In this segment we explore what team members at 12 Spokes do to ready themselves for starting something new…
1) New music. I love listening to music while I work and nothing jolts my creativity like listening to some new tunes. It can range anywhere from jazz and mellow (think Trio of Oz) to techno remixes (think GirlTalk or Pogo). I’m a sucker for new music and will pretty much listen to everything and anything so long as it’s putting me in the creative groove.
2) Drawing. Whether it’s doodling on paper, sketching out a layout idea in my notebook, or laying down some ink or watercolor it tends to open up the design world for me when I’m mixing up the techside with the artside.
3) Have a cup of tea (or two or three…). Because it’s delicious, delightful, and keeps my brain going.
1) Hand off my kid. I divide my time between caring for my daughter and working. So before I can undertake any project, whether it’s dinner or a deep-dive business-dev meeting, the first thing I have to do is get her off my hands.
2) A quick surf of the ‘nets. I don’t get a lot of dedicated screen time throughout the day, like a lot of people do, so when I do sit down in front of my computer, I like to poke around for five minutes to get all my internet curiosity out. After a quick look at Facebook, my email and Slate, I feel like I’ve gotten my distractions out of the way and I can set in for a long, concentrated haul. (I think a lot of people might have trouble with the “quick” part of this step, but my workday is timeboxed pretty heavily by babysitters and nap schedules, so when I sit down to work I don’t muck around).
3) Coffee, tea, or another jolt. Totally uncreative, I know.
1) Set up my desk. I set my laptop on a stack of books and stand up to work, it keeps the juices flowing, and it keeps me from officially having to buy a standing desk. Unfortunately, my friends keep taking books out of my stack to read and/or just to tick me off. I can deal with that for routine bug fixes, but if I’m working on something fresh, I need to get back to the right height.
2) Shut out the world. I like simplynoise.com; persistent white noise keeps me from being distracted by cars in the street or the TV in the next room (actually, oscillating brown noise is what I find to be most effective, but most people group all colors of persistant static-y noise into the “white noise” category). Although I haven’t metricized it, I have anecdotal evidence of marked code improvement just by not hearing the other sounds that are going on around me.
2.5) open my “pomodoro” application, which is kind of part-and-parcel of shutting the world out. The focus of a structured 25 minute work session followed by a 5 minute break keeps my mind focused and fresh and keeps me from dwelling on the same roadblock for too long.
3) Big glass of water. I’m a compulsive hydration advocate, and if I don’t have a glass of water next to me in excess of 64 oz., then I’m just going to be leaving my computer in 5 minutes anyway to get one.
1) Research. Chances are, if I’m working on a new project, I’m going to be encountering some challenge I’ve never met before, whether it involves learning how to use a new Ruby gem or maybe even a new programming language or framework. I take the requirements of the project and decide on what the major components will be and what technologies will work well.
2) Brainstorm. With my arsenal of tools ready, I start thinking about the application’s unique business logic. Often this process involves taking out a piece of paper and drawing or writing until it clicks. Rarely do I fully grasp how to take the first steps without spending a good amount of time deep in thought.
3) Get started. With the barebones of the app running, what to tackle first? It’s often helpful to program from the mindset of the user. First, I want to log in, then what do I want to see? I build from there toward the minimum viable product to get the core of the application out in the least amount of time.