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I've noticed that certain activities such as designing systems, writing code and writing music put me in a very particular mental state. As this is a tech blog, I'll call it "code mode". Code mode is characterized by a hyper-focused state, a diminished sense of the passing of time and annoyance at any interruption. Its great for productivity, but isn't very practical in a typical office environment because it requires long periods of uninterrupted work and doesn't make you popular with your office mates. Nobody likes a guy who frequently answers multiple choice questions with "yes" and crouches close to his keyboard when others are in proximity.

In working with other developers over the years I've noticed some are like me, while others are able to easily task switch without having to wake from something of an altered state. The code moders adapt in a variety of ways such as working remotely or isolating themselves in a corner cubical with headphones blasting. I've adapted by using office hours for sales, marketing and management. I do almost all my coding at home. At home I've discovered having code time clearly scheduled as opposed to randomly occurring is beneficial to marital health. Sometimes a creative spark causes an impromptu session, which requires a bit of diplomacy :-)

I'm curious how many of you are code moders versus efficient task switchers. For the former, how do you adapt? Ikayzo - Design • Build • Localize | Web • Desktop • Mobile

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Comment by Alyssa K on May 10, 2009 at 10:21pm
David: Signals are good! Like a "Busy" status message for your IM.
For some reason IM's don't bother me as much as phone calls or in-person contact (wow I sound so anti-social). Maybe it's because I only have to allocate a small percentage of my attention to an im window.
Comment by David Jacobs on May 10, 2009 at 10:16pm
Put me in the "Code Mode" column (it should be an emacs mode that wards off interruptions :-). There is nothing worse than being in the "zone" and having someone suddenly demand your complete attention. It can easily take 15 to 20 minutes to get back.

Coming up with appropriate signals for your coworkers or family is important so they can know if you are currently in the "zone" and can decide whether it is important enough to interrupt.
Comment by Alyssa K on May 10, 2009 at 10:11pm
haha love the post and the pic!
Oh I am total "code moder" too. Both for coding and design work, but it's more intense when I code.
Comment by alf maglalang on May 10, 2009 at 10:05pm
I'm glad I'm not alone. I was thinking there was something pathological with my late-night sessions. Like Nate, I use the conventional 9-5 interval only for administrative stuff -- fortunately only once or twice a week. Like Daniel, I've been branded as "anti-sociable" at the office because of this "hyper-focused state". Since I sense discomfort emanating from colleagues, I choose to do "real" work at home.
However, I'm not a total "code moder" because I can do laundry, cook, clean, or any non-work-related tasks while coding. However I have to admit, I've burnt several dishes and bleached colored items in the process.
Comment by Laurence A. Lee on May 10, 2009 at 9:25pm
Definitely a "Code Moder" here, much to the chagrin of my better half.

At least I have a blog post to show her that it's not "just me". Dare I say normal? (Um.. no, I don't.. in case she reads this..)
Comment by Ken Berkun on May 10, 2009 at 8:57pm
And I thought I had no life...

Comment by Daniel Leuck on May 10, 2009 at 8:56pm
Mika: Otaku!
Guilty as charged. :-)

Nate: For the past 10 years most of my code has been written in the middle of the night and as alone as I could manage.
For many years I did the same thing. I would shift my day six hours forward to enjoy more uninterrupted time late at night.
Comment by Nate Sanders on May 10, 2009 at 8:03pm
Oh, and as for adapting, I think I'm about to invest in some noise canceling headphones and possibly change my desk to be more cube-like (unfortunate, but I think it'll help). Also, I may sneak off to another room occasionally with a laptop or something. I can't stress enough how I think a lot of managers do not understand the problem of distractions. I also REALLY hate direct, fluorescent lighting, which is what the vast majority of offices have for some reason -- it's truly horrible. I wish I could somehow prove that I have an adverse reaction to it at the chemical/biological level because I suspect that I do.
Comment by Nate Sanders on May 10, 2009 at 7:57pm
Total Code Moder. Very unfortunate because I work in an office where my desk is out in the open and we have 9-5ish hours.

For the past 10 years most of my code has been written in the middle of the night and as alone as I could manage. And just like you, I look at office time as a time for meetings/administrative things, not "real work".
Comment by Mika Leuck on May 10, 2009 at 7:18pm
Right after he made this face at me I hit him on the head with a coconut and stole his wombat.



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