Saturday, May 14, 2016

Exhausted? Out of ideas? Going to the bathroom might help

As a programmer - and probably other intellectual activities which imply sitting at a desk and thinking - i am more often than others in the position to try to solve some difficult engineering challenge. I feel i can do it in an elegant, almost genius way, yet i can't quite grasp it. I don't want to go with the 'brute force' approach which might often be suggested by surrounding people and might imply that i rewrite some module almost completely. I want to reuse existing code and i want to build reusable code myself, for the future, to stand the test of time.

I think this is a place where character shines through. I might stay for a few hours and seriously think about the issue. I try various avenues of attacking the problem but never quite solving the entire puzzle. Sometimes after this tiring search i come up with nothing. And then, in a fit of exhaustion, i go to the bathroom.

Bathroom relaxation
The bathroom is a magical place and my belief is it will become increasingly magical in this technological future where we are all connected and can't take a moment to think for ourselves. (Some don't even appreciate silence enough to seek it from time to time. But that's another subject) It's magical because there is this oasis of silence, of private time - where not only you can hear yourself think, but most importantly: where your brain is wired to relax.

Your brain knows that when you go to the bathroom you can (and should) relax because the purpose of the bathroom itself is to get you rid of all kinds of residue (which can't happen effectively without relaxation) - your brain knows this and slips into the feedback loop which allows your mind to relax as well. In the case i describe above, idea by idea (almost involuntarily) i go through whatever i tried and whatever distracted me - and the mind discards some of this population of thoughts - because that's what you do in the bathroom. You discard stuff. The mind, now relaxed, just like a muscle, can 'lift more weight' and can try to tackle the problem from angles which might not even have been visible before because the search itself was exhausting it.

So i'm not a doctor but.. when you feel like going to the bathroom or taking a break.. maybe it's not a bad idea to actually do it :)

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