Darkened Software

Archive for September, 2010

Book Review: Eat that Frog

by on Sep.07, 2010, under Development

Book Eat That Frog

My first day at Microsoft they recommended reading this book as they explained you will eventually become overwhelmed with more possible work than anyone could complete and you need to be very good at scheduling what your going to take on and what your going to punt.  Odd I thought they would then recommend a book about how to stop Procrastinating but I picked the book up and read it anyway.  Turned out it was a great little book that covers both topics.

First section of the book is all about learning to ignore the myth that everything is important and needs to be done.  In reality only about 20% of the work you do is game changing work and the other 80% can at the very least be put off if not punted all together.  Tricky part is really identifying or get your boss to commit to which 20% is the critical at the time and there are some good recommendations on how to do so.  In the game industry we call this the “bits on the disk test”, if it does not help us put better bits on the disk we ignore it.

Second section is about doing enough is needed to prevent procrastination and other time wasting behaviors.

Procrastination = The fear you are going to fail

You mind decides to then save you from failing by looking for other stuff to do or wasting time, eventually you run out of time and your mind can write it off “I did not fail, I ran out of time”.  In reality 95% of the time the reason you’re mind fears it is going to fail is it does not fully understand the problem and what it takes to fix it.  Experienced programmer break problems down into little parts so that their mind never goes down this path.  The book gives some good examples on breaking this pattern and deconstructing problems.

Last section of the book is about scheduling your time and building out large blocks of time to work on your tasks.  This is one part of the book that everyone misreads and takes way to far.  True it is very important to have blocks of time so you can get into deep tasks that take a lot of concentration and have big ramp up and ramp down times.  But this does not mean going to insane extremes like only answering your email once every 24 hours or scheduling days with no meetings.  If you think answering my email is distracting you should try not answering it and having me in your office.  Similarly if you have a daily meeting that can not happen on one day so it is a meeting free day then it most likely should not have been a daily meeting in the first place.

There is no reason people can not check and respond to their emails before the day starts, after lunch before returning to serious work and before they leave for the night.  Given that many in the game industry start around 10 am it is better to get all meetings out of the way in the morning because you are interrupting a short block of work anyway and leave the 6 hour block open for a serious stretch of coding.

Good little book and worth the 10$ price tag.

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