I’m reading a book right now called Brain Rules. In it, the author discusses how after a number of hours sitting in front of a computer our brains literally start to call it quits for the day. This happens long before our typical 8 hour workday is up. If your job involves something that requires intense focus, such as writing software, you’re already well aware of this.
I wasn’t thinking of this when I planned my team’s daily standup meetings at 2 in the afternoon. Perhaps a bit selfishly, I was just thinking of when I like to have a break in my work. It turns out that I was probably motivated by the fact that this is a time of day when I feel the need for a change of pace.
I’ve found that when I am head-down into programming, the worst thing to deal with is an interruption. I’ve also found that I can only be hyper-focused on programming for 4-5 hours at a time (at best). After a while I just start to get tired, and its time for a break. The book Brain Rules offers some interesting insight into why this is.
Back to the stand up meeting: Long ago, when I first heard of daily “stand ups” I was alarmed. The last thing I needed was yet another meeting to interrupt an already busy day. What I didn’t understand was the fact that a daily stand up meeting achieves a few important things:
1. It actually reduces interruptions. People who may interrupt otherwise are encouraged to put the interruption off until the meeting.
2. It encourages work. I, and others, always feel like we want to have something to say at the stand up meeting.
3. It discourages long meetings. If the owner of the meeting (the team lead) is wise, he or she will insist that the meeting last no longer than 20 minutes.
4. It provides a much needed break in the afternoon, and an opportunity to refocus. Sometimes, if you live somewhere beautiful like North Carolina, its even a good idea to make the stand up meeting a walk outside. A little exercise and fresh air works wonders after sitting focused on a computer screen for hours.