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What is your least popular but deeply held opinion on personal productivity? (twitter.com)
34 points by yarapavan 5 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 85 comments

About software development, I have a lot of unpopular views about testing.

- You should try to write as few tests as needed (and focus on getting as much value as possible out of each test case).

- Only write unit tests for logic that is either: 1. Too complex to reason about or 2. Very old and hasn't changed in a very long time (like 1 year or more) and you want to lock it down.

- For TDD; integration tests are the best.

Also, I have unpopular views about statically typed languages; I'm not a big fan of them. I spent many years working with statically typed languages in a professional setting (in fact, my first language was statically typed) so I have a deep understanding of the pros and cons of each one so I feel very strongly that dynamically typed is better in terms of productivity (both for initial development and also refactoring).

Basically I'm against the corporate approach of software development. I'm particularly against all software development approaches which aim to treat engineers as disposable and untrustworthy entities.

It's obvious why executives don't like this type of thinking but it's surprising to me why engineers themselves also often disagree with it.

I think a big take away is that what works for one person may not work for the other.

I have worked with both types and untyped languages and I really don't like untyped languages. But I have seen plenty of smart people who love untyped languages and do great work so I have concluded that people just are different and have different needs. And ideally the workplace should accommodate these differences.

Same for open space. Some love it, some hate it. So ideally people should have a choice.

> I spent many years working with statically typed languages in a professional setting (in fact, my first language was statically typed) so I have a deep understanding of the pros and cons of each one

There are a lot of statically typed languages, many with completely different paradigms, so I admit to considerable scepticism of your claim.

I’m curious to hear how refactoring can be better in a dynamically typed language, especially if you dont have sufficient test coverage.

A statically typed language - even a relatively weakly typed one would seem superior for refactoring.

For a lot of projects, a small number of carefully chosen integration test cases can give you a large amount of coverage. Unit tests are often a problem for refactoring because they discourage you from making necessary changes (since updating unit tests is hard work, it incentivizes developers to limit the scope of the refactoring).

The reason why typed languages are slower to refactor is simply because they just take more time to think about. For example, it takes time to discuss and agree on types with your team members; what they should be called and whether or not we should combine some interfaces into a single interface...

If you're in the market for a best friend look no further. I may or may not have had a slide titled "Fuck unit tests" at recent talk..

This is not as unpopular as what reading about productivity and process from blogs or books by people who sell canned methodologies will make you think. Thinking retrospectively I think more than half of the projects I've worked in practiced agile in a way more akin to your views than to what you are complaining about "everyone does".

It's also not too different to what old books like Fowler's refactoring or the Working With Legacy Code book say, or what modern books like Philosophy of Software Design say.

Mine: getting a good sleep and regular exercise has a greater impact on productivity than your choice of methodology.


A fun mental exercise is to classify sleep as brain training and then compare the results of sleep to a brain training game (or practically any other activity).

I classify sleep deprivation as brain damage, that way I use fear of becoming stupider to motivate me to stay healthy.

Exactly. If you regularly do this everything falls in place by itself. No need to worry about being productive.

This definitely. A third for me is organizing my tasks into creative/intensive and boring/repetitive. Then I try to pick my tasks according to my energy levels.

That we (in software development) should worry more about negative productivity than positive productivity. If you're headed in the right direction, doing the right things the right way, you're productive even if you're moving slowly. The world doesn't need more efficient mess makers, but that's exactly what we get when people focus too much on per-hour or per-day pseudo-productivity. Races don't award medals for being the fastest runner in the wrong direction.

Being productive doesn't make me happy. Sometimes being happy makes me productive, but certainly not always. I can be very content doing nothing for long time periods of time.

As a result, I generally don't value productivity very highly.

I bet a lot of people already know this, but it was a surprise to me this year. The book Flow originated from happiness research. I'd always assumed it was a book about productivity, but it's actually a book about what activities make a person happiness.

That says something important about productivity. You'll only be happy with productivity meets up with a level of challenge that puts you in a flow state. Productively doing easy tasks is boring.

Depends what it's aimed at. I started a business and was very productive the first few years. That set me up for less work later.

I'm extremely happy at my past productivity. And, at the time, I was also aware I was building something, so I generally felt happy, or at least with purpose. (There was a lot of stress then too)

If you're just productive at....whatever and it isn't really driving towards something valued, I'm sure it feels very different.

Going in with the mindset that I will probably fail (badly) the first time I try at something. Most people, including an earlier version of myself, are discouraged by it. I now find comfort in it, and I also find I'm a lot quicker at trying out new things and implementing new routines while succeeding at them than before.

Productivity is not about who is working the most. You can't always be productive. Sometimes it's better to take some time off and think about things.

Moving fast is not always the most productive way to do things.

Workplace environment can have a huge negative impact on productivity. Noise and distraction can kill productivity.

98% of meetings are useless for almost everyone in attendance, and the whole meeting could have probably been replaced with an email

I'm always surprised to see another person beat this dead horse.

I've never worked in an environment was happy to see highly paid engineers sit idly in a meeting.

No one has ever said "Yes sure we have the time and money to spend to have you be bored instead of productive".

Obviously, YMMV - I simply want to express how I can in no way relate to the "bad guys" (management) in this scenario.

Developers can be like small kids. They will complain about meetings or they will complain about not having the big picture, not being consulted, not having a say in whatever, etc. Irrelevant, unfocused or unprepared meetings are bad, but that is a truism.

Oh my.

Being a parent of small kids, not once have my kids complained about "not having the big picture" or "having a say in whatever, etc."

I'm struggling to find the useful, productive substance part of your comment.

Taking a metaphor literally is not a good counter-argument.

Waterfall parent ITT

I'm not sure that is an unpopular opinion, quite the opposite in fact.

Heh, tell that to all the people that hold the meetings. I think it may be a popular opinion __here__ on hn

Even the people who hold the meetings often agree but they seem to think there is nothing that can be done.

Same with open space. Most people agree they suck but somehow it's still the safe choice.

"Nobody ever got fired for holding meetings"

"Nobody ever got fired for creating an open space office"

Since the opinions have to be unpopular... As far as E-mail and meetings go I've observed that:

1. The people who most vigorously argue things like "this meeting could be replaced with an E-mail"... tend to not read their E-mail.

2. The people who complain that they're always out of the loop are the ones that don't go to the meetings or read their E-mail.

3. The least productive/reliable people tend to be the ones that flake out on meetings and/or have 13,591 unread messages in their inbox.

4. I hate to interrupt people while they're "in the zone" but I'll do it after 2-3 un-answered E-mails/IMs over the course of a few days. A lot of times they'll get irritated and say something like "Why can't you just E-mail this to me instead of interrupting me?"

We do a weekly meeting every monday morning, and i think as long as you work remotly, you can be as productive as any other day while in a meeting. And if your manager is good, he will only get your attention back when needed. Actually, some of my best ideas/hacks came to me during seemingly boring (remote) meetings.

I agree with you with non-remote meetings though, they are highly improductive to me.

> Being super organized is a bad thing... [It can] make you overly passive on other peoples’ use of your time.

This is why I practice “Inbox who gives a fk”. I scan the subject lines of the messages in my inbox, and only open the ones that I think have relevant information that I can’t get some other way. (I currently have greater than 7700 unread emails in a relatively low traffic account.) Any time taken to touch/manage/sort/categorize/unsubscribe is a waste.

I recently started practicing "Inbox delete all".

Coupled with "wtf is this, unsubscribe", I have been experiencing steadily increasing levels inner peace.

> This is why I practice “Inbox who gives a fk”

I like that. Inbox Zero Fs Given.

Procrastination has benefits. I am not sure it's a net gain, but I will tell you it's paid off more then I would be comfortable admitting (over 20+ years).

As a manager, the job is to make your employees not happy but productive. Employee happiness is one of many ways you can get to consistent productivity, but it's not the end goal.

I've found too many managers believe as long as their employees are happy then they're doing a good job managing. It is totally possible to have happy unproductive employees, and sometimes the only way to help them improve is to make them unhappy. Set difficult expectations, alert them to their failings, and establish a transparent plan for improvement. If necessary, take away the damn ping pong table.

I want to employees to be happy insofar as it improves their output, retention likelihood, and company morale. If their happiness kills their and others productivity then difficult conversations must be had.

One big screen. Proper full-sized good quality keyboard. Fairly chunky wireless mouse.

If you spend most of your time working at a desk, why are you hobbling yourself with inferior kit which exists to be portable, not productive?

Yes, I'm relatively old... Get off of my lawn!

Do you have any chunky mouse suggestions? (wireless or not).

I'm struggling to find a larger size mouse that:

- doesn't have a million buttons (e.g. gaming)

- lasts more than a year

Been using a Logitech M705 for a good few years now and I'm pretty happy with it - has a couple of unnecessary buttons, but on the other hand, not only has it lasted more than a year, but it typically lasts at least a couple of years on a set of batteries. They've rebranded it as the Marathon Mouse for a reason...

Nice, this one looks promising.

I am a bit worried that it looks really similar to the Logitech M500 -- which I've had and only lasted a few months.

But if you say you're already past the year mark, that sounds good.

I find gaming mice seem to be built better than others. Currently using a SteelSeries Sensei Laser RAW which is ambidextrous and has minimal buttons and lighting. It’s also on the larger side if that’s what you’re looking for. Also add. 3M precise mouse pad (I wish their designs weren’t so ugly though)

I had a SteelSeries mouse, and it was nice, but definitely didn't last more than a year. But then, no mouse I've used in the last 15 years (at least) has lasted much more than a year.

That actually looks really good, but I can't seem to find it in stock anywhere.

Do you know if there's a succesor or am I just not looking in the right place?

It appears to be in stock on Amazon, and it also recommends a newer version you could look at.

Find a mouse that fits your hand and that you like, and then buy several of them. Even if they last more than a year for other people, you could be unlucky. Mice are not expensive enough to worry about it, especially if you're leaving it in the same place all the time.

Logitech MX Ergo. It's a trackball.

* Doesn't need to move on your desk.

* Wireless, so if you want to have it away from your pc (standing desk for instance) that's no problem

* trackball, and two angle to position it: no more pain in my arm

The Logitech M500 Corded Mouse is a cheap but solid and basic mouse for those who aren't interested in a gaming mouse.

I've actually had this one, but didn't even last a year.

Has yours been better?

I've found the handshoe mouse ridiculously comfortable. Helped me recover from rsi. And very solid, and simple.

> https://handshoemouse.com/

> Reason: Access from your area has been temporarily limited for security reasons.


Productivity is a poor metric for actually improving your quality of life, solving hard problems, or doing much of anything other than running in circles at speed.

Keep a clean house and your equipment in a good state of repair; your kitchen and bathroom with all of their associated appliances and plumbing are as important as your bedroom and office, and it is worth it to keep a cleaning and maintenance schedule you follow like clockwork.

Get at least 8 hours of sleep, a physical at least once a year and see a dentist at least once a year. Cook your own food, or marry someone who will do it for or with you. If you drink any beverages routinely, invest in the equipment to do it yourself.

I don’t care what tools you hack in, you know what you need better than I do, the only thing I will say on this topic is that for any task I use a computer for, I make sure that of my equipment, there is one canonical way to do it. If I want to set a timer, I use Siri. If I want to invoke a podcast, I use Siri. If I want to know the time, I look at my watch on my wrist, not on my phone. If I want to read something, it is either in Instapaper or iBooks, unless it is Wikipedia. Anything overtly mundane, I probably already automated.

It’s not what you use, it’s how you use it, and I like things to be boring and predictable. I don’t ever want to be surprised.

Could you expand on the one canonical way to do things: is it about decision fatigue, ir something else?

And, how do things get in instapaper in the first place? That sounds like a system worth trying, but for me the browsing is the hard part.

Thow every best software practice out of the window. It is administration growing more administration. Peer programming is just dividing productivity by two.

To be productive: start vi, code, run the code. No source control. No planning. Just do until you reach your objective.

My way is to iterate and improve. I get in one day what a team gets in a month if they are lucky

And when I don't feel like working, I don't. I wait until I feel the need.

Do you work primarily alone? How is source control slowing you down? No planning?

I would normally never ask this but since this is such a radical suggestion I’d love to see some of your work. I’m guessing no open source without source control. Would you mind sharing some of your public projects so we can see the kind of results to expect from this mindset?

Sure, you can check cryptomarketplot.com - but no open source sorry.

I work in small team because I like productivity.

Why no source control? Same for why not updating the operating system or tweaking the keyboard shortcuts on your editor. Extra things take extra brain power. Remove everything extra to concentrate on the core.

No planning is important to concentrate even more on important features: the right moment dictates what you should do right now.

how do you test out changes and revert them easily? (basically how do you backup?

git makes this trivial, and doesn't get in the way of anything

The old way: cp -adr program-v3-withnewfeatureX program-v4

Then work on program-v4 with test deploy until you are happy. Then when ready, change your production deploy scripts to use program-v4, and the "emergency-revert" scripts to use program-v3

Editing 2 scripts is not more complicated that running git commands.

That said, I like git. git is nice. But unless you are writing the new linux kernel with tens or hundreds of people you may not need it.

I try to remove everything I do not absolutely need and use the simplest hardware I can get away with. Complexity for complexity sake is not productivity.

I've always been disappointed by people that say they work without source control - because it always turns out they do something like this. Always. And this differs from source control in no meaningful fashion.

Once again, my hopes of finding out some interesting new way of working, that I couldn't even imagine: dashed!

The ways are not so different. The tools are, a bit.

As you wisely said, this differs from source control in no meaningful fashion.

Certainly not a team productivity hack haha

I’ve upvoted you because clearly you’ve expressed an unpopular opinion. ;-)

Yes, pretty much the only responder to have an unpopular opinion. "You can be more productive if you're well rested" and "meetings suck" really don't count.

Yes, the post asked for unpopular opinions so I give my very unpopular opinions.

I do not understand, why not speak the truth? We all have some unpopular opinions! It is not a beauty contest! Let's be honest with eachother!!

Ok, before I go to bed, another unpopular opinion just for you: shell scripts beat more advanced tools.

Because with a simple syntax and limited set of tools, there is less room for error.

Now time for me to sleep.

So your productivity hacks boil down to doing all the things that most people complain make a developer difficult to work with.

Were you born in 1996?

There are two kinds of work to be productive on: exciting work and busy work.

Exciting productivity occurs when you are doing or learning something new. The excitement motivates you to keep taking another step forward. For this type, I have learned it is best to take baby steps to avoid burnout and to create a steady flow of productive days.

Busy productivity is boring. It is standard routines that you just need to do. For this type, I have found that my mood greatly affects how much I can do. There is no strong motivation other than "it has to be done." That being said, I add additional motivation by keeping in mind that it will make my future self's life easier.

Last thing I want to add is that productivity stems from self love, and the simplest way to love yourself is to take care of yourself: eat well, exercise, and sleep well. Having that basis will motivate you in all other aspects of life.

That caffeine is bad for work that requires thought.

Productivity is largely dominated by decisions to keep using and deal with a tool which is mediocre for the job or to redesign the tool... and often the best decision is to keep using. I've found management of technical debt to be one of the hardest things. Most people either fall into the camp of continuously reinventing the wheel because it's kinda fun, often easy and satisfying, and they can convince themselves that the time invented will pay off, or they just use bad tools and curse the darkness rather than lighting the candle. Some snap back and forth between these two extremes. Having good judgement about this is a rare and valuable skill.

In my very first job, for some reason they paid for my whole team to go a Covey 7-habits training. This was 20 years ago. The only thing I took away from it is the phrase "sharpen the saw". Sometimes you need to stop working and optimize your tools or workflow a little bit. You have to be careful not to let this become a huge time suck, but if you never do it you are paying a massive opportunity cost.

I think my point is that knowing when to sharpen the saw, if the saw is sharp enough for the job, and knowing when to stop sharpening and start sawing is the hard thing.

The general problem here is a combination of estimating the time it will take to finish a project, and a problem of knowing what key problems dominate the final product... themselves two of the hardest things to do.

I have to confess my decisions here are often driven by frustration that reaches a tipping point. But yes, calculating short and long-term payoffs against the investment is very hard.

Mine is getting high and listening to Jazz while I clean the house. (I don’t know if it’s unpopular or not but I bet if it were more popular there would be less people in a shit mood)

For me - no remote work: I would fritter 12 hours being lazy and unproductive.

Instead, I'm at the client's site for 6 hours. I set my monitor so people can see it and then I crank. I go home and turn off the devices and enjoy the time with my family - without worry.

It is more productive to hate a task and do it in a rage than to love it.

You have to actually use the system for it to work.

Context: I have pomodoro timer, Asian Efficiency, 7 Habits, Personal Productivity self help books galore and still get nothing done.

Productivity is the death of personal growth. Talking zero sum game here. More of one means less of the other.

Would you differentiate "productivity" from "organization and discipline"? Organization and discipline I think can help personal growth fundamentally.

Probably not.

A) You have always done whatever you wanted to do. You get a say in which voice/urge most constitutes 'you'. The more you veto, and the more you can distinguish the urges, the more of a say you get. Everything else is fluff.

B) The productivity industry is a total sham and a net drain on productivity. It's mostly social manipulation. The industry takes attention away from the things productivity is a side effect of, such as level of control, overall health, and level of insight into oneself. This is partially due to -

C) All texts/advice/systems put minor spins on a couple of templates, and most of the good ones steal from Marcus Aurelius. Whichever flavour of system fits the fashion of the day the best becomes 'the best' because reasons.

D) The definition of 'productive' is so absurdly narrow and restricted in the late-capitalist hegemony as to render most of humanity utterly useless. Clearly, they're not [1]. It's more about raising members of a certain class with a certain personality profile [2] up to the status of a golden cow.

[1] for example, parenting is a fairly productive activity.

[2] that is, two things we're lucky to be able to change a lot about.

Good god, it's sunday. Can we lay off the 24/7 productivity mantra or propaganda for one day. Monday through saturday isn't enough?

A while ago I tried to count the number of overt "productivity" messaging I came across in a day and I stopped after 17 or so - probably because it wasn't a "productive" use of my time. Who knows how many subconscious or covert productivity messaging I was getting.

My best productivity hack so far is to stop reading books and blogs that mention word productivity. I’d rather take a walk or close my eyes for 10 minutes.

My personal productivity programming isn't sure that's a good idea.

Your walk seems like suboptimal time allocation and a loss of potential productivity gains. Have you considered the productivity opportunity costs of your decision?

While you are on a walk, have you considered listening to an audio book? Perhaps a self-help audio book on having more productive walks? Why walk when you can walk and listen?

Or think of how many emails you could respond to in your 10 minute walk? Not only is your walk more productive, you will gain more muscle carrying around your smartphone and increase hand eye coordination by typing on a smartphone. A more productive you, is a healthier and happier you.

That is exhausting. People think that dystopia is a future waiting for us. I think it's here.

Enjoying life and what it has to offer is a more “productive” use of our time in this earth than being in hustle mode 24/7.

you could have also rephrased this statement of an unpopular but deeply held productivity opinion as “remember the sabbath and keep it holy” :D

It's always the same shit too.

Life hack, don’t browse work related sites on hours you want to relax.

Maybe we need a site that’s HN minus this sort of thing.

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