Saturday, February 25, 2012

Don’t interrupt my colleague

You are in the office, deeply concentrated on solving a problem. Then someone approaches your desk and wants to ask you for a solution to a different problem. What do you do?
Do you give him the answer to his problem?
Do you tell him to come back later or send the question in an email?
This is a situation I guess most developers experience several times a day. Most developers are nice guys and gives a proper reply immediately, but is this really what we should do?
In my early years as an developer I always said “Yes, hang on and I’ll find a solution for you”, but lately I have changed my answer to “Send me a mail and I’ll give you some feedback later”.
The reason behind this is that I want to get rid of all the 100 context switches each day. When someone asks you a question, you have to start thinking about that problem instead of the problem you were working on. When the guy leaves you as a happy man 5 minutes later, you might think: what was I doing 5 minutes ago? It might then take 10 minutes before you are back on track and can are productive again.
If you instead tell him to send you a mail, you can finish off whatever you are working on and then later give him a proper reply. This will make you finish your task sooner, and an added bonus is that your reply might also be better.
Interrupt rules:
  1. Only high pri crises should be answered immediately
  2. Send questions on mail or IRC
  3. Set off specific time of day to answer questions, for instance just after lunch and before you leave for the day.

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