Developer Tea

Moving Implicit Systems to Be More Explicit

Episode Summary

In the next few episodes we'll be diving into the auto-pilot systems and the implicit decisions that we make and how they can effect our growth as developers.

Episode Notes

Auto-pilot systems that we use to help us make decisions can be incredibly useful and in the worst of times these can take away from our ultimate goals. In today's episode, we're sharing two things that you can do to take implicit systems that you care about and make them explicit.

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Episode Transcription

In the next few episodes of Developer Tea, we're going to talk about moving some of the things that are implicit in our days into explicit systems. These are things that we naturally probably care a lot about, but unfortunately we don't put a lot of energy into them. For example, if you asked the average parent if they value their family or their children, they almost certainly would say yes. But if you ask them how they are explicitly reflecting that value in their actions today, they may not be able to answer that question. And it's not because those people are bad or because they don't actually value their family. In fact, most people operate this way. We all have our own autopilot mechanisms. The things that we make big decisions about at one particular juncture and then we kind of turn off our brains. We don't really evaluate those things again until another big decision comes along. These kinds of autopilot systems, these implicit actions, implicit decisions that we make as people can be incredibly useful. Sometimes they can be mildly useful, good enough to get us along. Other times they can be completely useless and in the worst of times they can actually take away from our ultimate goals. My name is Jonathan Catrote and you're listening to Developer Tea. My goal in this show is to help driven developers like you find clarity, perspective, and purpose in your careers. In today's episode, we're just going to share two things that you can do to take some of these implicit systems that you probably care about and make them more explicit. So it's two very practical things. And what's interesting about this is that it doesn't really take a lot of energy necessarily to make these implicit things more explicit. But it does take intentionality. In the sense that it has to take up a moment of your day. You have to bring it to your full awareness. And our attention is something that we're constantly trying to divide up in meaningful ways in the most efficient way. If our biology and our natural brain states were to call the shots, we probably would never do any of these things. You probably wouldn't even listen to this podcast because it takes effort and perhaps your brain would decide that it's not really essential to your survival. But humans have an amazing ability to go beyond mere survival. We think about things more in terms of imagination. We can imagine the future beyond our present state and beyond just surviving from today to tomorrow, we can imagine a world that is many years into the future. And much of those autopilot systems that we were talking about earlier, those implicit systems are designed to make your brain more efficient. Your brain kind of takes the signal that you found something that's working, so keep it that way. Don't rock the boat. Don't change the kind of balance that you have. But the problem is that our brains make a lot of bad assumptions about reality. For example, in a relationship with another person, once you've established your kind of mutual appreciation and respect for one another, your brain may take the signal that you no longer need to reinforce that mutual respect. But the truth is that good relationships are marked by continuous reinforcement. So let's dive into one of these implicit systems that we want to make more explicit. We want to allocate more of our energy towards. So there's a little bit of homework with this one. I want you to take out a piece of paper and be prepared to pause this podcast because this may take a little bit of internal digging to figure this one out. You can return to this podcast another time once you have this figured out. But I want you to write down three or maybe four qualities that you really want to express in your life. If you were to have people describe you, you'd hope that they would use some of these words. And I want you to be as explicit as possible with these. So when I say explicit in this particular scenario, I mean be as specific as possible. Instead of using something like loving, perhaps use a more specific word like nurturing. Instead of using a word like hard worker, use a phrase like tenacious in the face of uncertainty. But the point is to come up with your own. And these are kind of like values, but more characteristics that you want to cultivate in yourself. Now the good thing is that this isn't a permanent list. You're not turning it into anybody, nobody's going to check it for accuracy. This can evolve over time. But I want you to pick out one of those things on that list. And over the course of the next week, I want you to set some kind of reminder, maybe on your phone or on your computer, set a reminder that just shows you that particular characteristic. And this is unfortunately where most people allow their implicit systems to take over. They remind themselves of the characteristics that they want to exhibit. And then that's it. Instead what I want you to do is decide on one thing that you're going to do that day that will exhibit that characteristic. Now here's the kicker. At the end of the day, have another alarm. Another alarm that reminds you of that same characteristic. At that moment, evaluate, did I actually exhibit this characteristic during my day? Now again, here's the good part. You don't have to report your results to anybody. Nobody's going to knock off points from your characteristic building score. Nobody's watching over your shoulder. But instead, if you truly do want to cultivate these characteristics, explicitly identifying opportunities to cultivate those characteristics may be the best route to actually having those characteristics. It seems simple, but unfortunately, we often go many years sometimes believing that we are generous or that we have grit, but then not actually following through on that in our actions. We're going to take a quick sponsor break and then we're going to talk about another system, another implicit system that you can make explicit in your life and your work. Today's episode is sponsored by Get Prime. Have you noticed that some of the best engineering managers, not just engineering managers, really any kind of manager? They're also great at debugging problems. It's easiest to see with engineering managers because they have actual code to debug, but it goes beyond code. They view their teams as complex systems with inputs and outputs. Does that sound familiar? They approach problems with curiosity and with a relentless pursuit to find the root cause of the problem. Get Prime has published a free book. It's called 20 Patterns to Watch for in engineering teams. It's based on data from thousands of enterprise engineering teams, and in it, they dig into various work patterns and team dynamics that we all can relate to. We've all seen these patterns before and perhaps we didn't have a good name for them. This is what Get Prime has done. They've given these things names and they've given prescriptions for identifying how to improve beyond the patterns. Not just about putting a label on it and walking away, it's taking that next step to improve once you've identified these patterns. It's an excellent field guide to help debug your development team with data. Go to slash 20 patterns. That's slash 20 patterns to download the book today and you can get a printed copy mail to you for free. It's slash 20 patterns. Thanks again to Get Prime for sponsoring today's episode. One of the most difficult habits to break for me has been the default, but I'm not sure the default consumption mode that I end up kind of resorting to in my free time. This consumption mode means that I'll open up my browser and before I know it, I've already typed in Twitter or I've already typed in Reddit or Hacker News. Often I enjoy my time relaxing, reading through these threads and articles and looking at gifs, but at the end of the day, what I realize is that this behavior is automatic. We're talking today about making implicit systems more explicit and this is one that I highly recommend you take time to put some boundaries on. When I say boundaries, I mean creating a system that builds some expectation of how you're going to consume. One is a default because it's so available. It's at our fingertips almost literally all the time. I'm not the first person to tell you that there's so much content out there and so much of it is available for specific interests as well. So there's an endless amount of kind of deep dive that you can do and you can spend hours consuming, rich content and really enjoying yourself. But here's the problem. When you have these implicit systems, they often end up impeding on things that you would have preferred to spend your time and energy on. Even though that passive consumption was perhaps gratifying in the moment, you may have actually preferred to go spend time with your family, for example. Or perhaps you may have preferred the opposite side of consumption, creating something. I want to be clear that we're not demonizing, going and spending an hour browsing a subreddit that you're really interested in. That's not the point here. Instead, the point is to find a way to explicitly consume. So here's the challenge. Take a moment to schedule today the times that you're going to passively consume. Take a moment to put it on your calendar or even just scratch it out on a no pad. Write down the times that you're going to actually consume. And then in the other periods where you're not consuming, it's even better if you can find a way to block yourself from those automatic consumption devices. For example, pretty much every phone now has an easy way of blocking specific domains. This is how I've helped myself not go to Twitter so often, for example. In the mental model that I have for this, interestingly enough, comes from when I was younger, going on the internet was something that you had to engage in as an explicit activity. In other words, you would log on to the internet rather than the internet just being constantly available. What this meant was we had these blocks of time in our house, at least, where we would take turns logging on to the internet, checking our email. And once that block of time was up, there was no such thing as a push notification that would interrupt dinner. If you can find a way to make your consumption habits explicit, then you'll choose what you consume more carefully. And ultimately, you'll have the ability to explicitly, there's our keyword for this episode, explicitly plan how you're going to spend the rest of that free time. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode of Developer Tea. Hopefully in the next couple of episodes, we're going to continue talking about these implicit and explicit systems, how we can take some of the implicit things and move them more towards the explicit and perhaps the other direction. How we can take some of the things that are explicit unnecessarily and taking up too much of our energy and move them more towards implicit. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode of Developer Tea. We wouldn't be able to do what we do without our wonderful sponsors. Today's episode was sponsored by Git Prime. Go and check out the book that Git Prime has released. That's at Git Prime dot com slash 20 patterns, git prime dot com slash 2 0 patterns. Thanks again to Git Prime for sponsoring today's episode. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode. My name is Jonathan Cutrell and until next time, enjoy your tea.