Learning to Walk Away

It may seem strange that one of my first posts would be about walking away, but I assure you, there is an important reason. The exercise of walking away from a frustrating situation doesn’t just apply to computing. There always comes a time when you need to just stop what you’re doing and get away from the situation. If you continue to try and persevere through the situation, you’re only going to frustrate yourself further.

walk away
Learning to Walk Away

A typical example of this is when find yourself getting frustrated with something you are working really hard on. You are expecting a certain outcome, but you just aren’t getting the results you set out to achieve. It’s time to walk away, clear your mind, come back and reevaluate the situation. Usually, the correct answer will magically appear and seem overly obvious now that you’ve had a few minutes away.

This happens to me every once in a while. I will be working on a select piece of code, and I’m running into one problem after another. I know what I’m trying to do, and I know what I should expect, but I’m just not getting it. I rework the code, and I go over it one character at a time, and it all seems to look correct. After a little while of reworking the code, and researching to see if anyone else has faced a similar problem and coming up empty handed, I begin to get frustrated. This piece of code should not be producing these results! It’s time to stop and walk away.

This is the important part, you are not quitting; you’re just taking a small break to clear your mind. Go get a cup of coffee, go watch some television, listen to some music, go for a walk, go to the store, do a much needed chore, do anything to get away and take your mind off of the situation. Of course your mind is not completely free of the problem. Solutions are still processing in the background. You’re going over sections in your mind, thinking of what else could be flagging problems, and things you’ll try when you get back to it. But, at the current moment, most of your brain is focused on the task at hand; whatever you chose to do to occupy yourself.

After some time has passed come back and resume your work. Usually after a few seconds, the problem becomes glaringly obvious and you cannot imagine how you missed it to begin with. If you had not taken a few minutes to get away from the problem, you would have just compounded the aggravation further. But now with a clear mind, and the problem fixed, you can happily continue your work.

I’ve seen people scrap entire projects because of one silly mistake all because of the frustration they were facing at that moment. I have even seen the same people start an entire project over again because they realized what they’re mistake was, and now they are getting frustrated because this project isn’t capturing what the first one had.  I am even guilty of this situation, and I tend to believe most of us are.

Remember that being frustrated at a situation is not going to make it better, so take a few minutes to clear your mind.

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