Developers Avoid 5 Minute Meetings

by Mike Classic on June 9, 2017

It’s true. Developers do avoid meetings, people dropping by our desks, or IM’ing us to say hi. But it’s not for the same reasons you think. Okay, well maybe a bit. We’re stereotyped as grumpy & antisocial. There’s some truth to that. But before you non-techs think you’ve chalked up a win, here’s the real deal.

We avoid interruptions big or small because it very much affects our productivity.

What Does That Mean?

You may think that you can drop by our desk, have a meeting for five minutes, then walk away and we’ll pick up where we left off. For us, the ramp up to producing is more of a gradient.

It serves itself better in a picture.

This can be expressed in a non-linear equation (I think), but I’m no math wiz. Someone should take a stab at the formula.

What are considered interruptions and what aren’t?

Interruptions are spontaneous meetings, phone calls, incoming client calls, even — dare I say it — standup meetings! *gasp*

How many of these interruptions are actually urgent? Could most of these be sent via email or ticket? Obviously standups can’t. Urgent support requests couldn’t be emails either. Those are fair.

How To Avoid

This is why I enjoy coding late at night, into the wee hours of the morning. No phone calls, no random messages, nobody stopping by — unless I arrange it, of course.

It’s fairly common for devs to put on headphones, whether or not they’re actually plugged in is beside the point. Closed doors, if at all possible, are sure to be a coder’s best friend. Signs, whether on the door, back of your chair, or your actual back, may be a little impolite, but we’ll make up for it in output.

What could these signs say?

Please only interrupt if I’m on fire, or asking about what I want for lunch.

Please refer to my team lead, Ted. He’ll filter all necessary interactions for me.

Leave a note under the door. I’ll be sure to get back to you within 1-2 business days.

Offensive Guard

An offensive guard is a term for an American Football position on the offensive line. Their job is to protect the quarterback (programmer) from incoming linemen (managers, business analysts.)

Isn’t there a role for this in a company? Can your Lead Dev run interference? Please, someone, anyone, comment, give us some ideas how we can minimize these interruptions.


This post has been inspired by this tweet.