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17.15. Memory Cues and Resumption Strategies

17.15.1. Effects of Interruptions

Both in industry and for college class programmers, the typical interruption costs you about 15 minutes.

Types of interruptions:

  • Phone

  • Visitor

  • Breaks

Some of these you can control (more or less). Some not so easy.

17.15.2. Recovering from Interruptions

  1. Control (defer) the interruption

    • Don’t answer the text message right now

    • Ask the person to give you a minute or two

    • Break at the right times

  2. Brain Dump

    • The goal is to minimize time to get back on track

    • Give yourself notes and clues

17.15.3. Brain Dump

Think of it like a computer switching process:

  • It stores enough information to restart the process where it left off

  • In a similar way, you want to generate a “brain dump” before stopping

Some of this is an ongoing process:

  • Comments, TODO notes that you record out of habit

Some of this is tactical response to interruptions

  • Quick notes to help recover at time of interruption (This is why you might tell the visitor to wait a minute, while you make notes)

  • Appropriate arrangement of windows on screen

17.15.4. Comments and Notes in code

Comments in code about what needs doing. Shows context better than TODO list.

Can even leave a deliberate syntax error in code to force notice at compile time.

17.15.5. Selective Suspension

Maybe quitting for the day when you finish a function is not best.

  • This means you have to remember what you finished, and figure out what needs to be done next

An alternative is to continue on to the next task, and at least sketch it out

  • When you come back, if you set it up right you get taken right to the point where you left, with notes to get you on track again.

17.15.6. Personalize

Successful people have coping strategies for interruptions.

  • But everyone is different, and so different people use different mixes of strategies.

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