Avoid the Time Sink of Solving Small Problems

Linux (and the Computer in General) is Full of Time Sinks

time-sinkI just now went through the experience that took me just over an hour of concentrated “effort”. I regularly work on Windows, Linux, Android, and occasionally OS X. So here I am in Emacs, trying to do a regular expression forward search with the default Ctrl-Alt-S keyboard shortcut. You don’t need to know what any of that means. Basically I needed to do something simple that has worked in the past, and it didn’t work this time.

This time, pressing Ctrl-Alt-S did something else: it minimized the window. Okay, fine. I identified the problem, and went to try the first natural solution. I disabled the global keyboard shortcut for Ctrl-Alt-S. Of course I had to Google it to remind myself how to do it. That took about 5 minutes. Great. I thought I was done. Now, I went back and the Ctrl-Alt-S shortcut was still doing the same thing. “What the hell?” I thought, and… so on.

Long story short, I spent a total of 1 hour from start to finish finding the problem and the  solution that is nicely summarized in this Ask Ubuntu post.

Is It Worth It?

Looking back now, I’m struck with the question of why the hell I wasted 1 hour on something that does not add more than a small inconvenience to my work and my life. I encounter decisions like these sometimes several times a day. Here are some pros and cons in considering whether it’s worth it finding the fix for these problems.

Pros:

  • I fix the small problem the “right” way, so I don’t have to settle for a half-ass sweep-under-the-rug solution.
  • I get to spend an hour being open to the possibility of learning new things relevant to my work and exchanging information with the community of fellow Linux users. The computer world evolves on a daily basis, with new technologies, approaches, ideas constantly emerging. So, it’s important to stay connected to the latest developments.
  • I get to practice persevering in dealing with frustrating issues.

Cons:

  • It is not guaranteed that I find a solution.
  • It always takes longer than you thin. At first, it seems like the fix would not take more than 5 minutes, and when it does (50+% of the time), I become progressively more invested in it as time goes on. It’s the same principle that keeps you gambling in a Casino until all your money is gone.
  • Perfectionism is an addiction. We live in a world of inefficiencies that could be easily optimized if you just give it a few minutes. Sometimes it does take minutes, but sometimes it may take days. The more you feed this addiction, the harder it becomes to exist peacefully in an inefficient world.

Do One Thing, and Ignore Everything Else

To broaden this out a little bit. I know most of us have a to-do list of 10+ items every day. That list can grow to hundreds of items if you let it. On the other hand, a truly productive day is one where you usually focus on just one or two of those to-do items and do nothing else. That contradictions is at the core of my struggle as I think, read, program, etc.

Distractions take many forms, and sometimes they come at you disguised as urgent problems, when in reality they are nothing that can’t wait for a week, a month, or maybe an eternity.

Shortlink:

Comments

comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>