My wife, understandably, gets so frustrated when she asks, hopefully and lovingly, if I’m ready for family time and I say, feeling flabbergasted with a deer-in-the-headlights facial expression, “I just got started.” Seriously, the last few hours was, like, prep-work.
I just wrote a post
on LinkedIn, The Myth of Multitasking, in which I quoted the stat from Worker, Interrupted: The Cost of Task Switching by Kermit Pattison regarding how long it takes to get back on task after an interruption.
While searching for the comic (This Is Why You Shouldn’t Interrupt a Programmer) I wanted to use as a cover image for the post, I found three separate articles specifically about this issue vis a vis programmers. These articles emphasized the significant difference is in how interruption affects programmers. The post I wrote and the article I cited don’t even remotely cover how interruption affects developers & designers.
For me, post-interruption isn’t about getting back on task, i.e. picking up where I left off and getting back into a productive groove. It’s starting completely over. Programmer Interrupted refers to Associative Memory, among other things, related to how programmers think. It is exactly like an application storing multiple variables and data in RAM to accomplish one, single task.
“Associative memory holds a set of non-conscious links between manifestations of co-occurring stimuli … The presence of multiple modalities in a stimulus increases the ability to form an associative memory … An associative link helps a programmer by situating information of multiple modalities …”
I’m not software, it takes me a while to gather those bits of data, analyze their relationship(s), and begin to build something from it whether it is a next step, a solution or … and, no, for the fifth time, my love, I am not hungry and, while I am so grateful you asked sweetheart, I don’t care what we have for dinner. That’s why I’m just getting started and am shocked and hurt that you think I could stop now and truly be grateful for the two hours you just generously gave me because, although you don’t understand this, 2-3 hours may as well have been no time at all in which case I would rather have been playing catch with my son.
If told ahead of time that I would only have two hours for work, I would say then work can wait. It isn’t worth it. What sucks is, that sounds bad and like you’re being snippy to those who don’t get it.
Planning ahead of time is vital. While many people can schedule themselves in 30-60 minute increments, I can’t. I always thought it was just me until I read Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule. I now feel validated and much less neurotic and eccentric for thinking a half-day or four hours is just about right for what I would call a single task.
While Programmers, Teach Non-Geeks the True Cost of Interruptions is amusing to those of us in the know, I am skeptical about whether or not a “Non-Geek” would actually get it. That’s not a statement about intelligence or empathy but mere personality type.