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Concentration span(proudness and tips)

 
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This post is over how do you manage the time you do not code during a coding day, to be even more efficient,so I thought this could be the right place to POST it.

There is one skill in my advice that is essential to be a coder, and it is the ability to concentrate on a topic. In the evolutionary process of the human being, the prefrontal cortex that we use when we ponder things is a limited resource, and we use it a lot when we are designing software, when we go through a challenging bug, and also when one review some code, read some posts in the ranch, go through official API documentation etc.
Different studies indicate that in general after a certain amount of time, between 20 and 45 minutes we are not able to focus anymore with the same clear mind we had before to start, in other words attention decays.
I guess is a common experience every morning when we start we have a "fresh mind" and usually at end of the day together with million of working people ( even not programmers) we go through a process of mental exhaustion. As coders we use the brain much more than the average, and being attentive and fresh is exactly what we need to go trough whatever programming task

Personally speaking I study/work 20 minutes and do a pause of 10 minutes, using even some relaxation techniques, and then i repeat all day long this cycle, and try to go to run 1 hour per day between my normal job and the coder one. Also I do some massage to my hands while I am studying to stimulate endorphin, and try to think in terms of less abstract concepts, so for instance if I pass a parameter to a method, i try to visualize the images of which instruction is running into the machine, because I know that images are less strong to maintain on the brain.

As I am working/studying 13 hours per days, including the weekend since last March, I developed even a more complex routine, that fits me well, from what I eat to how much I sleep, from where I take the PC, to which kind of music I listen.

But I would be glad to know by you more experienced guys, how in the years you managed to tame your concentration span. I mean Personally speaking I have a really bad habit, as I am quite stubborn, sometimes I remain focused on a problem for 3-4 hours, because I think that I am going to resolve the minute after, and when i do this... I have to stop to think for at least 2 hours, so I would like to know by you if you have this same issue, or like me are you trying to manage this proudness to maintain the brain focused although your body is saying to you, have a rest.
 
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That sounds like the Pomodoro technique. I used that at home when working on my book. (and certain other tasks)
 
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Giovanni Montano wrote:But I would be glad to know by you more experienced guys, how in the years you managed to tame your concentration span.


Well, for me beer usually does the trick.

Or a run (back in the days when I used to do that).

However, by far the best technique I find when I'm stuck on something is to talk to someone else. I can't tell you how many times I've started to explain my problem to a colleague, only to get halfway through and solve it myself. And I suspect that it has a lot to do with the procedural and solitary nature of programming, which can allow you to get stuck on a single track if you're not very careful.

You also need to be aware of whether you're actually being productive. I've actually had many occasions in my career when I've "pulled an all-nighter" - ie, worked all the way through the night and into the next day - because I WAS focused and achieving results. And I suspect I'm not alone.

And when you do get "on a roll" like that, it's remarkable how much work you can get done - in my case, often the equivalent of a week or ten days of normal work.

So I don't think there's any single answer to your question. The main thing is to be aware of how you're feeling and what you're accomplishing.

Winston
 
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Winston Gutkowski wrote:However, by far the best technique I find when I'm stuck on something is to talk to someone else. I can't tell you how many times I've started to explain my problem to a colleague, only to get halfway through and solve it myself.


I think this is called the Rubber duck debugging
 
Giovanni Montano
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Jeanne Boyarsky wrote:That sounds like the Pomodoro technique. I used that at home when working on my book. (and certain other tasks)


well, you are right, but i would not define it as a tecnique. The pomodoro way is really simple, just even before it was invented I was doing instinctively the same at work.Now has been added to the "technique" something that comes from the mainstream neurological studies, like not dividing the attention between two tasks etc, but definetly, taking short pauses should not be something subject to a copywright in my opinion. Also if the "inventor" has some merits to have implemented this way to act.
There is much more and is linked to empirical habits everybody has, that make them relieve from the heavy feeling in the mind.
In other words, my question is mainly not over taking a pause, but HOW to take the pause. Taking some honey, do some exercise, lying on the bed, floor, breathing? etc
 
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Oh. It depends on where I am. At home, I'll do a tiny chore (or piece of a chore.) At work, I'll get up or check email or go through paper.
 
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Giovanni Montano wrote:In other words, my question is mainly not over taking a pause, but HOW to take the pause.


I doubt it's the same for everyone; and certainly for me, I don't find I need it very often.

What I do sometimes need though is a complete break - and I don't mean 10 minutes, I mean 10 hours. Fortunately, I've generally been lucky enough to work for bosses who understand that when I'm feeling stale, the best thing is to do is just let me take the afternoon off and come back "fresh" the next day. And the only "techniques" I've developed for that are to:
(a) Make notes to remind me where I was when I "paused".
(b) Take a notebook with me to jot down any ideas I have while I'm enjoying a beer or watching TV.
Having one on your bedside table is also a good tip.

But I suspect that everybody's "coping" mechanisms will be different.

Winston
 
Giovanni Montano
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Winston Gutkowski wrote:
(b) Take a notebook with me to jot down any ideas I have while I'm enjoying a beer or watching TV.


Thanks, I noticed that taking beer is quite recurrent as reply, also hearing from some guys here in the Netherlands, I guess that gives a kind of effect that one
thinks less and has more testosterone in the blood. Unfortunately it is not an option for me, but definitely is inspirational.

I think this is the reason why in few famous companies there are videogames, places to have a power nap, or not pressure on the pauses one wants to take
And this another reason why working alone could be more productive, if one is enough motivated, and speak to the duck as suggested above:)
 
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