Journal #189 – Rush To Meet Deadline, Violating Core Values in Process

I’m pretty sure everyone in their professional life has been called upon or required to rush, grind, and push oneself to meet deadlines set by either the customer, client or even internal management team. Personally, I’m just not sure if it is even necessary. What I do know is it leads one to suffer from health problems when done wrongly. I have always done it wrongly and never once have I done it correctly. I will explain more later.

So what’s the end result when I rush? I neglect the balance that my body and mind need everyday. I had to pump my body full of caffeine just so that I can power it through.

That’s what I did today. I took four shots of expressos in the form of Americano. Then followed by two bags of Earl Grey Tea soaked in 400ml of hot water, refilled twice. My body actually felt so jittery after that, and everything looks suddenly so bright.

This is what I call violation of my health value just so that I can meet the unreasonable deadline set by my management. Hmmm… in hindsight, the deadline was actually set by the client. But the management team decided to make the call of waiting for me to join the company a month after I served my notice instead of getting someone else earlier, thereby reducing the amount of time I have to develop.

Now, before you ask why I did what I did, I will tell you. I actually took into account my mental energy levels (which is quite low even after all these years of working) before pumping myself so full of caffeine. It is in part because of my extreme unwillingness to give someone something that I don’t feel satisfied with.

With that much caffeine, now I don’t even know if I can sleep tonight. I suspect I will suffer from a massive sleep debt again. Right now, I do have a headache. My short term action definitely don’t align with my values.

So I’m not happy.

Other than the bad, what else? Well, nothing that is truly meaningful or valuable to me, except maybe a simple thanks. Maybe after this whole ordeal, I can look back and see some upside but definitely not at this moment. What I do know is that the company will get better standing with the customer. My manager gets a fatter bonus. My bosses will be happy.

There is one other thing.

There was an internal demo which included a quick meeting. It turns out we don’t have two more weeks of buffer anymore. We are expected to deliver a fully functioning application with bells and whistles by October 19, latest October 25. That is including the documents for the QA and testers. From where I’m standing, I see that our application is only 70% done. I estimate the authorization and authentication module definitely is only 45% done. Looks like I only have 4 days to finish it all and proceed to do internal integration testing.

I know most people will just say focus on delivering the core requirements… but I can’t. I am not satisfy just delivering the core because it violate my other core value of quality (more like perfection from my view).

Hmm…

I guess I’m gonna make a choice, deciding which violation of my core values that I’m willing to live with. And I think it’s a simple choice. I will ignore quality and focus on my health. Health is something that I cannot rebuild back. Most people have this thinking that you could nourish your health back but they fail to take into account you age with each passing day. Your body’s repair mechanism ages too. You can never get back your original health or vitality.

One last thing.

I’m gonna try and wind down my caffeine intake starting tomorrow so that I can sleep better at night. Not gonna sacrifice my own health so much just to deliver something for someone who don’t have the power or ability to repair my damaged body. Only I can by making the right choices.

I know some professionals may not agree or may find that I’m irresponsible by not focusing on quality. My response would be, you do you, I do me. If you have the drive, health is not one of your core value, and likes your standing amongst your colleagues or friends to be high up on the pedestal, go ahead and do what you want to achieve. For me, all I know is that I will be irresponsible to myself and my family if my physical and mental health takes such a massive toll and require my family to take care of me. If you have read through my journals, you would have known that I went through a period of depression, went on a career break, and re-evaluated what I want in life.

I have definitely slipped in terms of the alignment of my actions, goals, and values.

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Journal #187 – Productive Day with More Starbucks

Without coffee, I highly doubt I will even have a productive day. My body has developed some sort of immunity to the amount of caffeine I take but can’t live without. I needed a certain amount of caffeine to even stay awake or do anything decently.

I know this runs counter to what being a minimalist is all about where something that you consume adds value to your life and consumption shouldn’t be in excess. But it’s my solution to counteract the lower energy levels caused by my neuroticism. I think my brain don’t have that much energy left after having process threats, dealing with anxiety, thinking of the futures and the outcomes, etc. Maybe I’m wrong or right about this. All I know is it works for me.

I mentioned that I bought a Starbucks tumbler yesterday so that I can save the environment by not using plastic cups and also save a little bit of money buying coffee everyday. Starbucks gives 50 cents discount for drinks that are filled in your own tumblers. I applaud this initiative of theirs and it’s one of the reason why I buy their things.

With that, I went to Starbucks and filled up my black tumbler with iced Americano. It was actually a wrong order. I blurted out the wrong order because I was so sleepy in the morning. And Due to the size of the tumbler, it’s actually grande sized instead of venti.

With that coffee, I went through the morning doing development work and was able to finish half of what the tasks that I wanted to do for today before going for lunch. That means functionalities related to user creation and management.

After coming back from lunch, I went out again with my tumbler in hand and ordered Earl Grey along with a box of instant coffee from Starbucks. I went with the Italian Roast for $13.90. There are 12 sticks of instant coffee.

This coffee isn’t for me though. I bought it for my family as I wanted them to try what I feel to be a better coffee, a more ecologically friendly coffee. The coffee they consumed I feel are of an inferior quality, not environmentally friendly, and not ethically sourced.

Ok, let me digress for a bit.

You see, these days when I buy products, I will try to at least ensure that the company publishes detail reports about where they source their materials, the environmental impact, and whether they are ethical. I personally don’t mind paying more for products that are in a way help uplift other societies or communities and not contribute to the destruction of our planet.

Now back to the main point. I bought the Earl Grey because I didn’t want to drink too much coffee that would prevent me from sleeping tonight but needed something caffeinated and soothing so that I can power through the rest of the afternoon and finish the tasks that I set out to do.

And so I did managed to finish the implementation of the user management module, started work on the roles, and user/role assignment module before I left office.

I suppose tomorrow I will continue to get myself closer to finishing the end product.

Journal #184 – Onwards! Marching Towards My End Goal

When I started writing this, I wasn’t sure what title I will be giving and I will be lying if I say I knew what I want to write about upon staring at this blank canvas. So what I will do is just write and let the process take over.

First, I will say my progress at work has been decent. I’m quite happy that my codes have not yet hit any major bugs during the integration process.

However, one of my colleagues has definitely commented a lot about my approaches to API design and implementation. She dislike that I’m returning a list of entities instead of a list of IDs of those entities from my application services. It meant that she had to post-process the results and extract the data she needs. She also commented on the naming of the functions as they were not the typical function that begin with words Get or Set or Update or Save. I named my functions in accordance to Tell, Don’t Ask principle with the exact purpose of the function stated clearly as part of the function name. Yes, some function names are verbose but if you read it carefully, there is no confusion. She also don’t like the fact that I use String as parameters for querying instead of integers.

All these comments definitely have in some way upset me because in a way, my reality and world view were being destroyed by someone else. But I let it go as there is no need to hold on to the negative emotions. I standby my approach and what I have done but to make her life easier during integration, I added additional functions that accept the parameters that she wants to supply. Depending on the situation, I do a double-dispatch or simply repeat myself. Yes, I do know the latter approach is completely wrong. One should never violate DRY principle.

Other than that, I focus on developing the WPF side of things for the identity and access module. I still see myself as relatively new to WPF and so I spent a lot of time fumbling around before I achieve what I want. There are of course lots of things I still don’t comprehend fully. As there is a super tight schedule, I had to focus on achieving some kind of useful output with whatever knowledge that I do have and could gain. And I dare say so far so good. The user interface is coming along nicely.

After work, I reminded myself again that I don’t want to do programming anymore…definitely not on a full-time basis. Part of it was because I never like being squeezed by tight deadlines. I also never quite enjoy working with other people. All of these always raise my blood pressure, give me some sort of anxiety or panic attack. And if I’m not careful, my health, both mental and physical, will suffer. What is keeping me going for now is the money. And I got to repeat it again: Not at the expense of my health. I am still trying to reach my end goal of having enough to do a mini-retirement by 32 years old and then switch over to do something that I truly enjoy, which is writing in general. 32 years old isn’t exactly very far away for me. It’s in two years time and I just turned 30 recently.

At home, I spent my free time watching Van Helsing Season 2 and Ghost Wars, having dinner, and just simply chilling.

Here I conclude my journal for today.

Journal #183 – Time Flies and Minimalism Is Now Part and Parcel Of My Life

Before I knew it, the first week of October is almost over. This also mark the second month since my adoption of the minimalism lifestyle.

I think I can call myself a minimalist now.

During these two months, I have seen myself stopping myself from purchasing items outright without thinking twice. I kept asking myself whether I need the item and if I do need the item, how long do I need it or for what purpose.

Take iPhone for example. I wanted iPhone X because it’s shiny and it has brand new features that my iPhone 7 Plus don’t have. But I knew that I don’t even need it. Those shiny new features serve no purpose and doesn’t add any value to my life. The money that I will be spending on it could be saved up for future use or be part of my retirement funds.

As I mentioned previously in my journals, I even applied minimalism to my clothes. I have my own personal uniform that I wear everyday to work. My colleagues have of course commented on it but once I mentioned that I am a minimalist, they understood. Everything that I do or own is intentional and the bare essentials. The only few people that have yet to comment are my bosses. If they do ask, maybe I will use this chance to tell them that I also apply minimalism to work. I will only do the bare essentials and we shall see how they react.

I have also cleared out my wardrobes, gave away my graduation gown, got rid of old video games that I no longer play, and even certain old boxes that don’t really serve any purpose. I cleared out some old letters by sending them to the shredders too.

Now I finally realized that those things that I did threw or gave away was really there because I’m sentimental, or that I felt insecure, or just feel inferior. I buy stuff to make me feel good or reward myself for handwork. Now, I don’t want stuff. Instead, I need to focus on relationships, my health, calming my neurotic mind, and have enough money to feel safe and stable.

So what’s next for my minimalism journey?

I will probably replace my current wardrobe and remove cabinets until I only have three furniture in my room: A smaller (twice as small), new wardrobe, a bed, and finally a small computer desk for my MacBook Pro, a 27 inch monitor, and the essential hardwares that I need to go online and play certain kind of games.

I will get rid of my existing Windows-based desktop too, except for the GTX1080 graphics card which I will keep for e-GPU purpose. I don’t need two machines when I do majority of my work on my MacBook instead of my desktop. I will get a new 15inch MacBook Pro because it has to have sufficient power for me to do the occasional programming work for my client, light-medium gaming, and support the e-GPU. In general, the 15inch will serve as a desktop replacement. My current 13inch just doesn’t cut it, except maybe for lightweight programming, watching videos, listening to music, and writing. Gaming is a no go, well…more like it’s not at an acceptable standard or level for me anyway.

So what about you guys? For those who just adopted minimalism, how has your journey been like? Let me know down in the comments below.

And a final update about my day today…

The integration work has been going fine. I managed to resolve an issue with data binding of a User Control defined in the ControlTemplate with a data source in the data context. But of course, my whole morning was to deal with the fact that my company didn’t give me the license key for Visual Studio Professional 2017 edition and the software expired today. I had to uninstall it and install a community edition as a temporary solution because development work still has to continue.

Anyway, Visual Studio, Windows, and the whole development ecosystem has not been a great experience.

This is the first problem.

It took 1.5 hours just to reach 49% and I started installing at around 9.50 am. By the time it reached 79%, it was already lunch time.

Then, every edit, every key press or something, visual studio will hang or being doing some god-knows what processing.

And if I add a new file or something, I get this dialog which stays on for up to 3 minutes.

Maybe it’s my development environment or the machine itself or maybe the network. But because everything in my office runs on Windows, it just simply made me hate the platform even more.

And that’s why I switched to Mac and bought into the Apple ecosystem. Yes, Apple has its own problems but nothing as bad as the craps I have to deal with ever since Windows 8.1 came out until Windows 10.

Ok, I’m done with my ranting.

Here I conclude my journal for today.

Journal #182 – Mooncake Festival

Today is Mooncake Festival or more formally known as Mid-Autumn Festival. It is a festival celebrated by ethnic Chinese and Vietnamese people.

When I was younger, I would go downstairs and play with the neighbors, carry lanterns. As I got older, I got more introverted and decided to spend more time in front of a screen instead.

And now for me, today is just like any other day.

At work, I focused on integrating the identity access module with the client application and the rest of the server codes.

During the integration, it turns out that some of my interfaces didn’t meet certain requirements. So I had to overload some of the functions to take in some other kind of parameters for the same purpose.

For some reason, I actually felt kind of upset after the discussion with my colleague about what I have implemented. Why did I get upset? Cause I’m upset at myself for not being better.

But it’s ok.

The lesson to be learn here is that, one should also find out more before doing anything more.

Also, after a round of basic integration testing, my colleague disagreed with my use of exception to control flow of execution and preferred the use of booleans and integers.

But it’s ok. There is no right way or wrong way of doing things. It’s just different approach. It’s all about comprehension at the end of the day. I will proceed to make the changes tomorrow.

After work, I went to buy a box of Essence of Chicken with Cordyceps for $18.05 from Watsons.

I take Essence of Chicken from time to time to improve my cognitive ability and improve recovery from mental fatigue. A study and another have shown that Essence of Chicken works. Personally, I found that it helps me in both aspects.

As part of the Mid-Autumn Festival, it won’t be complete without the mooncake itself.

So here it is, one of the red-bean paste mooncake that my family have. I have already eaten a slice and found it to be decent. Not that sweet or tasteless. But as with any food, one cannot be eating too many.

That’s all for now.

Here I conclude my journal for today.

Journal #181 – Light At the End of The Tunnel

As I’m preparing to write this journal, I’m in the process of dozing off. In a way, it has been a long day for me but I won’t say it has been extremely productive. I did get some work done but that’s it.

First thing in the morning was me adding more functionalities to the identity access module. Closer to lunch time, I went and filled up the security clearance form that the client needed us to submit. The night before, I actually went to pull out an older copy from my own personal data vault at home, convert it into a password protected PDF, and uploaded it to iCloud. I’m trusting Apple’s iCloud is actually secure and private enough for me to store such sensitive piece of document there. The purpose of that older copy was for reference purpose because I don’t remember every single details of my life to fill such documents.

After I’m done with the document, I went and deleted the version in my iCloud and ensure that it was deleted from all my iCloud-connected devices. Deep down, I hope it’s not cached somewhere.

After that, my colleagues and I went for lunch. Today, our team leader and some other staff in our development office were not around for some reason. And so there were only four of us heading to lunch together.

After lunch, we came back, chit-chat for a moment before getting back to work. I began the process of integrating the client application with the identity access module through web service. I managed to get the login and logout function working, and added some logging codes to some of the application services. It’s not complete yet, as in not all the application services or even web services parts have the logging codes, but at least it was something. This is why I gave my journal the title it is having now. It was a light at the end of the tunnel for me. Every successful integration, even if it’s just one endpoint, is good news.

Other than that, I also went ahead to add some comments to the task (assigned to me) in JIRA so that my management have some kind of visibility.

After that I spent the last half an hour just surfing the web, Twitter, and Facebook and then just call it a day.

On the train home, I read the first few pages of chapter 3 of the book, Jony Ive: The Genius Behind Apple’s Greatest Products, which I bought last Thursday as mentioned in the journal entry. I haven’t been spending a lot of time reading it, thus my slow progress. Normally, for a book as thin as this, I would have finished within one day. But it’s because I lack the discipline and lack distractions (Netflix) pull me away, and in part, I wanted to keep something around to read while going to work.

So far, I love the book. Mr. Leander Kahney did a good job writing the book and told the story in a rather engaging way. I suppose non-fiction can be entertaining too. And the book has made me respect Mr. Jony Ive even more.

And I did learn Design and Technology before during my secondary school days, so I can appreciate everything done by him when it comes to Apple’s product.

That’s all.

Here I conclude my journal for today.

Journal #180 – New Work Month, Already Mentally Exhausted

So it’s here and I came to realize that I’m actually realizing that I’m starting to feel exhausted.

It doesn’t make sense right? I only just started working for a month or so, writing codes, I’m already exhausted? I haven’t even reach crunch time.

I think I know why.

First of all, I already have a tendency to slip into depression of sorts caused by my neuroticism. This alone drains a lot of my mental energy or in other words, I don’t have much energy left.

Two, I have been drinking so much caffeine just so that I get a massive burst of energy and simulation in the morning for more than a week or so now. This overstimulation is interfering with my brain’s ability to relax even on rest day and it has been that way for two weeks or so.

Three, I am by nature also a highly sensitive person who gets overwhelm so easily by deadlines and my bosses decided to just keep squeezing. I know that’s life and work and we are supposed to just suck it up. However, my intention is very clear when it comes to work. It really is just a means to an end but my subconscious mind may not be processing it that way. This constant pushing is perceived as a threat to me, a form of stressor.

And lastly, by nature, I demand high quality when it comes to my programming work. I have tried to relax this demand because it’s unrealistic but it’s still there, occasionally raising its ugly head, draining my already limited mental resources. This is another form of stress that I accidentally put on myself.

So with all the above reasons, I am not surprised. And then today, we were told that we will be required to go to the customer’s site to supervise the application in production as the users use it and to fix any issues. In another words, it is UAT. This alone, well, will push my stress level over my coping mechanism if I’m not careful (referring back to my sensitivities). And I also know there is only so much worrying that I can have before it starts to look unreasonable. So… I shall accept it and let it go. One problem at a time.

Now I’m just left with about 4 days to finish up all the core functionalities of the authentication and authorization module, with audit trails.

Pushing on. Until I break again. That’s joking by the way. I’m not going to put my health on jeopardy again because it is one of my core values.

Here I conclude my journal for today.

Journal #177 – Here comes weekend

It has been a long week and weekend is here. I can finally rest after a tiring week and I dare say it has been a rather productive week.

For today, I did more refactoring of the code and more functionalities have been implemented but I didn’t have time to test them. I hope that I can get all the primary web services up by middle of next week so that I can start doing integration work the week after. cross my fingers

I also got my first paycheck for this new job. It’s missing a day worth of money because I joined on the 4th of September, not the 1st of September. It was a public holiday anyway. But it’s all good because I made quite a substantial amount of money.

One last thing before I end my journal, I decided to give Mac OS High Sierra a try tonight since as it has been out for a few days already and the reviews are in. It does look like a acceptable update. Time machine backup is already done. I’m hoping for the best because the first version of any major OS updates tends to be buggy, just like how iOS 11 is according to an article from techradar.

Here I conclude my journal for today.

Update at 22:21 on September 29: Decided not to update my MacOS after reading through the forums. My Mac is my primary driver for everything except games. Can’t risk it going down.

Journal #176 – Going Through Drudgery Daily, Then A Decent Ending For Today

Why do I have writer’s block? Why do I not know what I want to write about today?

I want to say I’m tired. But that sounds like a fucking excuse.

But at the root of it, it’s really simple.

I didn’t put myself out there enough, exposing myself to brand new ideas, talking with people, sharing.

Everyday is the same fucking shit.

Wake up. Have food. Shower. Travel to work. Write code. Test code. Fix Code. Write more code. Have food. Do more code…

Sounds extremely boring isn’t it? In part yes. In part, no. The no part refers to my tendency to refactor my code even though they are not done or functioning yet. I moved my codes around, create more classes, break apart certain functions, etc. All part of the development process. The yes part refers to the process of writing code itself.

Just like the process of writing my journals. It’s a form of drudgery as it’s boring as hell. There could be a million (ok, not a million, maybe a dozen) of things that I could be doing. And sometimes, I’m tired. But I still write because that’s how I will improve.

My friend did tell me there is no need to write everyday. Generally, I will just say fuck off. But not today because I choose to ignore him.

You see, by forcing yourself to write everyday, you are training yourself. It is intentional training. Just like how some people go for music lesson in a consistent manner. That’s how they become good.

So in my case, because of me consistently writing everyday and putting out content, even now when I’m super exhausted, super sleepy, I’m still able write so much. See, I’m good at telling my own life story.

I’m just that good at it.

Now let’s repeat after me.

Ha! I’m joking. But I hope you get what I’m trying to say. Keep practicing and you will become good at what you do.

And today, I didn’t go home right away after work. My friend actually asked me out for dinner and so I did.

Met him at Orchard to eat at The Sushi Bar and each person pays S$38.60.

A cup of green tea for $2.

A bowl of steam egg (chawanmushi) for $4.

A regular sized Kaisen Chirashi Don for $26.90.

After dinner, my friend and I made our way to the Kinokuniya Bookstore at Takashimaya. At first I didn’t know what I want to buy, then I thought about buying Tim Ferriss’s 4 hour workweek. But I wasn’t sure I could find it. Then I thought about buying Steve Jobs’ biography until I came across a book about Jony Ive.

So I went to buy the book call Jony Ive: The Genuis Behind Apple’s Greatest Products by Leander Kahn.

Why did I buy it? My initial thought was maybe I could try and understand what’s going on behind the decisions that gave us the products that we so loved from Apple. I thought maybe it could expand my knowledge. And a part of me, I don’t know. It’s my first biography that I have ever bought.

Maybe after reading it, I could give a decent review. I shall see how that goes.

Here I conclude my journal for today.

Journal #175 – Over-stimulated 2

For the first time at my new job, I actually worked over-time. I’m not sure if that’s the good thing because I did promise myself that I will never do that again. This job is just a job for me to earn money and not damage my health over it. And working overtime has this tendency of being a slippery slope.

Other than the overtime, like yesterday, I powered through the morning with a venti-sized hot Americano. While working, I was feeling extremely frustrated or angry and the reason was actually very simple. It’s my environment.

For me, when I need to do mentally challenging tasks like programming, I like my environment to be completely silent. The only acceptable noise should be from my headphone, blasting some kind of music. These past few days has been rather noisy in office due to the amount of activities related to software integration and testing from the various projects. In addition, there is this lady (from China) who has a very high pitch voice and she talk very loudly. It’s extremely piercing to my ears and stresses me out. By lunch time, I was already exhausted having to deal with all the stuff going on, even with earphones on.

So you see, being a highly-sensitive person, working in an environment where no one understands, is extremely challenging. And I’m not that sort of person who goes around sharing excessively about myself. I like to keep it to myself.

But I do know that if you really want to survive, it has to be a two way street. However, being in a corporate setting where people only care about their own career progression and doing their own stuff, I don’t think people give a shit. Or maybe it’s just my own distrust of most people in a company.

Anyway, no “normal” person can really understand or even comprehend what is it like to be a HSP. If I am to quantify the sensitivity of one’s senses and sub-conscious reactivity, the sensitivity of most people aren’t even tuned higher than maybe a 7 or 8 out of 10. Mine? Try 11 or 12.

During lunch, I kept talking to a minimum because I was already over-stimulated. I needed to wind down a little. I finished my lunch without uttering a single word. My colleagues were just yapping away about tv shows. I only talked a little bit on the way back to office when people talked to me.

Once back in office, I tried to push myself again and continue coding. I managed to get a specific domain use case working by around 3.30pm or so. The rest of my day was focus on putting seed data in the database and writing more codes to create data transfer objects as well as application logic to support the various use cases.

And why did I work overtime? Because I was trying to finalize a specific use case and wanted to test it. However, there was some issue with the code base I was working on. Earlier in the day I had synchronize my codes with the team foundation server’s version because my colleague had checked in her part of the code. What I faced was missing assemblies, service references.

Well, I couldn’t be bothered to fix it any more and it was already 6.40pm.

So I left feeling exhausted. At home, it’s equally frustrated because my mom for some reason likes to vacuum while I’m at home. The sound of vacuum cleaner is extremely piercing to my ears too.

Honestly, I don’t know how long can I keep up with this kind of stimulation before burning out again. But I do know that will definitely lead me to depression.

I do ask myself this question: Will history repeat itself? I honestly don’t know. What I do know is that I need a better way of winding down.

Maybe I need to sound-proof my whole room for a start.

Here I conclude my journal for today.