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Posted on: Friday, 02 July 2010 by Rajiv Popat

You walk a couple of miles into office. Brain Rules and Spark tell you that brisk walking or any exercise before work produces a supply of BDNF and Dopamine to your brain. It's healthy. But this is not a post on fitness. That one is here.

This is a post on 'Doneness'.

Pretty much like fitness, doneness is a state of mind.

Jack is at your desk as soon as you get into office.

A client seems to have reported a critical bug in the application. A bug that triggers a firefighting Endeavour consuming about fifty minutes of your time.

You check your email... ten minutes slip by.

Fred  is a little lost about the his purpose of life and needs mentoring (spelt: psychological pep-talk). You cringe. Another thirty minutes slip by and Fred is completely pepped-up now.

There is an interview you need to take. The candidate has arrived.

F@#CK!

Can't time move a little slower?

Someone on the transmission team needs your help. The dev working on it is stuck with some IIS configuration issues and is getting cryptic error messages. You show him how to change the Application Pool settings to allow Win-32 applications to run in IIS on a 64-bit machine. As you get up, you look outside the window. It's starting to get dark. It's evening.

F@#CK!

By now you have already moved to a panic state. The three items on your TODO list are staring at you straight in the eye. Your manager is calling you for another meeting. Improvise. Make a decision. Pick between the three items on the TODO list or the meeting. You are scared of the monkey taking a stupid decision which might come back to bite your team.  That monkey. Or maybe your team just needs some cover-fire. You decide to attend the meeting.

By the time you get out of the meeting your task list is still snarling back at you and you have a headache from the meeting.

F@#CK!

What happened to your true, fun loving self which used to get things done and ship? You take a pause by the office window to do some serious soul searching and reflect on today. The noise has dulled your brain out and there is a gentle silent voice whispering from deep down within.

"You did not get anything done today."

You feel like shit.

Michael Lopp describes this feeling rather articulately in one of his posts. He explains:

This sensation will appear at the end of the day when you ask, “What did I build today?” The answer will be a troubling, “Nothing”. The days of fixing ten bugs before noon are gone. You’re no longer going to spend the bus ride home working on code; you’re going to be thinking hard about how to say something important to someone who doesn’t want to hear it. There will be drama. And there be those precious seconds when there is no one in your office wanting… something.

It's an important realization. That and the fact that you actually did get a few things done. That interview you took, those three bugs you were able to close during the afternoon. That small class which you refactored while you were eating lunch. Those client emails you responded to while the meeting was going on. You just feel like shit because you are focusing on the three TODO items on your list staring back at you for the last three days.

You are planning, not coordinating.

Even more importantly, you are waiting for a big productive evening instead of celebrating small minutes or hours where you can squeeze time out and get stuff done. Next time you have fifteen minutes between meetings, see if you can look at the bug-list, pick up a small bug and close it. If you can, go ahead, pat yourself on your back. In fact, might I suggest that you celebrate the fact that you #gotdone on Twitter.

And then, when the TODO items on your task list snarl at you in anger, you have another list to throw back at it and not feel like shit.

Productivity is a state of mind, and much like exercising, even when it comes to work, you begin by understanding your basic limitations, working with contains and willing small battles instead of aiming for one large war.

Go ahead, be loud about what you got done today. Doneness is a good thing. It's healthy. It brings you happiness.

Celebrate your moments of doneness with the #gotdone hashtag.

I wish you good luck.