Entering Programmer Autistic Mode

Autistic Mode / Ghost in the Shell You may have already noticed my posting frequency is WAY DOWN, but today I’m making it official: I’m going to be going into one of my programmer isolation periods so I can get a hairy project done. Informally I call it autistic mode, which is a term from the manga Ghost in the Shell. Essentially, I am going to shut-out all external stimuli for about 9 days, with a singular focus on getting into the programmer zone. There will be no sleep schedule or significant social interaction.

I am taking this extreme measure because I have not been able to get my head completely into the space it needs to be in to write some tricky asynchronous networked message remote invocation code. I had thought it would go fairly easily since I’d written something like this before, but I am doing significant refactoring to bring the code up-to-date with current Javascript spec while improving the code. My working memory and ability to focus is not able to hold everything in my head so I can see the project clearly, and it is easily disrupted by any kind of interaction from the outside world. Even regularly scheduled sleep is a problem. If I were a more capable programmer maybe I wouldn’t need to do this, but in truth I also enjoy going into this mode because it’s like a vacation from messy reality.

The process so far has been this:

  • First, write in my interstitial journal everything that’s on my mind
  • Then, decide what needs to be done before entering autistic mode.
  • Also, explicitly what can be pushed to a future date
  • And of course, clear all meetings and social interactions as much as possible.
  • Lastly, set the date to emerge from autistic mode. For me, that day will be MONDAY AUGUST 13

It would be nice to be able to get this kind of focus WITHOUT going into this extreme state, so I’ll be taking notes to see if I can learn something about focus. The process I describe above might be work quite well with short timeframes, but I find it very difficult to stick to. Going into “autistic mode” may work for me because I like testing myself with epic beginnings and challenges to see what happens; everyday chores just don’t have that epic feeling. My brain is weird.

So that’s my farewell for today! I plan to be back on regular projects and timetable on August 13, if all goes to plan. There’s still quite the possibility that this will not work at all, but if that happens I’ll post an update.

1 Comment

  1. Bryan Burns 3 weeks ago

    Good luck Dave. If you haven’t read “The One Thing” by Keller, I highly recommend you read it when you come out of your autistic mode. It’s all about how multitasking for productivity is a myth and how important it is to concentrate on just one thing in order to be successful. But then, it sounds like you’re a pro at focusing anyway.

A message from Dave:

I believe we all benefit when we respectfully share our perspectives on common experiences. My house rules are "please be respectful of divergent views" and "enjoy the flow of ideas!"

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