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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Saving Time

When I was a kid my brother, sister and I spent a lot of time in my Father's dental lab. This gave us a unique opportunity to learn how to get things done in a time-sensitive production environment. The more business he got and the more successful his practice became, the more demanding his labwork. He spent a lot of time working in the lab perfecting techniques and efficiency. We kids would hang out in his dental lab looking for things to do and he would hand out miscellaneous tasks to us (sadly he locked away the NO2 from us). As we got older and more profecient working the lathe, drill, sand blaster, oven, etc we would get more critical tasks. Spending time with Dad meant spending time learning how to get things done in a fast-paced hands-on environment.

One thing Dad would always repeat to us is how important it is to get things done "quickly and correctly."

Just getting things done quickly won't cut it. And believe it or not, just getting things done correctly doesn't cut it either. Not if you have other steps in the process or customers waiting on you to complete your task. In order to have time in this life for things other than work, it helps to learn how to get things done both quickly and correctly.

Generally, most people think of working quickly as producing sloppy work. But actually, you can get things done quickly with FEWER mistakes. The trick is to seperate tasks into two categories: things that should be done very quickly, and things that should be done very correctly. When you get good at cutting down the time it takes for you to do the miscellaneous tasks you can spend more time getting the critical tasks done correctly. This type of thinking translates very well to programming. It has probably helped my career more than any other single piece of advice I have received.

So as you spend your day programming, think to yourself, "what are the non-critical tasks that I am having to do and how can I minimize them?" Believe it or not, with just a few small changes you can find yourself getting a lot more done.

Here is an example of a change that I have recently incorporated. If you are like me, you probably have a few folders on your hard drive that you are constantly having to access. Throughout my day I am constantly typing something like "c:\my data\reports\ad hoc\" into Save As and Open dialog boxes, Windows Explorer, etc. In Windows you can create a PATH variable to substitute. So in my example I might create a Windows path variable name R (stands for reports) that has the value "c:\my data\reports\ad hoc\". Now I can just type %R% to navigate to that folder. Saves time and frees my mind to focus on the more critical tasks than navigating Windows Explorer.

I believe I got that tip from It's a great site full of useful tips for minimizing the clutter so you can focus on getting things done quickly and correctly.

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