hate I plan a reward.
I try to Eat The Frog and complete the least favourite (but necessary) job on the list, first thing each morning. Then I work through recurring ‘micro-tasks’ in Omnifocus, which break down unstimulating jobs into bite-size daily chunks.
Too much of this can definitely dull the mood though. Get enough of the boring stuff out of the way quickly to avoid feeling guilty about doing something interesting or even exciting for the rest of that day, something out of your comfort zone that you really want to do. It’s your inner instinct, trust it.
Agreed that self-employment brings great power over your work choices and great responsibility, to yourself mainly. Never forget that this is a privilege which can take you in positive directions on a daily basis.
Hehe … thanks Chris, I saw the headline to your article on CSS weekly and thought to myself “I could not agree more!”.
I guess the devil to this are deadlines because sometimes stuff just has to finish – but imho I usually find, that as the deadlines closes in my motivation to just-get-the-stuff-done-already shoots up like a rocket. Just has to get close enough :) Until then I totally agree, I usually end up doing whatever I feel like doing in that moment. Tried to change that behaviour many times in my life, but I think I like it by now and will keep it!
What also happens to me a lot in this context, is that I do something obviously and totally unrelated to the task I should be doing – like cleaning the kitchen or literally just spinning around on my chair. But after a while I realised that thinking about the task at hand is often half the job done … The other day I had to take a nap and felt soooo bad about it (because of the deadline and such). But when I woke up half an hour later, I kinda had the whole layout which needed to be finished by EOD in my head and ready to code..