I’m a huge fan of “The Clean Coder” by Uncle Bob Martin. I really like how he describes the “software professional” responsibilities that we have as software engineers. A key takeaway from that book is that we must always be working to improve our skills in the craft of software engineering. Additionally, Uncle Bob advocates that it’s our responsibility to “sharpen our axe” outside of our “billable hours.” Meaning, we as software craftsman should reserve the critical, and limited time available, for actually building software for our employer for just that, building software, and that it’s our responsibility to spend our own time to get better at our craft. I agree with this.
Improve Your Self Improvement
I caught this article in issue 246 of the iOS Dev Weekly newsletter, “Improve your self-improvement” and it was right up this alley. The author, Arkadiusz Holko, makes some great points that compelled me to write this post. Specifically, he challenges us all to “improve our after-hours work.” I love that he even goes through the math to calculate that outside of a 9-5 job, one would have 70 hours a week of “other time.
That sounds like a lot, right? Well for me, I know it gets spent really quickly. And I struggle to find 1-2 hrs a night for “axe sharpening.” The point he makes in the article is that one should recognize that the time available to study your craft is precious, there isn’t much of it, and you should actively take action to make it more and more efficient. This totally rings true for me. Furthermore, he goes on to suggest a couple ways to help drive the efficiency of this time. I like the distinction he makes between “active” and “passive” learning. Personally, I get so much more out of “active” learning. Pardon the pun, but I learned this lesson in high school. If I’m taking notes, or actively engaging in the topic I’m learning, it sticks with me much better than if I just sit there and listen to a lecture. I want to apply this to my learning that I continue to work, so I ask myself, “how can I make this active learning?” One answer to that question that continued to come up, was that, just write about it. As I learn new things, it’s great fodder to use as something to write about. So that’s a prime reason why I’m writing on this blog. To bring a sense of active learning to my journey to improving my skills as a software engineer.
You Don’t Find Time, You Make Time
I recently read the book, “Extreme Ownership.” It was a book on leadership written by two former Navy SEALs. I loved the book and highly recommend it. One mantra they advocated in that book was that you don’t find time, you make time. As I’ve become a father, and a husband, and a software professional, and someone with personal interests, those 70 hours of “free” time a week have more and more contention. That’s where the authors are like, “make time.” This is often in the form of waking up early, staying up late, sacrificing on watching that TV show. Focus on your goals and what’s important, and eliminate the waste. That’s how you “make time” because you’ll never consistently “find time.” I read a great post on Medium titled “Always Eat Alone.” The essence of the post was right along the lines of this, “make time” mantra. I relate to this big time. Enhancing my programming skills aside, there are other things important to me like working out. As a result, I “eat alone” so that I can make time for working out over lunch during the work day.
Pomodoro Technique Works Well
I can’t recommend the pomodoro technique enough for the software professional. It works so well for me. The keys to success are: timeboxing your work sessions, and literally eliminating ALL distractions. Quit all programs on your computer that aren’t related to what you are working on. Put your computer on “Do Not Disturb.” And give it 110% for the timebox pomodoro. Then leverage the break well. Move around. Catch up on chats. Get a drink. Use the restroom.
Kindle Your Fire
To wrap this up, I guarantee you that if you “kindle your fire” consistently, day after day, above and beyond what you are “paid” for, you’ll reap dividends that you can’t even perceive. Things beyond what can be quantified by monetary value. You’ll grow personally and as a software professional.
Happy cleaning, and happy weekend.