As a web developer, I’m constantly struggling with the concept of feature creep. Feature creep is when the developer keeps adding features to the software to the point that the core product starts to lose it’s focus. The software slowly becomes less elegant and very un-simple, which is a developer’s worst nightmare.
The worst part about feature creep is that it’s almost always the result of the best intentions. The developer takes a mindset that by adding more features, more people will want to use it. Pretty soon the documentation for the product resembles a dishwasher and requires the smarts of a doctor to decipher it. Eventually it takes so long to learn how to use the program that it’s no longer useful.
Feature creep can also be present in our lives. If we pretend for a second that our lives are a piece of software, we can see the types of “features” that we’ve added to it. Cell phones, email, IM, iPhones, Crackberry’s, Twitter, Facebook, Myspace… suddenly we’ve got a bunch of digital accounts that are stealing our focus. All of these accounts demand attention, and carve bits of attention from our day. We’ve become more and more connected to our computers and other communication devices. Life, it seems, has become much less simple.
So how do we break away from all the “feature creep” that we’ve added to our lives? It’s simple, but painful. We have to start dropping features. But take heart, it can be done. Here are a few techniques to help make sure that you don’t add feature creep to our lives.
- Set hard deadlines on Internet usage. I’ve tried a computer fast before, and it worked really well. It’s incredibly hard to do, but if you can at least make a deadline when your computer will be shut off every day with no exceptions, the control shifts back to your favor.
- Be mindful of the accounts you set up. Every social media account that you sign up for will require at least some attention. They send frequent emails, and ultimately try to get you on their site.If you need to set up a ton of accounts, be sure that the email settings are turned waaaay down so that the amount of email you receive is minimal.
- Communicate on your terms. Try to push aside the need to always be connected to IM, Twitter, or even the Internet. By disconnecting, it allows you to focus more on what needs to be done, without distracting IM’s and people wanting to chat.
- Turn off email notices. If you use a probgram like Outlook or Thunderbird, be sure to turn off the popups that let you know when you’ve got mail.
- Only check email a few times each day. This could be very hard for some, but you’ll find that email is a huge timesink. By limiting the number of times you actually open up the inbox, you’ll find yourself getting more done.
- Limit amount of time on social sites. Yeah, they’re fun and addictive. But being social and working never usually go together very well.
- Be mindful of your goals. It’s hard to justify chatting on IM if your goal is to become your own boss. Keeping constant reminders of what you want to do can keep you focused on what’s important.
- Constantly evaluate social commitments. For me it’s hard to tell people no. But in order to really focus on what’s important to me in life, I have to really think about what commitments I can make to friends and family. It’s incredibly easy to commit to an unmanagable amount of events. But if these events and commitments start to dictate your life and goals, think about cutting back on them.
- Everyone needs a time to reflect. If you don’t have a quiet time built into your day, get one (I recommend the morning). Everyone needs personal time to reflect on what the day holds, or to just take some personal time to unwind. I’m not alone here, some of the greatest minds did this as well. Gandhi would often spend time just staring at the horizon. Churchill would sit down to smoke a cigar after lunch and Beethoven would stop off for a few beers after his afternoon walk (more examples here).
Adding extra “features” can quickly add a lot more expectations on our lives, to the point of becoming unmanageable. Remember, where we spend our time dictates what is truly important in our lives, whether we’d admit it or not.
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