Quicker Reboots

I am taking two weeks off from blogging. Enjoy this article from the archive! This article was originally published on 27 July 2007.

Photo by Patrick Hoesly

In the article over at Lifehacker, Chris Brogan commented on how he could make a quicker reboot for life. I find this an interesting topic…and like Chris, I see this from the perspective of a computer.

But I’m going to look not only at what a reboot is, but why I may need one.

As a programmer, I find that I reboot about once a day. Since I shut my machine down every night, this generally means that I reboot when I add or change software, remove software, or things are just not performing as well as they should be.

In life, adding or changing software that requires a reboot is analogous to adding a project to my projects list. I have to sit down, rearrange the rest of my life, see if there is anything that can be dropped as a result of this project (since some of my new projects are expansions on old ones, or follow from an “investigative” type of project).

For example, I had a project where I was going paint my office. This completed, I realized I needed to do more work in there, namely getting something on the windows. So the new project became “Make window treatment for office.”

Another example is the project of deciding what to do about a broken piece of household equipment. The possible results: repair, replace, or do without. Both of the first two options will require a new project. In order to “reboot” this, I close out the old project, and add a new one with an associated next action.

In the case where things are not performing as well as they could be…bad performance on my part is usually caused by either becoming fixated on one projected (software hanging) or too much going on at once (memory overload/fragmentation). A reboot is analogous to sitting down and getting my system back in order.

Fragmentation is usually caused by me putting the things I think I should be able to accomplish at the moment on the list; experience proves that I am not a good judge of how much I can actually accomplish, and I also get paralyzed if I don’t think I’m accomplishing enough.

So how do I prevent reboots? I have to make sure that my projects are in order, that I have closed out what is done and examined any projects to come out of them. This avoids the nagging feeling that I am “missing something”. My next action list keeps me from becoming too fixated on a project, and I have to remember to check it often. And disciplining myself to not become overloaded or fragmented.

When I do have to reboot, these are the things that I do to make it go quicker:

  • I make sure I am doing as few things as I can at once. Like a computer, the less my brain has to shut down in memory, the faster this is going to go.
  • I have a complete list of the “threads” in my memory. I make sure I capture everything and get it into my system. This saves me the time of having to do an emergency mind sweep. I still do a mind sweep once or twice a week, but I find it’s more productive when I’m not pressured to move on.
  • I try to make sure my life is defragmented as possible. This means stuff is where I can find it; my desk is orderly and neat; I know where my project list and next actions are.

I have found that if I do the things above in both my computer and my life, I have much better performance.

Photo by Patrick Hoesly