Patrick Simpson

Recently - On doing extra

Recently, I read an article about doing extra.

One thing I've noticed over the years is that there is at least one thing that seems to be common to every good, veteran programmer I know. They all follow the same deliberate and dare-I-say selfish rule to how they approach their time: Always do Extra.

The programmers that know a lot (the ones you look to for help), they are working on side projects, chasing their dreams... They are those that do extra.

While you can take it or leave it, don't be surprised if it takes you longer to achieve as much as someone who does extra. (By the way, that might be fine for you, that's totally fine. Be you.)

Also, doing extra does not mean do more work. (I have definitely made this mistake.)

Extra is different than More. Extra is finishing those two screens, but then researching a new library for form validation that might reduce the boilerplate code. Or it's learning ways to protect against common security vulnerabilities from data entry. These little off-ramps from the main highway of Normal Work could be dead-ends and not have any practical value to the project. But they might also be important contributions. And that's the thing with Extra. While the tangible value to the project is uncertain (it could be nothing this time or it could be something), the value to you is real.

This distinction is, Extra leads to increasing your overall value, and not just finishing all those shallow short-term tasks.

Extra applies to the long-term you. The real value is indeed you.

For you that might mean creating an entire framework of checkboxes, or rendering Doom in said checkboxes.

For me, it's managing servers, databases, reading articles, writing a blog post, re-writing said blog engine (yeah, I did it again), trying a new language, building computers, editing emacs plugins (or editing my config/dotfiles)... All of these experiences culminate into a better me.