This week, Aaron sits down for a solo talk with the audience about his challenges being neuredivergent in the field of web development, and how that affects his work, along with what you can do to accommodate people who you may work for or with. From small things to big, there’s a wide spectrum of issues that can impact people’s abilities to work, but solving those problems so that you get the most out of your good employees sometimes takes only a little care and attention.
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Hey, welcome to the Drunken UX Podcast. This is your other other hosts air. We’re doing a solo episode this time. Last time was Michael while I was out this time it’s me. Michael is currently racing monster trucks on the moon. I asked him What kind of monster truck he has. And he says it is. And I quote, it is like Bigfoot except not blue. It has normal sized tires, and it doesn’t have four wheel drive. So that’s where he’s at. So when you when the moon comes up tonight, go and wave to Michael and say hi.
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I was going to talk about neuro divergence in tech, both as someone who is neuro divergent and also if you are a neurotypical. What are the ways that you can better support and better work with people who are neuro divergent, we have a kind of a stronger representation in the tech industry than perhaps in other industries sort of attracts us. Think first off, let’s start off with like what is neuro divergence? If you aren’t familiar with this term, you’ve probably heard it, it’s become pretty popular. I believe it was first used in 1988. The cursory research I did for this says that Harvey Blum, who wrote for The Atlantic was the first to actually use the term in print.
The the best description I found of it, though, was from 2007 article from the Journal of ethics and mental health, written by Dr. Walter Glennon. He describes it as in some cases, however, cognitive and affective traits may fall slightly outside the broad middle region of the spectrum, where the constellation of one’s psychological properties is neither clearly normal, nor pathological. And I think that that distinction is really important. It’s the word abnormal, like, it conjures up a lot of negative connotations, you know, like abnormal psych, we think, psychopathy, and murderous people and stuff.
But all it means is just your outside of the like outside of the mean. So the difference here is, it’s people who are outside of the mean, but where it’s not pathological. It’s not like a problem. They’re just different. And I think that the whole neuro divergence movement is to kind of reframe the properties and the conditions here as differences, rather than deficits, like seeking understanding, rather than curing, for example, like a fish doesn’t have a deficit of legs just because it can’t walk on land. Right.
So there’s been some research that has shown that when they had the students frame themselves as either having cognitive deficits or having cognitive differences, they found that the students that framed it as differences tended to be have a lot better self esteem and self concept than the ones who felt like they had deficits. You know, but a fish on land, it’s going to gasp for air and maybe see other people on legs and wonder why can’t I walk? We needs to be in water. So first off, I wanted to start with when you when you’re an employer or a hiring manager, and you work in tech You will invariably run into people who fit within the neurodivergent spectrum.
And I guess I should clarify. Neuro divergence will include the autism spectrum, ADHD development, speech disorders, dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, just Knowmia intellectual disability and Tourette Syndrome. There is kind of the some people have a big 10 attitude, which is kind of even more disorders like schizoaffective. And I forget the other one. But other ones where it’s not pathological. But it’s also not like not within the norm. So if you’re an a hiring manager or an employer, and you are open to expanding your hiring pool, to include people who are neurodivergent, this will change is a probably have to make.
Specifically with interviewing people who are neuro divergent may not be great at reading social cues, like softening their language, using using conversational tricks that we all take for granted, people who have practiced social situations, but maybe aren’t apparent, or don’t seem worthwhile to someone who’s there divergent. There’s a level of communication acumen that I think that we all I tried to learn when we’re younger. And some folks just aren’t great at that. But that doesn’t mean that wouldn’t be good employees. You know, just because you can’t look at someone when you’re talking to them doesn’t mean you’re not listening.
And it doesn’t mean you can’t communicate with them. I personally struggle with making eye contact, when I’m talking about something that requires thinking, I have to kind of look off to the side. And I sort of check out of my, like visual perception, rather than thinking of like I’m rooting around in my head for the thoughts that I’m trying to turn into words. Other times, if it’s something that requires less thinking, I can make eye contact, it just depends on the context. But those are soft skills that are learned and not always readily available to everyone. So obviously, you shouldn’t, this doesn’t mean you should tolerate someone who is like overtly rude, or insulting or hurtful.
You know, those are, those aren’t Pleasant, Pleasant traits to have. But if someone’s a little bit different, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’d be a bad fit, though. I think it’s where they’re going back. Another thing you can do is provide workplace accommodations. So this can be flexibility in environment, particularly related to like external stimulus, also allowing remote work, people who work better at home and are more comfortable at home may find it easier than coming to a workplace, which can be very noisy. I’ve had previous jobs, I’ve had offices to myself, I worked in a shared office suite with a few other developers.
And I’ve also worked in a large cube farm. The suite was fine, because all of us were basically heads down coding the whole time unless we were talking to each other about things that were relevant to us. But it was a very small group. So we was fine. Having my own private office was great, because I could close the door and really control any external sound, I can control the light, it was a lot easier to I might my eyes are a bit photosensitive. So having the light turned off made it a little bit easier for me to see. And working in the cube farm was by far the hardest thing, because people will be having phone conversations.
And there will be a lot of noise and you can’t play music very loudly. Without headphones. I did ask my employer for noise cancelling headphones. I don’t remember if they got them for me or not. But noise cancelling headphones can be hugely helpful in those situations because it really does block out most of it and it’s gotta be like that, especially if it’s in a busy cube environment. With a lot of people. Active Noise Cancelling is really clutch. A lot of headphones off for that now, that can be a little on the pricier side. Active Noise Cancelling is going to probably push you north of $100 but I think one to $200 you can typically find some that do that.
Pretty available. That was from an article in TechCrunch from 2021, called neuro diversity in technology. Are businesses missing out in a key talent? The link will be in the show notes Another article I found on dice, dice insights from also from 2021. Like two weeks later, I think it was called neuro diversity in tech, three things hiring leaders should know, I didn’t count three things, they really didn’t enumerate these very well. So I don’t know about that title. But the two things I did get from it were to remind hiring managers that neurodiverse neurodivergent applicants are less likely to have prior work experience, and may struggle with interviews.
So when you’re interviewing someone, again, doesn’t mean you should tolerate rudeness, or I guess, like maladaptive behavior. But you know, if someone doesn’t make eye contact, that that is commonly a thing that when you read about, like how to interview, well, they always talk about make a firm handshake, make solid eye contact, smile a lot. These aren’t always things that are easy for everyone. And just because someone doesn’t do those things doesn’t automatically make them a bad hire. And so reminding hiring managers that these sorts of soft skills aren’t always necessary for especially for jobs in tech.
And you may be missing out on some quality applicants, if you’re focusing too much on soft skills, a PM, or a any kind of like, quasi leadership position, like a supervisory or managerial role where you have to be interactions with people, there’s going to be some amount of soft skills you’re going to want to have for that. And I think that all of us should collectively learn how to better communicate our thoughts with our team. And not just doing coding. But that said, if someone struggles with it, even if they’re trying, they shouldn’t roll them out an article they referenced, which was, which will be in the show notes, written by Morris and two other researchers, they did a survey of 846 different people in tech.
And they found that the neurodivergent, respondents often had increased capabilities in pattern recognition, writing worker, we code mental visualization and creative thinking. This isn’t to say that neurotypicals can also have those. But they found that there was a lot more of this among there, where it was a more commonality among the neurodivergent respondents. These are great skills to have, especially in tech. And again, you don’t want to rule them out, just because they’re not crossing the T’s and dotting the eyes in the correct way during their interviews.
So I wanted to talk a little bit about as an employee, me, personally, I am an urgent person, I have an ADHD diagnosis, I have long suspected that I have autistic spectrum traits. That’s not obvious from the five years of this show. And maybe some other things, but I’m definitely I have definitely have psychological properties that are outside of the norm, but not specifically pathological. And I, there’s some things that I’ve learned in my career of around 20 years in this industry, that have helped me like better adapt and find some success. So the first thing is some self reflection and self honesty. You have to really kind of look at who you are, and understand your strengths.
Like what kinds of things come easily to you what things interest you, that’s for me personally, if something interests me, then I can hyper focus on it. And I will just, I will lose time, I will zero in on something, and then just dive in and get completely lost in a subject. That’s something that’s great. And certain kinds of things come easily to me as well. I’m very good at like, looking at differentials between things like looking at something if I understand how something should be, I can look at how it is and then quickly parse out the differences. My pattern recognition is decent.
I have a good sense of kind of collecting things laterally, like laterally collecting information and seeing how one thing might fit in other circumstances, which is really great for doing usability interviews, because I can more easily put myself into the shoes of various other people or different kinds of users. That’s been really critical, I think with a lot of things because I think we often tend to look at things from our own perspective of like, oh, it works on my machine, it works with my set of preconceived notions about how this should work. But there’s a lot more to it than that. And I found that to be really useful with both usability and accessibility.
Also, having a dictionary like knowledge of things like HTML tags and how they’re used, I have, I don’t want to say it’s an obsession. But I have a very strong desire and inclination to do HTML correctly. I’m making air quotes here, as per the standard. And I think that having maybe a habitual adherence to standards is a good way to also ensure, you know, cross browser compatibility, future proofing it, making sure that it’s accessible, because if you’re adhering to standards, you’re more likely to have accommodations made by third parties apply to your code as well. So another part is recognizing where you encounter friction or strong challenges.
These aren’t problems they’re not I hesitate to call them obstacles, because I don’t think that’s the right way to approach them, at least in my experience, I call it friction, because it’s just things where it requires more mental effort, in the same way that a topic that interests me, I can just fall into it easily. And, you know, swim in it for hours, it’s the opposite. If something doesn’t interest me, if if something is, if I can’t find a way to make a subject interesting to me, I have to put a lot of mental effort into reading about it or focusing on it.
And that can be really challenging, especially when you’re trying to learn things, or especially when you have to learn something, maybe you just got a new product line, your job, or maybe there’s some new technologies that you have to learn, or whatever it is, you know, we’re in this industry, we’re always having to learn things. So knowing how you deal when things are difficult, and also being able to recognize that this thing is going to be difficult for me in advance is really critical in helping plan around that. And having good self awareness about what you can realistically accomplish.
And also so that you know how to play to your strengths, and to accommodate your weaknesses. Or, I guess, friction points, which, so that gets into the next point, which is adaptation. So if you know what your strengths are, and you know what thing is come easily to you, you should tell your supervisor, or whoever’s doing your tasks, like, if you are so good at doing, let’s say your job involves a lot of like, algorithm optimization, or maybe like a lot of complex SQL queries.
And if that’s something that both interests you, and you’re good at it, and it comes easily for you, you should totally tell whoever’s assigning tickets, that that’s the case, because maybe they can talk more your way, at the end of the day, the pm just wants to have tasks done, they just want to close tickets, you know, push the velocity of the team forward, get stuff done. That’s, that’s, that’s the goal for everyone. And so if they know that you have higher efficacy with certain kinds of work, then you should tell them, and then they can give you that work. And then the whole team benefits.
And then also, on the flip side, if you know the points of friction that you have, you can communicate that to your like supervisor, or the person assigning tasks so that they understand that, okay, so this task might be a one point or for someone else, but, you know, for me, it’s going to take me a little extra time, this is something it’s a little bit more difficult for me. And so if you’re gonna, if it needs to be done by me, just keeping in mind that on the spread of how long how much velocity we’re estimating this will take, I’m going to be on the longer side, I find that this often happens with like parts of the code base I haven’t yet learned, because my learning process is such that I have a certain way I approach absorbing new information.
And so if it’s a part of the code base that I don’t know yet, it can take me a little bit longer before I can work on tickets for that one. And so knowing that I can tell my supervisor and then we can plan accordingly or we can find additional pairing sessions. We can find things to help me learn it more easily. A. And that’s sort of what you can start asking for is if there are accommodations that your workplace can make, to help reduce that friction for you, if you’re sensitive to light, or you’re sensitive to sound, you know, like, if you’re sensitive to light, wear sunglasses inside, and tell your supervisor that, you know, if you can’t turn the lights off, because you’re in a common space, okay, I’m going to wear sunglasses indoors.
And this is a workplace a combination that I need. It’s a very simple one to accommodate. If it’s noise issue, having noise cancelling headphones, and understanding that, you know that this is something that you need in order to function better in your workplace. Another one is, if you have a high task switching cost, like for me, if I get a lot of, if I get pulled in many different directions in a short period of time, I can’t build up to anything, it’s just I end up kind of spinning in circles. So I kind of think of it like building towers, you know, like I’m stacking Jenga blocks or something, and making a tower.
And if I have to switch tasks, then depending how much time or how much mental effort it takes to switch to something else, I may lose a lot of progress on when I started initially. And there is a task switching costs that I incur, just by changing tasks. And so if you know that about yourself, you can schedule accordingly. You can block out time do what’s called defensive calendaring, you, you take your calendar, and you put a big block of time on it. And it’s just marked unavailable, or something similar. And then that way people can schedule appointments, I recommend if you’re going to do that you don’t want to deal with the whole day, people do need to be able to get on your calendar at some points.
But it’s good to do it in blocks of for me personally, I found two or four hours is usually a good amount of time, depending on the task size. And also, it’s good to take tiny breaks to get up and walk around what your eyes adjust on something else, every couple of hours anyways. So doing the small blocks like that can be really helpful. I’ve also found that if I know I have to change tasks, or maybe it’s the end of the day, and I have this big tower built up in my head of the information that I’ve been working with, what a lot of times, what I’ll do is I will open up the scratchpad.
And I will write down all my thoughts just do a complete brain dump, outline form narrative form, whatever works for you write down all your thoughts about what it is you’re doing, and then leave that open for you. So when you come back in the morning, you could kind of have an accelerated start getting back into it, probably you may or may not still have that tower built in the morning. A usually mine falls over somewhere where I’m sleeping. But having a document in the morning is has been really helpful for me to kind of like speed back, get back up to full speed quickly. Another thing is learning how to have waiting hazards.
So if you recognize the kinds of things that can derail you, or that are just like general pitfalls, like you know, okay, if I have this happen, this is going to severely impair my ability to close tickets or do work. So examples might be if I’m in a noisy work environment, you know, that’s that’s one for me, if it’s not, like I like to listen to music while I’m working, usually with headphones on or if I’m by myself on my speakers. But that’s music, that sound that I can control. I can choose what kind of sound is coming into my ear holes, working. If I’m in an office environment, there’s going to be all kinds of random sounds that I don’t know.
Lots of words, and other things that when I hear them, it makes it difficult for me to write words myself. I’m not sure why that is kind of a brain thing. At the moment with the language center, I don’t know. I either have to listen to songs that I know really well to where I don’t have to think about the words or listen to them because they’re just imprinted in my brain or listening to music that doesn’t have words in it at all instrumentals or listening to music sung in a different language because the words don’t get funneled through my language centers unless I’m intentionally trying to pay attention. That’s what works for me at least.
Another pitfall might be interruptions so If you’re the type of person who, you know, builds towers, like I described earlier, and you know that, if people interrupt you, it can really disrupt your flow and be a strong cost for you, then, you know, do the defensive calendaring thing. If it’s people interrupting you in person, put a sign on your door that says, you know, Do Not Disturb until x pm or x AM. And tell your co workers like, hey, if my doors closed, email means that and then check your email periodically, in between, like sprints for yourself. Now, the Pomodoro method works really well with that I found.
But the communication is really important though, if you know that something is a pitfall or a hazard for you, then you can communicate that to your co workers. And you know, like, they don’t want to impair your work, you know, your supervisor definitely doesn’t want to make some that take longer than it needs to. So if they know these things about you, then they can help support you in this, they can put the fish back into water, so to speak. Another thing you can do is understanding like, what sorts of things are distractions for you. If you know, for example, listening to music is a distraction.
And don’t tell us to music, listen to rain sounds or nothing at all, maybe you just work better in silence period, you can use noise cancelling headphones, and not play any sound through them at all. And they still work with Active Noise Cancelling. Or you can just wear ear muffs. You can listen to white noise or pink noise or brown noise. There’s all kinds of things you can do to interfere with those kinds of things that might be distracting for you. Another thing is, and this is maybe a little bit harder. And I guess I should say, retro actively that I don’t mean any of this advice to sound reductive or oversimplifying?
I know that especially for people who have task initiation challenges, or executive dysfunction, making any kind of change at all, can be very difficult. And if that’s applies to you, then please understand that I’m not saying like, Oh, just simply walk the ring into Mordor, all you have to do is throw it into the giant volcano, you know, how hard is that the ring is so tiny. And the volcano is huge. Just throw the ring into Mount Doom in Mordor. How hard is that? That is not at all what I’m saying here. And I know how frustrating that can be. This is just sort of you know, the direction that Mordor is, you can make efforts to walk in that direction.
Even if it’s still challenging, you don’t want to walk in the opposite direction, right? That’s kind of where I’m coming from. So this last part is important, but can be difficult. And that is planning and setting goals. And for starters, it’s important to understand that, especially for people with ADHD, who maybe have tasks initiate challenges or executive dysfunction, even small tasks, molehills can seem like mountains, you know. And it can be difficult to break down a task into smaller pieces. And even having a few small tasks can sometimes feel overwhelming. And maybe you don’t know where to start. And that’s a skill that you have to learn and develop.
There’s been a lot of things written about it. I think that the most of the advice boils down to, you know, find, for any given task, the job isn’t the whole task. That what you want to look at is what is the next actionable step I can take. If the work is what Sue suddenly said, Well, you have to change the banner image on the homepage, right? That’s a really trivial example. That has a lot of stuff within it. And sometimes it can be a little brain melting, when you consider all of the steps you have to do and maybe they’re like jumping in and out of order. And it’s, it can feel overwhelming because you don’t know where to start.
Step one could just be you know, locate the new banner image, whereas that, you know, get it from Jimmy and marketing or whoever or you know, edit it yourself or take the existing image and make the necessary changes, whatever it is. Step one is getting the new image right. And then after that, step two is, you know, editing the document that has this image in it. And in step three is pushing it up, break it down into intervals, individual steps, and don’t worry about all are the steps just the next one, what is the next step that you need to do to make this happen? When you’re planning, the scopes, you want to think about, in my experience, are today, this week, this month.
And then if you’re really feeling motivated, or you know about things coming up, there’s also this quarter and this year, David Allen, in getting things done, would talk about his folder system. And what he would do is, I wouldn’t say it was 39 folders, maybe it was, it was more than that. He had 31 folders, numbered one through 31. And then there were 12 folders labeled January through December. So it’s gonna be 43. Maybe it was just 43 folders, I swear, there may have been something else there. But maybe not.
Anytime you have any work coming up, if it is getting planned for the future, you stick it into the appropriate month, and then you forget about it, you know, write down whatever you need to know, stick into the month, and then it’s done. And then when you get to that month, go through everything in the folder, and then put it into the appropriate folders corresponding to the day of when it’s relevant. So if you know that like oh, in October, I have to change the banner image on the homepage. Again, as we have this event coming up, write a note to yourself, throw it in the folder. And then when October runs around, you process the October folder.
And you know, oh, marketing says this has to be done on 12. So you stick it in the number 12 Or the number 11. Whenever it is you think you need to work on it. You don’t have to use the folder system specifically, I actually don’t use it myself. I tried it. And I found that it didn’t work well with my flow. But the point though, is scoping. And again, this is kind of like what I was saying before with making bigger tasks smaller. The system that I’ve been using that I’ve found to work really well is I have a whiteboard. That is it’s like two feet by three feet, roughly. I have a portion of the whiteboard carved off into Monday through Sunday, I put the weekend at the end.
So I can have the week start with the work week. And then I have a section below that called Upcoming. And I have the top left corner is next week. And then below that I have spots for for like shipments that I’m expecting just to keep track of like when I’m expecting things. So sometimes I’ll place an order like through Kickstarter or something, and it hasn’t, like it hasn’t shipped yet. But I know it’s going to come in, I don’t want to forget about it. So I just make a note of it there. What I use though, is I use these tiny little post it notes, they are I think two inches by two inches, a bunch of different colors.
And then I write down whatever it is that he needs to know that like whatever the work is, or the thing that I have to do some sort of reminder, and I stick it on the appropriate place. So if it’s things I’ve been doing this week, if I have to mow the lawn on Wednesday, if I need to change the logo on the homepage, if I need to remember to clean my office, I’ll write that down on a post it and I’ll stick it on the appropriate day, if it’s this week, if it’s going to be next week, and I know for sure it will be next week, I’ll put it in the next week area. Otherwise it goes in the upcoming area. So upcoming and certified my giant bucket that accommodates everything.
I have a color coding system, I have appointments that are out of the house appointments that are at home, I’m male that I’m expecting chores and tasks. And the difference is sure is like regular maintenance. That just has to get done. And the task is a little bit more targeted, and usually like kind of a one off. So a lot of times I have you know two or three mowing the lawn post, it’s marked like one through 32333. And I will just I’ll drop those on to Jeffrey days I’m planning and mowing the lawn, I can look forecast and plan around that.
I should actually just I’ll take a picture of this and I’ll stick it in the show notes so you can see what this looks like that might be a little easier. Anyway, I’ve tried many, many different methods of planning. I have tried. Let’s see bullet journaling. I’ve tried using a hobo Nietzsche. I’ve tried using just regular journaling. I have tried calendars. I’ve tried planners. I’ve tried things that are specifically designed ostensibly for people with ADHD. None of them work. I use them about two weeks and then I stop. I like this method. For myself, because when I’m sitting at my desk, it’s to my right. And it’s allows a lot of colors.
And it’s things that I can move, which I’ve learned, it’s important to me, if I can physically move something, it’s makes it easier for me to like mentally process, the progress of it. And also to plan it out. I like the colorfulness of it, seeing all the different colors on the board is makes it more interesting to me. And I like that I can basically put everything, whether it’s work related, or extracurricular, or personal, or a chore, whatever, I can put it all on here. And it’s all tracked. And so far, it’s worked pretty well. I don’t always get through everything in a day.
But if I can’t accomplish the thing during a day, I take the post it and move it to the next day, I think I can do it, it has definitely gotten me out of situations where I would have been double or triple booked for something, or maybe I had travel coming up. And realistically, Thursday would be the last day that I could do this particular thing, because I’d be out of the house after that. So then now I know like, oh, I can’t do it this weekend. And it’s doing Monday. So I have to do on Thursday. So this has been really helpful for me planning that out. Quarter and year scopes, you may or may not know those things that are coming up.
And that can be a little bit intimidating to do that. So that’s kind of up to you. But I found that definitely tracking, definitely tracking today in this week. Super, super critical. My productivity increased significantly. And my stress decreased significantly, within a single day. If you know, okay, these are the things I have to do. If you’re worried or you find that you find challenges with knowing how to do them, or what order are you feel overwhelmed by them, pick three, or even just one of them.
And start with that, I find that three things is very easy to remember, I have to do all three, it’s very easy to order that list, and find the sequence that I need to do them in based on where he needs to be in the world. And once you finish those three, then you can move on to others. And if you only accomplish those three things, it’s fine. That’s three things that you didn’t accomplish otherwise, right, it’s still a win. I think that’s part of the self awareness thing, too is learning to accept that even small progress is still progress. And that is they say like Better is the enemy of done.
If you are a perfectionist about accomplishing work, you’re gonna be frustrated with yourself a lot. Something to learn within each of those scopes start start with a smaller side start with today. So what do I need to do today? What are some things that I have to do today, if you can prioritize them, prioritize them go based on importance, or maybe duration? Whatever works, Michael and I talked previously about the Eisenhower grid. If that works for you, that’s great. I could definitely see doing a whiteboard thing with posts on an Eisenhower grid that could work for you. Try it out. Once you have today, then what needs to be done later this week.
And you know what days anything you done on each day, take it takes two minutes. It’s really, really short. And go through your day, make sure that today’s schedule or today’s like roster of things you have to do is current. I found that to be really helpful also, for month planning. It’s a bit more loosey goosey. Sometimes we have deadlines or scheduled things. Other times we don’t I don’t know. It depends on how you do your scheduling. When you’re choosing what solution you want to do, what has what medium has the lowest friction for you. i Even though I work in tech, I hate using digital things with the exception of Google Calendar. I live and die by that.
And anything that is ever important that I have to remember, goes on there. And then I get an email every morning at 6am. That tells me what events I have coming up for that day. And if it’s really important, I will add additional notifications beforehand. I always try to include Google Maps locations if it has to be somewhere because the assistant will tell me oh, you should leave now to go to this appointment. And it’s based on like the time it takes to get to that place from my current location. Even if you don’t use that, if you know this is 30 minutes away, then you can give yourself and a reminder notification. Let’s say 40 minutes early.
Oh if I have to be somewhere and timeliness is important. I always list the appointment time As 15 minutes earlier, because otherwise, I probably couldn’t be late. So doctors hate it. This one trick will make you late. The system that works best for you, or the system that’s best is the one that’s best for you. And also has the lowest friction, the highest detail that you can manage, and is persistent. You want something that lets you get the ideas out of your head, and into a separate system, so that you can focus on other stuff.
You don’t want to have to track your to do list and everything in your brain, get it out of your brain, use a memo pad, if you need to use use a planner, if that works for you. There’s no right or wrong thing here. There’s just what helps you track your stuff. And how can you keep keep on top of it. With my job, when I’m at work, I have a lot of my email, I have filters set up so that incoming emails get routed to specific labels. In my Orlik folders in my email client, I got a ton of GitHub emails, I would say I probably get upwards of 500 emails a day, maybe more. Most of them are just automated notifications about things.
And most of those emails aren’t even relevant for me, they’re just part of my organization. Or they are, you know, bug emails, or there’s something else. So I use filters to automatically route them. And then I can periodically check those filters, anything that actually hits my inbox is usually something that really requires my attention. And I can, you know, get to more quickly and doesn’t get buried. I will also I will use browser tabs as sort of my scratchpad. So we’ll have one browser window with a whole bunch of work, like tabs open related to one task that I’m working on.
And then another browser window with the tabs with another task asked that I’m doing, I will use multiple terminal windows and a label the terminal window tabs so that I can know which one is for which application that I’m working on. If I’m working on different applications concurrently, I make it a point to always label might get branches with the issue number and what I’m trying to do with it. It makes it easier when I’m reading my pull requests to know which issue it’s related to, because I will forget otherwise. And also when I’m looking locally, I don’t have to then cross reference.
I would say another thing. And this isn’t really related to planning or setting goals. But when you’re coding, I find myself that a lot of indirection, like if I have to really go running down a rabbit hole, especially if it’s a rabbit hole that’s not directly related to the work I’m trying to do if it’s like ancillary rabbit holes, those have a huge cognitive load for me. So I love using comments. I think people who are the never write comments code should be self documenting the wrong. That’s my strong opinion, that’s also strongly held.
code can be self documenting, you know, method variable names, they should say what they do, don’t name your variable x unless it needs to be called X for whatever reason, like it’s XY coordinates, maybe it even in that case, I would probably give it a more descriptive name than just x, like what does X represent. And your method names should imply what the thing is doing. But if I ever have to spend more than a minute, reading a block of code, and figuring out what the heck it does, especially if I have to go running down a rabbit hole to trace it down into jumping from one method to another method to another method, because it’s been refactoring to all heck, I add a block comments above that describing what that thing does.
If no other reason, then future me benefits from it. But usually, if I had to look it up, someone else probably will, too. Maybe not someone who’s been on the codebase a long time, and is really, like literate with the code. But maybe like the next new hire that you have, they’re gonna wonder why that’s there. Especially apartment with things that are like critical. Like, oh, we use this kind of conditional here, because we found that this method over in this file, doesn’t return the right error class or something. So reducing indirection or like, mitigating indirection through code comments is something I found to be really helpful.
I did a talk at a conference a while back called Code UX. And I think that you When we are writing code, we think about the audiences of the client, the customer or the end user, maybe even the project manager as, as an audience. But I don’t think we often think about fellow developers as an audience. And I think that we should, because we have to read each other’s code. And there’s information that is relevant for other developers that we should be communicating. And we should be mindful that the stuff that we’re writing is going to be read by other people. And those other people are our co workers, or sometimes us in the future.
I think we’ve all had that experience, where we look at some code, and we’re like, oh, this is awful, who wrote this, and then you find out in the Git blame that it was you from, like four years ago. Add that up? Several times. So I Yeah, consider other developers and yourself as an audience. And the code that you write is worth it, make the code look clean. I don’t mean clean code, like capital C, I mean, you know, indent properly, use whitespace, liberally, it’s free. You know, keep your lines short, write tests, if you’re if your framework or your code base, supports writing unit tests or something, write tests for the stuff that you’re doing.
If nothing else, that helps you write better quality code, because if you can’t test it, then it probably needs refactoring. So part of the digression there. Lastly, I’m going to say that you should find other neurodivergent people, you probably already know some, we tend to gravitate towards each other. And reach out, it’s becoming a lot more socially acceptable to be neurodivergent in any way. So you know, post on your social media platform of preference, ask where the rest of your neurodiverse people are. I know what they do, like, what works for them, what hacks are good for them, especially if they’re in your community or in your workplace or in your industry.
Maybe they’ve got different tricks they can suggest for the kind of work that you’re doing. But like the social aspect of this is really important. And I think it can feel really isolating. When you’re sitting outside of that, that norm outside of this statistical mean. It can feel like lonely or isolating, you feel like you’re ostracized intentionally, but just you’re on the outside. And that can be like intimidating, especially if you’re trying to make change, but don’t know how. If you can get medication, talk to your general practitioner, or doctor, your psychologist, whoever, find out if medication is possible.
Some conditions can be like, with a small amount of medication, it can be life changing. I received a prescription for ADHD, I was diagnosed and it was eight. But I just got a prescription last year. And it’s been life changing. For me, it’s hugely helpful, it’s a lot easier, it reduces the friction greatly for initiating tasks, or like prioritizing or executing. Also, if you have a community of people you can tap into, you can ask them for accountability, you can say like, Hey, let’s both like we both want to start going to the gym more, let’s make a plan together and you can help hold each other accountable. Sometimes it’s easier to motivate or keep another person accountable.
And when someone else is telling you what to do that removes your executive dysfunction from the equation. And so it is a good way to get things done. Without having to like you know, run up that hill all by yourself. I’m serious. It really does work well. And at the end of the day, if you’re if you’re getting things done if you’re doing the stuff you’re trying to do, whatever those kinds of things, maybe life changes, work tasks, mowing the lawn, whatever. That’s all that matters, right? And the the self esteem boost you get from being able to accomplish things is appreciable. is I think that’s all I wanted to say about that today. Thank you for listening.
I would love to hear back from any and all of you. Both neuro divergence and neurotypicals alike. You can connect with us at Facebook and twitter.com/stroking UX instagram.com/stroking UX Paul cast, dragging you x.com/discord come and chat with us seriously. Come on here. Feel free to reach out. I’m totally willing to talk about this anytime. And you can support transcriber efforts at juggling two x.com/support and drop a line and a comment line. Like it’s what 1999 620-712-2119 I don’t know what number this episode is. Thank you for listening to The Drunk index podcast and Michael will return in our next episode in two weeks. Till then, bye.