Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Short-Timer

In a recent post I announced that I am leaving my job to pursue a start-up full time. Now that I'm half-way through my final two-weeks, I can feel the presence of an unwanted companion: Short-Timer Syndrome.

I think everybody feels it to a certain extent when they're ready to move on. You're more easily distracted, your productivity begins to fall off, people come to your desk with issues that need to be solved and all you can think of is "Why is this MY problem?". It's a pretty disturbing feeling, actually, because if you're anything like me it goes directly against your core ethics. I'm being paid to provide my skills and experience, and that means that I should be providing the best that I have to offer or else I'm not giving my employer the value they're supposedly getting in exchange for that cash. However, now that I'm leaving, part of me feels listless and wants to just slack-off and do nothing until my time here is up.

It's tempting to justify this with an internal monologue that says something like "they never appreciated me anyway", or "I've already done more than my fair share", but if we're honest with ourselves we know those sentiments don't stand up to scrutiny. It's equally tempting to be "productive" and to spend my time during these last few days getting things done that need to be taken care of for my startup, but that's equally wrong since it would mean that my ex-employer was paying me a salary (for however short a time period) to work on my outside project that does not benefit them in anyway whatsoever.

I'll tell you what I've found that helps: transition-based tasks. Things that I'm working on in order to ease my transition out of this building seem to not suck as much as the same development work I was doing before I turned in my two weeks. Tying up loose ends in libraries I wrote, documenting areas of the code that others haven't been exposed to very much, training other developers in my responsibility area to minimize the impact of my absence, anything like that, and I think I know what the reason is. When I'm doing things that are designed to help the transition, I feel like I'm moving forward towards my perceived freedom; when I'm doing regular development, the fact that I'm leaving in a week makes it seem kind of pointless, so I tend to be less involved and more unhappy.

It's a simple trick, but it's been working wonders for me. Every hour or so I take a few minutes to do something in preparation for my departure next Thursday (document a class or two, maybe refactor some of my "private" code to be more readable for a new developer), and that boost gives me another stretch of productivity on normal day-to-day tasks, which is really important to me because I don't want to lose my professionalism here in the last few days of my employment.

As an added benefit, this kind of house cleaning could keep your co-workers from blaming everything that goes wrong in the first 30 days of your absence on you and your "abominable" code. ; )

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