Take a Breath

16. July 2012 Uncategorized 1

I came in and quickly put the delivery box in its spot, then I grabbed a box of pill bottles and started refilling the cabinets, weaving in and out of pharmacists as I did. I then went to grab the trashcans and started to empty them. At this point, Craig the pharmacist directed me to a stool and had me sit down.

He then said to me “Do you see that you work for 3 hours but I only give you 1.5 hours of work?”


“Take a breath, and don’t try to cram it all in to 15 minutes.”

It was 1994 and I was working as the delivery guy for our local pharmacy. Before the pharmacy, I had worked at Wendy’s where I was literally told “If you have time to lean, you have time to clean” (I laughed when the manager said that because I thought she was kidding.) Wendy’s had a steady stream of traffic, no matter when I worked. This meant that for the majority of my shifts it was a constant “go-go-go.” 

When I moved over to the pharmacy, I had the same mentality.  I was given 3 major tasks at the pharmacy:

  1. Deliver all the waiting medication when I got there
  2. Restock the pill bottles the pharmacists had used throughout the day
  3. Take out the trash and put new liners in the trash can.

That was it. This meant that most days I spent about an hour doing homework in the back room. But the first few months I was so focused on my 3 tasks that I ended up getting in the way of the pharmacists as they were trying to help customers.

Craig’s advice came back to me today, 18 years later, as I started a new job this week.  First day I was put on a brand new project. As of right now, I’m the only one on the project (new guy #2 starts Monday and new guy #3 starts the next Monday.) I have just left being the “lead developer” on a large project. It was a domain that I had become familiar with over the past 2 years.  This week I had wanted to come in and get going right away, but I struggled.  My goal was to have several of the key queries done by the time the next new guy starts. As of yesterday I hadn’t gotten very far.

Today I realized that I needed take Craig’s advice to heart and take a break. My project doesn’t need to be done this week, and nobody that I’m working with expects me to come in be completely up to speed in 2 days.

Software, in this respect, is like being a pharmacy delivery guy. The prize isn’t there for the first one to finish. The prize is there for those who do it right.  And everytime I try to rush software, I cheapen the craft, making it no different than an assembly line that wants to see X widgets produced in Y hours.