Every day, we make decisions on how we want to spend our time. I choose to keep coding and designing away, while watching tv. I choose to listen to audiobooks more than I curl up with a perfect-bound novel with a musky smell, just so I can also clean up the kitchen or chop some veggies at the same time. I choose to multi-task and feel more productive because of it. I feel like I’ve ultimately hacked “the system”. I keep myself busy, because I like doing things. But, I’ve realized something: I’ve forgotten how to unwind, other rather, I had chosen to not unwind properly. I don’t mean unwind in the spa or vacation sense, but in a molecular sense of just a day, on a regular basis. Something that is routine, not something I wait to do weeks or months later once I’m utterly exhausted. An unwind that is a not a bandaid, but a regular process that isn’t packaged with another action. Rather, it’s little bit of time every day that is reserved for choosing to do absolutely nothing.
A few months back, a coworker from NC was making arrangements to visit The Iron Yard campus I taught at in Austin. She asked where the closest yoga studio was and there happened to be one near campus, so I sent links her way and didn’t give it another thought. When she got to town, she asked if I wanted to go with her the next day to the yoga studio for a class she had signed up for. I was perplexed. I don’t do yoga and I’m busy, I thought. I also didn’t really know where to start or what to expect. As that thought crossed my mind I realized I hadn’t given yoga a chance, so I agreed, with a “sure, why not”. I had no idea what I was in for.
We went to a restorative yoga class, a type of yoga that helps reset the body and mind, and has more to do with resting in a pose than it does stretching or exerting oneself. Sounded easy enough. At first, I felt awkward, and within the first few poses, that’s when it hit me. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. As I sat there in a basic seated position resting between two other poses, I thought of nothing. My mind was blank and I felt completely rested and calm. As we moved to different poses, my mind continued to follow the directions our instructor calmly stated and my mind continued to stay blank. By the end of the class, I felt like I was floating as I took in and let out each breathe. As we walked back to the campus, my arms and legs moved with a purpose and my thoughts were organized. I felt in-sync between what my body and mind were doing together. Within a week, I was doing daily yoga poses by screen-sharing Yoga Studio, an app I downloaded on my phone, onto my TV. In every session, the instructor starts seats calmly breathing for a few minutes, reminding users to listen to their breathe. Most workouts end with the corpse pose, laying flat on the mat, with arms on the side, and eyes—whether open or closed—facing upwards, again, listening to breathing.
At the end of the day, it’s a lessoned learned from yoga, not necessarily a requirement or recommendation to do yoga, but to just do nothing. It works in any room. It works when staring out onto a neighborhood street. It’s a great idea if you need a break from code or while watching watching a rare eclipse. Sitting still and listening to our breathe. It’s the simplest thing and it works wonders and can become a regular routine. We all make choices on how we our time. I choose to not give up my cooking, cleaning, and audiobook habits, because I very much so enjoy cooking and enjoying a book. Now, I’m also consciously choosing to stare at a wall and listen to my breathing, sometimes in yoga poses and sometimes just sitting on the couch. If we put the phones and devices away sooner, ignore all the noise, and pause for these unitasking breaks, I think we can remind ourselves to unwind in a more productive way, all while doing nothing.
One year ago
I have been in a slump lately. No, I don’t mean with dating or my batting average, but with work. You see, I love building stuff for the internet, it is my passion and I am not a total newcomer to this game; however, these last few weeks I have found myself near stagnant while attempting to work on a project that really should not be so difficult. Let’s figure out why.
As a web developer, I am in an industry that changes hourly. Seriously, by the time I wake up in the morning ready to tackle the day, four new frameworks and seventeen new tools have been released. Now this is nothing new, the outpouring of open source resources is one of the things that makes this industry flourish, and has been written about many times over. Thankfully, for me, my issues are not surrounding the tools of the trade, more so the tricks.
When is good good enough?
I am building something that will be powering several hundred websites. What if I make a mistake and do not use the current best practices? What if a decision I make proves to be the wrong one? What if I take the wrong road and in six months time I need to do another mass-overhaul of the code base?
These are the thoughts bouncing through my mind every time I open my text editor lately. I am spending hours reading forums and blog posts trying to make sure that what I am about to code is the best way to do it.
Why? Next month it may be obsolete anyways, and that is ok.
I have become stuck in analysis paralysis. I am spending every waking minute contemplating the best way to handle each task within this project. Bouncing from one resource to another, hacking at each sub-module while avoiding the bigger whole each time a new idea enters my mind. You cannot build if you do not build.
Perfect is the enemy of good.
This is not a new concept. I imagine many developers hit this phase at some point, most likely people just entering into the field. The fact that it hit me after nearly a decade may be what is throwing me for a loop. The problem boils down to this:
Do the best you can, move on and keep learning.
There is an adage in software development,
ship early, ship often
That speaks to the very point that this is a dynamic trade where you are perpetually a student and what you know one day you may know better in a year. It is ok to not be perfect, to not be the best. It is ok to simply be good. The most important thing is that we keep learning, because the minute you stop learning you are no longer doing your best.
Remember, while perfection may ideal, it is ok to treat it as the elusive unicorn and settle for good. Doing your best is good enough.