Productive Procrastination for Programmers - works for Ruby and Elixir

Stefan Verkerk

Stefan Verkerk on

Productive Procrastination for Programmers - works for Ruby and Elixir

This is a partly-ironic, not-so-serious post on productivity, but increased productivity might actually result from reading it. It is all about the sweetness of procrastination, of pushing away that task you dread, the proverbial frog you need to eat. Take it with a grain of salt.

The reason Productive Procrastination is a superpower is because it allows you to procrastinate, without the guilt associated with it because while you were procrastinating, you were still being productive! At least in the way we define it:

Productive procrastination is delaying your number one priority, but doing some other slightly less important but productive task instead. When done right you haven't actually procrastinated, but you do feel like you did.

It is basically chocolate stroopwafels that make you more fit. With vitamins, to boot.

And now, without further ado, here are our top 5 productive procrastinations.

1. Upgrade AppSignal Gem to Get Magic Dashboards

This sounds like self-promotion, but it is not is really how the idea for this blogpost started:

  • The catch is that you get a doggy treat (automagically appearing dashboard for things you have in your stack like Sidekiq (or Delayed Job or Resque) or PostgreSQL. Or a zillion more.
  • The required 'work' is to do something relatively straightforward, in your comfort zone, yet not too boring (because of the doggy snack). You need to upgrade the AppSignal gem, which is the perfect task for something like this, in our opinion. All it takes is running this:
bundle update appsignal

It may also require you to remove a version lock from the Gemfile, e.g. gem "appsignal", "2.9.2". With a locked version, you can run bundle update appsignal all you want, but it won't upgrade.

For Elixir apps, upgrade by running:

mix deps.update appsignal

2. Learn Your Favorite App's Keyboards Shortcuts

Learn the keyboard shortcuts of your most-used apps. Shave off those seconds using the mouse and race through your work.

Here are some general shortcuts that work in most apps:

Basics like how to switch a tab in (almost) every app (browsers,, file editors, etc):

  • left: cmd + {
  • right: cmd + }

Go back and forward in history (the arrows next to the address bar):

  • back: cmd + [
  • forward: cmd + ]

Switch to a tab using a number in apps with tabs (browsers,,,, etc.):

  • cmd + 1 switches to tab number 1
  • cmd + 2 to tab 2
  • cmd + 9 to the last tab regardless of how many tabs there are.
  • cmd + l to open the address bar in a browser.

If you want to go further, here's a post on application switching by Tom.

3. Tweak Your Mac with Some Terminal Stuff

One of our favorites: Increase the speed of the dock animation!

defaults write autohide-time-modifier -float 0.25;killall Dock

Or speed up the window animations.

defaults write -g NSWindowResizeTime -float 0.003

Imagine how much time you will save your future self! (Psst, this may be zero, but let's keep the delusion optimism, for now).

4. Scan Some Receipts, but Not All of Them. Then Compare Scanning Apps.

Scan just last year's. Here’s another mind trick we play on ourselves: we tell ourselves we don’t have to do something (not all receipts) when in reality we are actually finishing all the 2018 administration. And we put the dangerous procrastination (comparing productivity tools) at the end of the list. Which means we probably won’t get to that. Haha.

5. Clean up Your Mac, but Not Completely

One of our favorites as well. Don’t put a lot of thought into it, don’t prepare, just start somewhere, finish that first thing and before you get to finish the second part, when you feel like having a coffee, declare that that subtask is done. Basically, we are playing the same mind trick as in #4. I think you are getting the hang of it.

6. Make Sure You Don't Get Paged When on Holiday

Set up a few Anomaly Detection triggers so that bells will go off before sh*t hits the fan. And you can safely be away on holiday with others on Pager Duty. Start with a simple one, like when you hit 90% disk usage on a host:

Here’s how you do that in AppSignal: go to the Triggers screen, add a trigger, and three clicks later you’re done.

Boom. You’ve earned another coffee.

7. Read That One (Ruby Magic?) Post, but Only One! The One You Tagged as ‘Read Later’

The one about that thing. That you know will come in handy later in the year when stuff breaks. Or Enumerables? How escaping works in Ruby?

8. Don’t Write That One Blogpost, Write the Other One!

Add stuff here. Not done ;-)

Not Done, but Did It!

See what we did? Maybe we didn't write that blog post we were supposed to. But instead, we wrote this blog post. Which may get people to upgrade their AppSignal gem. This will give them access to features that will make them love AppSignal even more. And helping developers by giving them amazing insights is what we are here for, so we actually made progress towards our vision.

Want to read more about this, John Perry wrote about structural procrastination which is quite similar.

We hope you found this post entertaining and hopefully, productive as well. If you did, then the post has accomplished its goal.

Wait! You said: "here are our top 5 productive procrastinations". And then you wrote 8? (Yes, see how effective the technique is? We were very productive while productively procrastinating, and hopefully, the extra points will help you productively procrastinate as well!)

Stefan Verkerk

Stefan Verkerk

Stefan often shares stories about his Mosaic script-kiddie years. Has been scaling startups since the 90s. Today, he does management and growth things at AppSignal. Has amazing Excel to SQL chops on his customized MacBook.

All articles by Stefan Verkerk

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