Baby Steps

A few seemingly unrelated thoughts, and then a tie-’em-all-together thought:

1. Rands’ recent post on “Saving Seconds” really resonated with me. I forwarded it to my wife and said, “See, this is how I think!” so that she could better understand why I optimize the shortcuts on our PC, or the way I load the dishwasher, or the other thousand seemingly-OCD-inspired things I do. (Thankfully she understands me very well already!)

2. I think it’s incredibly important to be good to “the environment.” Whether you believe in the global warming story or not, it needs to be done. I recycle everything possible (and I got really excited when I found out that Ecology Action, our local recycling place started recycling #3 – #7 plastics!), am a vegetarian, use reusable grocery bags (and don’t use individual plastic bags for bagging fruit or veggies), use BioBag compostable trash bags, and the list goes on.

3. Joel’s “Fire and Motion” post also resonates with me. Forward progress, even if it’s just a tiny bit of progress, is good. And necessary, in fact, to getting anything done.

If your goal is to save the Earth it’s easy to get overwhelmed because you can’t do it all yourself. What possible difference can a single person make? There’s too much to do!

If your goal is to improve some software or improve a software development process itself, it’s also easy to get overwhelmed because you can’t do it all yourself. What possible difference can a single person make? There’s too much to do!

Guess what? Maybe you’re right. Maybe you can’t save the Earth by yourself, or single-handedly improve the festering swamp that is your team’s software development process, but there is something that you can do – you can take baby steps.

Recycle something. Get a reusable bag or two for your groceries. Turn off the lights when you leave the office conference room. Ask a coworker to look over your code for bugs before you checkin a change. Create an automated test suite for your software, start with a single “does it compile?” test.

It will require an intentional change in your thinking and behavior to do these things the first time, and the second time, and the seventh time. But soon enough doing a little bit extra for the environment or your software will become a habit, and those small bits of effort will add up into something meaningful over time.

And you will be motivated to keep adding more good habits over time because you will see the internal (“Yay! I feel better about myself!”) and external (“Yay! I found a bug!”) benefits from those habits you’ve already adopted.

And as you develop those small habits, you will be noticed by others around you who may even join you in small improvements – “viral marketing” at work.

A Couple Of Resources:

Joel’s “Getting Things Done When You’re Only a Grunt” post has more software development improvement ideas. has a few Earth-friendly things you can do.