Brett van Zuiden

A Day without Programming

If you are a programmer working on a startup, force yourself to spend a day working where you don’t write any code. Seriously, do it, and make it a habit — you and your company will be greatly benefited. The time’s I’ve done it here at have paid off in spades.

Here’s the thing: I am the type of person who fundamentally enjoys programming. I really do – the problem solving aspects, the ability to quickly see tangible results, creating a product that solves real problems for people, it’s great. The problem is that I enjoy it too much, and will use it as an excuse to push off doing other things for the business because they’re not as fun. Realizing this, I got into the habit of forcing myself to take “days off” from coding, where I would work on whatever I could that didn't involve writing code.

At first it feels a little strange: you sit down and your computer and have to figure out what to do. It’s not like you can dive into a bug report or feature request and crank away as normal – it takes some creativity, some effort – almost like when you haven’t exercised a certain muscle group in a while. But as you start nailing down all the things you've been meaning to do for a while but have put off, it’s incredibly satisfying because you see yourself making a lot of progress in a short amount of time. If you really focus for a day and resist writing code, you can knock off a lot of low-hanging fruit. Some things I've done:

  • write personalized emails to your customers and users
  • make a blog post (or two)
  • get your finances in order
  • start doing social media outreach
  • make a list of vacancies in the team and who you know that you could hire to fill them.

Even if there are non-technical cofounders on the team, mark down a day in the next week where you won’t write any code. I guarantee you’ll find a full day’s worth of work executing on the low-effort, high-impact tasks that can move the needle for your company.

* Ok, to be totally fair, I cheated a little bit. I needed a list of developers to email, so wrote some code to scrape the db, but that was marketing, not programming, right?

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