Humanist, vegan, minimalist, programmer, collector of labels.
49969 words

One Simple Thing: Walk to Work

At the end of last year I changed projects at work, which allowed me to start commuting to my company’s downtown office instead of a client site. Since I live about a mile away from the office I started walking to work each morning.

At first it was a little tough. The distance itself is doable. But the 25 minute walk isn’t any shorter than my previous commute, so during those early days I longed to hop in my car, crank up the A/C or heater, and be there in 10 minutes.

The walk itself is generally nice. Seattle is absolutely gorgeous in the summer (unless some crazy forest fire is causing some of the worst air quality in Seattle’s history) and the mild winters means a 30 minute walk isn’t too difficult to navigate.

Untuck my shirt in the summer, throw on a rain jacket in the winter, put on a mask during the forest fires. It’s easy. I don’t ever have to deal with inches of snow or 100 degree heat.

The hardest part is the rain. I’ve had days where my shoes will be completely soaked either to an errant puddle or lack of planning.

But after almost a year of walking to work, I never want it any other way!

Walking to work is something that everybody should get to experience at least once in your life. When you walk, you are reliant on nothing but your body to get you from place to place. You move relatively slowly, taking in your environment as you stroll by. Unique social interactions take place as people navigate busy sidewalks and intersections.

Negotiating crossroads with strangers in cars is a particularly unique experience. When you live in the city, most cars understand that pedestrians have soft, killable bodies and that walkers should be given deference. Wielding that power by making four tons of steel come to a stop with nothing but a glance is addicting.

There is an inner peace that comes through the methodical steps of one’s stride.

Sometimes your steps sync to the music. You power home, the beat carrying you like the wind.

Other times, you forget you’re even moving your legs! They just keep going and your mind is free to wander while your feet take you home.

When you stop to pay attention, the regular thrum of your footstep on the concrete is a constant companion. You feel connected to the city, one of its many inhabitants moving from one place to another. You are one small piece of an autonomous organism that keeps the city’s heart alive.

Most of us don’t listen to that beat, but it’s always there. My favorite walks are the ones where I tune in and feel the city moving beneath me.

As great as that all is, there’s one benefit that rises above all the rest:

Regular exercise does wonders for your health.

And yes, long walks are exercise. Not the most intense of exercise, but it’s far better than sitting behind a desk or in a car all day.

Since I started walking to work, I have lost 25 pounds! Simply walking three miles a day gave me moderate amounts of exercise, without me doing anything other than commute! When you walk to work, you traveling the way humans have since our ancestors figured out how to stand on two legs.

That’s why walks are enjoyable and good for our health. We are biologically hardwired to do it! Our ancestors often hunted by walking after prey until it literally collapsed of exhaustion, unable to run away any longer.

I know that not everybody is in a position to walk to work. But if you have the opportunity, you should take advantage of it. I’m not sure I can ever commute any other way again (although I bet I’d love cycling to work).

If you’re looking for a way to connect with your city or surroundings or want to live a healthier lifestyle, you can’t go wrong with a walking commute.

The One Thing: Walk to work

When the words come but you’re too scared to publish: By trying to please everybody, you please nobody

Nobody will have noticed that I’ve started publishing content less frequently. That’s what happens when you’re inconsistent. There is no audience to care whether you write or not.

Today I realized that I have almost as many drafts as I have published works on Medium. While I haven’t published a ton, I had kept a fairly steady cadence over the last few years until a few months ago.

As you can see from the screenshot below, I start a lot of stories that I never finish.

Drafts vs published
My stories page, with almost as many drafts as public

Apparently I have a lot to say, but I’m afraid to say it.

Fear, plus a healthy dose of generalized anxiety, keeps me from publishing any of it. Hell, two of those drafts are about how I can’t bring myself to publish anything anymore.

What I’ve realized is that I am terrified of offending people. While many of those drafts are somewhat innocuous, the ones I want to publish most are those that might be seen as divisive or even contentious. Articles about my veganism, atheism, progressivism, and the superiority of spaces over tabs sit unpublished because I don’t want to rock the boat.

I’ve avoided publishing because I’ve already lost enough friends since college, when I transformed from an extremely conservative Mormon to a loud-and-proud social democrat atheist. Shortly after realizing almost everything I had believed for the first 23 years of my life was utter bullshit, I decided to share that revelation with the world, much to the chagrin of many of my friends and family. For those unfamiliar with Mormonism, it’s a big deal when somebody leaves the faith (and almost even more so when somebody says they are a Democrat).

Facebook was my battleground. I felt morally obliged to inform my family and friends that their religion and politics were awful, thanks in part to the missionary zeal I was originally taught as a Mormon. I had discovered the truth, so how could I not share it with those I loved most?

I realized after my Facebook crusade that the complete 180 degree swing I experienced had inadvertently severed ties with many of my dear friends, simply because we have nothing in common anymore. How was I supposed to relate to my friends who already have three kids and believe that they’ll live forever with Jesus when I’m childless and awaiting the comfortable black void of permanent death?

So in order to preserve what I had left, I limited my writing to things that are agreeable.

But I’m anything but agreeable.

I’m opinionated to a fault. When I find the “truth” I run full steam ahead with it. I research the hell out of causes I find important, and I stock up on verifiable facts that I can throw in the face of those who disagree with me. The veracity of some of those facts are debatable, but we all have our blind spots when it comes to our beliefs. I’m not special in that regard. But I do my research and try to live my life in accordance to as many truths as I can find.

But losing friends isn’t fun, even if you’re right. So I slowly stopped writing stories covering the things I cared most about. Instead, I wrote fluff pieces about backing into your parking spaces or how bidets are the shit. And while I occasionally ranted against things like gun violence, I stopped sharing my opinions on the things that matter most because I didn’t want to lose the few friends I had left.

Those opinions have been bottled up ever since, living a secluded existence in my Medium drafts folder. And while it’s clearly not prudent for anyone to share every thought that drifts lazily through their brain, I do wish I would share more of them.

So maybe I will.

Maybe I’ll realize that I will never please everybody.

Maybe I’ll realize that I can disagree but still be respectful.

Maybe I’ll realize that there is more to life than religion or politics.

Maybe I’ll realize that opposition brings growth and that while my opinion is just one of many in a vast sea of people clamoring for attention on the Internet, that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try to share it.

Until then, I’ll keep racking up unpublished draft after unpublished draft, bottling up my opinions in an effort to make everybody happy.

But at least I’ve realized what’s going on. I’m not as self-aware as I would like to be, but I’m trying to do better. And even though nobody will care — nobody will likely clap for this post — I was brave enough to publish my short exercise in self-reflection.

Maybe those other drafts will get published one day as well.

Code Reviews: What they are, why you need them, and how to get started

Have you ever come across a line of code that made you pause and think WTF is going on here? You get in a huff because some careless programmer did something completely wrong and wrote poorly formatted, incomprehensible code.

Then you do a git-blame and discover that you wrote the line yourself.

Whether it’s poor logic, the use of tabs over spaces, or even a brilliantly crafted solution that is difficult to comprehend, reading code can feel like translating a cryptic language. When nobody on your team shares what they’ve coded with each other, the codebase — no matter how well architected — will quickly fall into disarray. The solution?

Code reviews!

Code reviews are a fantastic way of transferring knowledge between teammates and ensuring that quality code is being committed. Regular code reviews are one of the many processes that effective development teams need, and they play a key role in ensuring the long-term maintainability of a project.

This article will cover what code reviews are, why your team needs to be doing them, and how to get the practice started if it’s not currently part of your team’s routine.

What is a code review?

A code review is the analysis of another developer’s source code. These reviews help find mistakes and improve overall code quality. Code reviewers are responsible for making sure that only clean, well-structured code is allowed into the codebase. Reviewers look for the proper use of design patterns and coding styles, offering suggestions and giving constructive feedback when they encounter code that does not meet the expected quality level.

By both reviewing other people’s code and having your own code reviewed, you’ll get exposure to a variety of perspectives and learn a lot about what constitutes good code. As you grow in your career, you’ll figure out what type of code reviews work best for you and your team. But if you want some inspiration, check out the list below!

Things to Look for When Reviewing Code:

  • Anything not meeting the Definition of Done
  • Commented out code that could be removed
  • Descriptive variable names
  • Straightforward logic
  • Proper use of design patterns
  • The addition of unit tests covering the new feature or bug fix
  • That existing coding styles have been followed (things like spacing, indentation, putting code in the right file, etc.)
  • Descriptive comments are used where needed
  • That the code actually addresses the problem that needs to be solved
  • Front-end code is accessible and matches UI/UX designs

To put it simply, your goal as a reviewer is to enforce good coding standards so that your entire team can continue to quickly read, understand, and extend your code.

When you find some code during a review that needs to be changed, you let the person submitting the code review know about it. The original programmer then applies the fix and BOOM! Your code quality levels up!

Now before you get drunk with power, not every piece of feedback given during a code review has to be addressed. Sometimes team members have different opinions on what constitutes “good code”. While the majority of disagreements can be solved by referencing your team’s standards, it’s impossible to cover every scenario with documentation. As you participate in more code reviews, you’ll gain a better understanding of your teammate’s coding styles. As that understanding grows, negotiating code changes will become easier.

Once changes are agreed upon, the code reviewee will implement the changes and submit them again for review. This cycle continues until everyone agrees that the code is good enough to pull into the codebase. After the code is merged, the code review is complete and the developers can move on to their next task.

So now we know what a code review is, where does this review actually take place?

Code reviews can be conducted in a variety of ways. It doesn’t matter if your teammate rolls over to your desk for an informal walk-through, or if everyone submits formal pull requests using tools like GitHub or Bitbucket. Hell, you could even use a message in a bottle or share the code on Snapchat.

It doesn’t matter how you conduct the code review. What matters is that you do the code review.

While I prefer a mix of in-person and online code reviews, your team will have its own unique needs. Some of you may be completely remote, making in-person reviews infeasible. Others might prefer talking over the code as an entire team. Ultimately it is up to your team to decided what works best.

To help you make that decision, here are a few ways in which the different styles can shine, along with some limitations:

Real-time reviews give the reviewer a chance to deliver feedback in-person and give the reviewee a chance to practice their presentation skills as they walk another developer through their code. Feedback can seem less harsh because you get to hear and see the other person. The cold, starkly typed words of a comment on a pull request can sound completely different when said in person. However, pushing back on a code reviewer’s request that you believe to be unreasonable or incorrect can be difficult for some people to do in the moment.

Online reviews are useful because they can be completed asynchronously. This is great for distributed teams or for teams with busy schedules. The reviewer can look at the pull request whenever they have time. By leaving comments on specific lines of code, it’s easy for the reviewee to track what needs to be changed. These types of reviews also allow multiple people to more easily participate, since anyone can make comments at any time. Reviewees can react to comments in real time and ask for clarification or defend their coding decisions.

Now that you’ve learned what code reviews are, maybe you’re wondering why I consider them to be such a vital part of effective teams. That’s exactly what we’ll cover in this next section.

Why do I need someone else to look at my code?

Code reviews are a must. Even if you’re the only developer on your project, you should be finding someone else to look through your code. Unless you’re writing code for a side project or Proof of Concept exercise, collaboration is vital to a healthy codebase.

Remember, nobody knows everything about software development. No matter how good you are, you will never know it all. There is always something new to learn, which is exactly why you want to look through lots of people’s code and share your own. Interacting with other’s code will expand your knowledge and help you grow as a developer. We all have our own strengths, and code reviews are a way to share those strengths with others.

Even the most experienced developers have a small breadth of skills compared to what type of work is out there. It’s literally impossible to be good at everything, and anybody who thinks they don’t need to keep learning will soon find themselves out of a job.

Code reviews give both the reviewer and reviewee a chance to teach each other. Veteran developers can always find something new to learn from their junior teammates, and vice versa. Because software development is an ever-changing field, you will have a unique perspective on how to build great software only a few years into your career. Reviews are an opportunity to share and evolve that perspective.

Hopefully by this point I’ve convinced you of the usefulness of code reviews. They truly are critical to the success of a project.

But what should you do if you’re on a team that doesn’t have a regular code review habit? This next section will give you a few ways to help convince them.

How do I get my team to start doing code reviews?

Teams who don’t have code reviews will release awful products. That alone should be reason enough to get started. If your team is not currently doing code reviews, you have a phenomenal opportunity to provide a ridiculous amount of value to your team.

Code reviews result in a better product and ultimately save hours of work by insuring new additions to the system are beneficial. You can’t afford to not do code reviews. Without regular reviews, your product will become increasingly complex, unmaintainable, and inflexible. Scaling it for a larger user base will be difficult and expensive. Developers will become unhappy and their productivity will drop.

You don’t want that, do you? Then start doing code reviews.

The easiest way to get your team to do code reviews is to leverage technology. Using tools like the pull request feature on Bitbucket or GitHub allows you to easily set system-controlled rules that force explicit approval for any new code changes. This means you will not be able to merge your code unless another developer looks at the code and puts their stamp of approval on it. Your team can always get around this by clicking the “Approve” button without really reviewing it, but if that’s happening you should be looking for a new job.

However, change is difficult. You can’t just go update the settings in GitHub and expect your team to start doing code reviews. That’s an easy way to frustrate everybody.

First, help your team understand the value of code reviews so they understand why they should begin reviewing each other’s work. Show them this article or the countless others on the Internet arguing my same point. Focus on how your everyday life as a developer will get better with code reviews being part of your team’s regular routine.

Once everyone is on board, turn on the tools and let the system do its thing.

There will be rough patches. Occasionally you’ll long for the days you could quickly commit that missing semi-colon right to master, but try to resist the urge. People will complain. They may even turn off the pull request approval feature. Keep reminding yourselves why you’re doing this and don’t fight the process.

Eventually the habit will stick, and your team’s skills will improve. The code base will become more stable and deployments will get easier. Point out how much better things are getting and celebrate as you watch yourselves ship great code more quickly.

And that’s it! We’ve covered the what, why, and how of code reviews, so you’re now ready to go out into the world, confidently reviewing all code that cross your path. Even if your team already does code reviews, see if you can find an area of the process that could be improved and give it a test run on your team.

Remember, code reviews are vitally important. As you and your team read each other’s code, you’ll all increase your knowledge and skills. By regularly reviewing your code, the quality of your codebase will improve. You’ll be able to add new features more easily and even reduce the number of bugs in your system!

There’s really no excuse to skipping this vital process. All things being equal, a team that does code reviews will be much happier in the long run than one that doesn’t.

If you have any great tips on code reviews that weren’t included in this article, send me a message!

This is the third of nine articles delving into the processes that every effective development team should use. Stay tuned for more!

No. Just No. I’m not writing about this again.

It’s clear nothing will ever be done to stop mass shootings.

Just read these again. No reason to write more on the subject. Nobody in Congress is listening.

The Orlando Massacre

Thoughts and prayers are not enough

One Simple Thing: Delete 5 Todos

You read the title. Now pull out your to-do list and delete five things from it.

It doesn’t matter what they are. It doesn’t matter how many are “overdue”. It doesn’t matter if you don’t even have an actual to-do list.

All that matters is that you relieve yourself of the need to do five things.

Did you actually go delete five tasks? No?

I can wait.



Now that you’ve deleted five items from your to-do list, listen to your body. How does it feel knowing those things are gone? Maybe some relief, with a dash of anxiety? Annoyance at this random guy who is telling you do to something? Stress from seeing the thirty other things on your list that you had forgotten about?

Having deleted five things in the process writing this article, I felt a mix of anxiety and relief. It always feels good to get rid of tasks, but I’m anxious that I deleted something important. While I purposefully chose things that I knew would never get finished, I still felt a twinge of anxiety when deleting them.

Luckily I know I’m safe.

If the task I deleted was important, it will come back to me. I’ll remember it later or add it to my to-do list without ever realizing it used to be there.

Important things in life have a way of popping back up.

So don’t let that scare you when pruning your to-do list.

If you didn’t delete the tasks at the beginning of this article, go give it a try. I promise you won’t regret it!

The One Thing: Delete 5 todos

Lane Sawyer is an IT consultant at Pariveda Solutions in Seattle, WA. He enjoys writing articles like this one when he’s not working on some new project, tackling a challenging video game, or running around outside in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. You can find out more about him on his website.

One Simple Thing: Do Something Radical

Have you ever done something radical?

And no, I don’t mean hanging ten with Michelangelo, stuffing pizza in your face while you fight off Shredder’s minions (although that would be a wonderfully radical experience).

I mean something out of the ordinary.

Something unique.

I’m not saying you need to go discover a new brand new human experience, like seeing a color no other person has ever seen. It only has to be something unique to you. Your uncommon, radical act could be as simple as eating oatmeal for breakfast when you’ve had nothing but cold cereal for the last decade.

We’re all products of our environment. Everything from the food we eat to the clothes we wear to the sports we enjoy is influenced by the people around us. Culture permeates our lives, and few of us stop to think anything of it.

Those of us who do push back against cultural norms often find great joy in doing so. I know I have. Since 2014, I’ve challenged many aspects of how I was raised, with radical shifts in my religious, political, and dietary beliefs being the most prominent.

I’m not here to say that my new beliefs and actions are superior to the old ones, nor am I asking everyone that reads this article to join me by abandoning their religion, voting for Bernie Sanders, and becoming vegan.

The path that has brought me the most happiness in my life surely won’t work for everyone.

But I’ve also experimented with other things, like regular meditation, reading new genres of books, diving into new specialties at work, and making a conscious effort to prefer walking over driving.

Radical acts are radical because they’re life changing, not because they’re huge changes.

Really all I’m asking is:

Do you ever do something new just for the hell of it?

If you don’t regularly step out of your comfort zone, you may be missing out on some of life’s most impactful experiences.

Not every change will become part of your life. You may find out that you really hate biking to work, or that dubstep literally grinds your eardrums into dust. There are many things I’ve tried that never stick around for long (like becoming a morning person — I wrote this particular article at 12:30 AM).

But after every new experience I always come away from it appreciating the knowledge I gained about myself and the world.

The mere act of opening yourself up to radical experiences will enable you to find new joys in life that would otherwise stay hidden away in the fog of inexperience.

I never imagined my life would turn out the way it has, but I love pretty much everything about it. Each day I find myself awestruck at the world around me and wonder how I managed to build such a great life. I’m convinced that had I not begun experimenting with radical changes, I wouldn’t have ended up where I am today.

To this day, I continue to experiment with radical changes. During one six year period in 2018, I tried the following:

  • Learned more about user-centered design in order to reinvent myself at work
  • Discovered new tastes in music by getting a Spotify subscription and exploring their vast collection of songs
  • Gained a new appreciation for cauliflower
  • Reduced my stress levels by abstaining from the daily news cycle
  • Picked up a guitar for the first time in years
  • Finally started reading biographies

Every one of those changes started as something radically new to my life.

And yes, learning how to make food using cauliflower isn’t all that intense. But small changes are still radical in a world where routines largely stay the same.

If you’ve never done something radical (or if you have but it’s been a few years) think of something you’ve always wanted to do. Make plans right now to do it. Sign up for that Brazilian jiu-jitsu class. Attend your local town hall meetings. Become intimately familiar with the best arguments of a political issue that you disagree with. Book that trip you’ve always been wanting to take.

It’s okay if you start small. I did. I know how scary it can be to try new things.

But if you don’t take that chance and if you never do something radical, you may be missing out on some of the greatest moments of your life.

I’m doing another 52 things during the 52 weeks of 2018

Another year has flown by. This year has easily been the worst best year of my life. Some of the best things in my life happened this year, but even with all that I had an awful year. Paying attention to Trump’s America has been terrifying. The vast majority of my empathetic and mental energy was directed towards fighting Trump in order to help the people he is screwing over. As a nation, we’re entering the midpoint of one of the worst presidents ever, and that makes this year awful.

But since by definition, my universe revolves around me, I’m labeling it as the worst best year of my life (rather than best worst year) since 2017 resulted in many great improvements to my life.

In terms of the 52 things I set out to do this year, I did much better than 2016. The “finished” category was the highest this year, which means I actually finished quite a few items. Second was the “started” category. I apparently at least tried a good number of items as well. And thankfully, the “failed” category was lowest of all!

Here’s the data for comparison between years (the formatting is screwed up, I know):

║ ║ 2015 ║ 2016 ║ 2017 ║
║ Finished ║ 25 ║ 14 ║ 19 ║
║ Started ║ 9 ║ 13 ║ 17 ║
║ Failed ║ 18 ║ 25 ║ 16 ║

It seems I was more realistic about what I would actually want to do as compared to 2016. I finished and started a great deal more of the list. While I’ll always have things that never came close to happening (stretch goals FTW!), that number is decreasing over time.

Looking back on 2017, I was most successful in the “Media” and “Experiences” categories. I’m not surprised about Media, but I wasn’t expecting Experiences to be so high!

Finance went amazingly as well, even though nothing there was completely “finished”. We saved more than ever before and made great progress towards an early retirement, despite only completing one of the five goals.

Work comes next, and I did well in that category this year. Most of my goals changed dramatically as I discovered more about what I enjoy doing for a career, so I accomplished more than what the completed list would otherwise indicate.

Writing and Health and were the real losers this year. I didn’t write nearly as much as I had hoped (although I still wrote fairly regularly) and I didn’t exercise as much as I should have. Those two categories will be my main focus for 2018. Here’s hoping that I come back with good news a year from now!

With that analysis finished, let’s see what’s in store for me this year:


  1. Run 104 miles
  2. Bike 104 miles
  3. Go bouldering or rock climbing once a month
  4. Be able to do 10 pull-ups
  5. Be able to do 50 push-ups
  6. Be able to do a 200lbs bench press
  7. Meditate daily
  8. Journal daily
  9. Reach target weight of 165lbs


  1. Read 4 fantasy books
  2. Read 4 science fiction books
  3. Read 2 biographies
  4. Read 4 non-fiction books
  5. Read 1 horror novel
  6. Read 1 book of poetry
  7. Read 1 classic
  8. Read 1 philosophy book
  9. Read 4 books from other categories I don’t usually read
  10. Watch 10 movies from the IMDB Top 250
  11. Watch 10 other movies or documentaries
  12. Watch 5 television shows
  13. Play 5 new video games


  1. Go to a Seahawks game
  2. Go to a Sounders game
  3. Go to a Mariners game
  4. Visit Vancouver, Canada
  5. Use my Alaska Airline miles to go somewhere far away
  6. Eat at 10 new restaurants
  7. Cook 12 new vegan recipes
  8. Go to the Dota 2 International
  9. Go explore Fremont
  10. Go snowboarding
  11. Go to the Museum of Pop Culture
  12. Go to a musical event
  13. Find a local organization and regularly volunteer there
  14. Join a sports team or group
  15. Take an improv class
  16. Go out on the lake


  1. Write 500 words every day
  2. Write one Medium article every week
  3. Write one book


  1. Keep IRA and HSA maxed out
  2. Get three months of regular expenses in the emergency fund
  3. Max out 2017 IRA
  4. Increase my 401(k) contribution by at least three percent
  5. Stick to the budget four straight months
  6. Save at least half of the emergency fund value in an opportunity fund


  1. Get promoted
  2. Get an AWS certification
  3. Launch an open source project
  4. Write a work-related blog post once a month
  5. Attend a work-related meetup once a quarter

Minimalism - The Power of Less

Excess defines modern society in the United States. We’ve become so rich that we will soon spend $30 billion a year on storage. That’s $30 billion spent on hoarding. On tucking away our late grandma’s doilies. On letting mildew grow on our homework from 6th grade. On keeping our stacks of photo albums that we never look at. We spend an insane amount of money to keep everything around (just in case* we need it.

Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we carry around piles of junk every time we move, only to tuck them away in our bedroom closet or a storage unit across town?

Because it’s comforting. Holding on to everything is all we’ve ever known. Growing up in a nation that glorifies excess, we are scared to let things go.

But it’s okay to let go. Removing the clutter from our lives is liberating. Simplifying what we own can reduce stress, improve happiness, and even keep money in your pocket. There is actually an entire movement dedicated to ditching your stuff: Minimalism.

Minimalism is a mindfulness practice that focuses on simplifying one’s life and possessions with the purpose of increasing one’s happiness. The premise is simple. In reality, it’s a bit more difficult to do. My own journey started a few years ago when I was in college and continues to this day.

I first stumbled across minimalism in 2013 when I found the writings of Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus — known as The Minimalists. Those two opened my eyes to a whole new world of happiness and meaning. After reading the first few articles on their site, I was hooked. I knew this was something I needed to try, so I started becoming a minimalist by participating in their 30 day minimalism challenge:

My tweet announcing the challenge: Two likes and a retweet! I’m basically a social media master.

The challenge is simple. On the first day of the month, get rid of one item. On the second, ditch two things. The third? You guessed it. Send three items out the door. Continue until the last day of the month and you’ll have removed almost 500 things from your home!

While 500 may seem like a hefty chunk of your possessions, keep in mind that the average American household has 300,000 things. Surely we all can afford to get rid of 0.0016% of the stuff in our homes, right?

For me, the challenge started easily enough. I donated a few pieces of clothing, appliances, and other odds and ends I never used. It hurt, but I knew other people would find more use for the items than I would. Then during the last week of the game, it got tough.

I avoided donating my digital piano during the first few weeks. I told myself I’d eventually start playing again. But as the items in my home dwindled, that piano sat there. Mocking me. I hadn’t touched it in months. I realized that no matter how much I wished I would play, I knew I wouldn’t.

It had to go.

I had the same experience with books and video games and old calculus cheat sheets. One by one, I got rid of them all.

When I finished the month, I was still left with a house full of stuff. The minimalism game is just the start of a journey, not the end.

Practicing deliberate ownership for a single month changed how I saw the world. Cutting out the crap allowed the truly valuable things to be a focus in my life. Since then, minimalism has become the single most overarching philosophy running through my life. It guides my choices in food, clothes, friends, family, hobbies, and work.

My journey to minimalism has been a slow process. But by plodding along intentionally and experimenting with what works best, I’ve learned a great deal about myself. That knowledge and experience has allowed me to maximize what matters and discard the distractions.

To help you find and remove clutter in your life, this article presents a few simple rules I follow that could help you do the same. By sticking to them I’ve become the happiest and healthiest I’ve ever been, but your mileage may vary. Feel free to run your own experiments to see what works best for you.

How to Be a Minimalist

Each of these four rules have been instrumental in keeping my life simple, focused, and happy. However, these rules are the way I run my personal version of minimalism. The rules may not be ideal for your life, so adjust them to find whatever works for you.

1. Scrutinize All New Purchases and Media

Without question, the easiest way to reduce clutter is to never gather it in the first place.

Borrow or rent equipment when trying a new hobby. I used to collect expensive hobbies. Every few months I’d find a new activity to try, throwing myself completely into it. This led to gobs of money being spent on things like rock climbing, airsoft, lacrosse, cycling, homebrewing, PC gaming, painting, and wood burning supplies. Some of those hobbies have stuck with me through the years.

Most haven’t.

Now I do everything I can to delay purchasing hobby materials. I borrow or rent the equipment so I can try it out before making a major purchase. I try the activity a few times. If it isn’t something I love, I have no skin in the game. It becomes a fun experience to remember and not a drag on my finances or added clutter in the house.

Every time you are about to buy something, ask yourself if you actually need it. Hold it in your hand or let it sit in your online shopping cart for at least 30 seconds, thinking of every reason why you don’t need it. Those few seconds are often enough time to talk yourself out of the purchase.

For those digital purchases, don’t stay signed in to your favorite shopping sites. Having to login every time you visit can serve as a reminder to ask yourself if buying the new thing is worthwhile.

Keep a shopping list and only buy things that are on it. Most of my junk seems to come from impulse purchases, so I only buy what’s on my shopping list. Every few weeks my wife and I review our joint shopping list and remove the things we don’t actually want or need.

Once we’ve gone through the list, whatever remains is ranked. We limit ourselves to a few things each month, only purchasing the highest priority items.

Curate your digital life. The same precautions taken with physical media apply to digital media as well. In the digital age, books, movies, games, TV shows, and music take up almost no space. Media collections become trivially easy to build, making it inevitable that you’ll eventually save so much content that it becomes overwhelming to manage.

So before I add any new media to my life I ask myself the same questions I do with physical items. I look for every reason not to add it to my life. I also periodically review the media I’m consuming and when a podcast or TV show loses its value, I say “buh bye”.

2. Play the Minimalism Game at Least Twice a Year

It’s not enough to play the game once and be done with it. Minimalism is a way of life, not a single event that turns you into a minimalist forever.

No matter what you do, stuff will inevitably begin piling up. Free swag from work events will be tucked away in the closet. Drunken Amazon purchases show up on your doorstep, and you’ll wonder why you ever thought you needed five pounds of gummy bears. Things you once used regularly will fall into disrepair.

Even when I do my best to live a simple, meaningful life I collect more things than I should. Between new hobbies, replacing old items, and lifestyle inflation, I make purchases that in hindsight do nothing more than clutter my life.

By playing the Minimalism Game twice a year, you remind yourself of why being a minimalist is so great. While I try to scrutinize everything I buy (see rule number 1), I know that I’ll fail at some point. You will too, but that’s okay. Regularly playing the Minimalism Game will help you sort through the new things that came into your life. Each time you play, you’re given the opportunity to reevaluate your priorities and start a fresh outlook on life.

3. Quality > Quantity

When I decide to actually purchase something, I weigh the cost versus the quality. Sometimes it’s more financially sound to purchase an expensive, long-lasting item once rather than to periodically replace the cheaper alternatives.

Purchasing multi-functional items is also a great way to cut the clutter. This is especially relevant in the kitchen. For example, my wife and I use a cast iron skillet for almost every single meal we cook. It’s a single tool that can serve a variety of functions, allowing our kitchen to have fewer supplies.

A smaller number of high quality items is superior to a plethora of cheap items with regards to the space they take up, their utility, and their true cost.

4. Try Big Experiments

Human psychology shows that people ultimately return to a baseline level of happiness regardless of their situation. My wife and I have tried to take advantage of that fact by trying new ways of minimalist living.

Our first big experiment was downsizing from a two-bedroom apartment to a one-bedroom in 2014. We did it again ten months ago when we moved to Seattle and cut off another 150 square feet. Now we’re in a 509 square foot apartment, but it feels pretty much the same as our old place. We’ve realized that we don’t need all the space we used to have to be happy.

Slowly downsizing helped us to adapt to each change. Just a few months after our initial discomfort with a smaller apartment, life began to feel just as happy as before. If anything, we are happier due to the extra cash in our pockets from renting a smaller place.

The next big experiment we tried was to get rid of the television. While my wife and I tend to watch a decent amount of Netflix, that was pretty much the only time the TV got used. Sitting on the couch glued to a screen is not a productive habit, so by ditching the TV we slashed our TV watching in half. It also freed up some room in our tiny apartment to make it feel even more spacious!

Take a close look at your life and identify something you could experiment with. You don’t have to ditch your TV or live in a closet to be a minimalist. There are other ways you can experiment. Maybe it’s getting rid of a storage unit by tossing out old furniture or selling one of your cars because you could walk to work instead.

Whatever you want to experiment with, you don’t have to ditch it immediately. Instead, cover it with a blanket or put it away for a few weeks and see how you feel. If life continues normally, it’s likely something you could do without!

Be Brave

The hardest part of becoming a minimalist is going against the grain. American culture is dripping with consumerism. Millions of people are in heaps of debt in an effort to keep up with the Joneses, but the things they purchase aren’t making them any happier.

Be brave. Go against the grain. Minimize your life.

I promise, it’s absolutely worth it.

Give it a shot and you’ll see what I mean. A palpable weight will lift off your shoulders as you clear the clutter. By clearing the junk that has been burying you for years, you’ll discover the real you. Minimizing your life can bring happiness, financial stability, and a greater sense of purpose as it helps you identify what truly matters.

So give minimalizm a shot. You have nothing to lose. After all, you are just tossing junk.

Thoughts and prayers are not enough

The GOP’s inaction shows deep indifference towards stopping mass shootings.

Another mass shooting happened yesterday. This time, it was the deadliest one in recent history, with at least 58 dead and over 500 wounded. A single armed man permanently snuffed out dozens of lives and profoundly affected thousands more.

Don’t you wish we could get back to the good ol’ days of 2016 when the previous mass shooting record was only a paltry 49 dead and 58 injured?

I wrote about that one too. It seems that mass shootings are the one thing where I can’t keep my mouth shut. And even after a year, we’re no closer to ending these tragedies.

You know these shootings are out of control when the Wikipedia page 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting has the following across the top:

“Orlando shooting” redirects here. For the 2017 shooting, see 2017 Orlando shooting.

I didn’t even know there was a 2017 shooting in Orlando. They’re so commonplace that most of them don’t make national news!

There have been 1516 mass shootings in 1735 days. That’s 9 out of 10 days, for 4.5 years. How do we continue to watch these horrific events take place without doing something, anything, to stop them.

I looked through the Twitter feeds of a few well-known GOP Senators, and what I found was a deafening silence. No calls to action to fix this. However, I did find plenty of “thoughts and prayers”:

I also looked at the Democrats:

What an astounding difference! To those who will accuse me of cherry picking, I found plenty of thoughts and prayers among Democrats as well. But the only time I saw rallying cries for Congress to act was from Democratic Senators. (I only took a small sample, so if you find some Republican representatives calling for gun control, please let me know. I would love to be wrong on this.)

It’s time that we do something. I’m glad at least one party has a conscience.

But even now, with thousands of people begging for change, nothing will happen. When the GOP’s platform can legitimately be reduced to “thoughts and prayers”, you know you’re fucked.

Thoughts and prayers are nice, but they’re obviously not enough. In fact, they’re worse than doing nothing.

Prayers have an efficacy level of literally zero. Thoughts are roughly the same. The mantra “thoughts and prayers” is nothing more than a way to make us feel better about ourselves, as if we’ve done something to help.

I’m all for expressing sympathy for those affected by these atrocities. We should be thinking about what’s happening. But if we do nothing more than think and pray, these mass shootings will continue day in and day out.

We can’t keep allowing this to happen. We have to take action. Action means voting out those senators who are in the NRA’s pocket, replacing them with someone who actually gives a damn. It means calling your representatives and letting them know that inaction will cost them votes. It means running for government ourselves, since nobody else will do it.

Doing nothing has gotten us nowhere. The Republicans seem to think that the answer is more guns, not less. But we’ve tried that. America has almost half of the world’s civilian-owned guns. We only have four percent of the population. That’s insane.

More guns will not work.

Do you know what works? Regulation. Just look at this massive wall of charts proving the efficacy of regulating gun access. Here’s a sample of the facts:

  • “America has six times as many firearm homicides as Canada, and nearly 16 times as many as Germany”
  • “States with more guns have more gun deaths”
  • “It’s not just the US: Developed countries with more guns also have more gun deaths”
  • “States with tighter gun control laws have fewer gun-related deaths”

Hm. It’s almost as if more guns means more opportunities for them to be used for their intended purpose: killing.

And yes, correlation doesn’t always mean causation. But arming every man, woman, and child clearly isn’t working. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results. Our inaction is shameful and insane — future generations will look back on this time as one of the great moral failings of our country. The United States is already viewed that way abroad.

So what kind of regulation is there? Well, since banning all guns is an ignorant pipe dream (at least in today’s political climate), we have to take smaller steps.

It’s not difficult to come up with ideas. Plenty of them have been around for decades, but we haven’t cared enough about the senseless slaughter of thousands to actually write them into law.

Here are just a few that would easily cut down gun violence:

  • Background checks
  • Mental health checks
  • Tracking gun sales
  • Requiring gun safety courses and licensing

We have many regulations around owning a vehicle. Those regulations keep our roads safe, and people would protest if we removed them. But a vehicle’s primary function is not to wound or kill. A gun’s purpose is just that. So how the hell do we justify not regulating guns?

It’s pure insanity.

But you help can make a difference by taking action. To make it easy, here are two links to help you find your representatives:

Call them today. Email them tomorrow. Tweet at them the next day. Attend their town hall next month. Let them know that you won’t stand for this kind of inaction — especially if they’re a Republican.

Don’t stop until something is finally done to curb this senseless violence.

Team Fortress 2 vs Overwatch

What would happen if these two teams clashed?

The Overwatch cast would dominate. For one, there are 25 characters in Overwatch compared to TF2’s 9. Sheer numbers alone would give Overwatch a clear advantage. They would swarm the TF2 cast using a well-defined plan (they’re a crime fighting super team, after all) and it would all be over shortly.

That’s no fun though. Let’s say we were limited to teams of nine. That would mean every single TF2 character gets to join the fray. But which Overwatch characters should we pick?

Let’s try to match up each TF2 character with the hero they inspired in Overwatch. Here’s what we get:

  • Scout vs Tracer
  • Soldier vs Phara
  • Pyro vs Mei
  • Demoman vs Junkrat
  • Heavy vs Bastion
  • Engineer vs Torbjörn
  • Medic vs Mercy
  • Sniper vs Widowmaker
  • Spy vs Sombra

On the Overwatch side, we end up with five defenders, three offensive characters, one support, and zero tanks. Not the ideal composition, as the lack of tanks means Overwatch is susceptible to being wiped out quickly with any sort of focused attack from the TF2 cast.

So how would this play out? The winner of each matchup is bolded below:

  • Scout vs Tracer: Tracer can teleport. She literally manipulates the fabric of space-time. What can the Scout do outside of drink Mountain Dew to make his bullets hit harder?
  • Soldier vs Phara: Phara is far too mobile for Soldier to stand a chance. Sure, Soldier has mastered the art of flying through mastery of the rocket jump, but that doesn’t even come close to the maneuverability of a jetpack. And did you forget that Phara can fire more bombs than a small fleet of jets in a matter of seconds? Heh, this one isn’t even close.
  • Pyro vs Mei: Gotta give this one to the insanely delusional Pyro. Fire melts ice, so Mei couldn’t continually recover in her Cryo-Freeze. Pryo’s insanity would probably make Mei look like a cute little penguin in need of a lollipop! As long as the Pyro deals with Mei quickly, he’ll never have to face her Blizzard and would thus win the day.
  • Demoman vs Junkrat: The Demoman is a competent demolitions expert. Junkrat is an outcast who tends blows himself up just as much as his enemies. Pure strategy alone would win Demoman the day. Sticky bombs hanging above the door? Junk will never see it coming.
  • Heavy vs Bastion: This was a tough one. Both have massive miniguns that shred through opponents, plus they both boast self-healing abilities. But as impressive as an ÜberCharged Heavy is, Bastion’s tank form is one of the heaviest damage dealers in Overwatch.
  • Engineer vs Torbjorn: Poor Toblerone. Everyone playing Overwatch hates him, and now he gets destroyed by the Engineer. While a Level 3 Torbjorn turret is impressive, the Engineer is a Torbjorn and Symmetra mushed together. The Engineer builds a solid turret, can create teleporters, and even dispenses health and ammo from his Dispenser.
  • Medic vs Mercy: Everything the Medic can do, Mercy does better. Mercy’s healing stream does double duty as a damage booster. The Medic shoots people with syringes (hey, there’s where Ana came from!) while Mercy rains down bolts of what appears to be plasma. While the Medic does have a pretty cool ability with ÜberCharge, MERCY CAN GODDAMN RESURRECT PEOPLE. And that’s not even her ult! Add in Mercy’s ability to fly to teammates and this glorious angel would absolutely dominate the Medic.
  • Sniper vs Widowmaker: Widow’s grappling hook wins the day here. She’s much more mobile and would be able to out-snipe the sniper because of it.
  • Spy vs Sombra: Sombra’s introduction to Overwatch introduced the concept of invisibility. But Overwatch has never seen something so incredibly effective as the Spy’s Disguise Kit, which allows him to look like another player on the enemy team. The Overwatch team would never see it coming, and before long Spy will have taken someone out.

That was closer than I thought. A five to four matchup gives Overwatch an edge over the TF2 cast, but just barely.

Unfortunately, that was only a direct matchup between the most similar characters. Given the massive roster on Overwatch, it would be trivial to construct a perfect team of nine to counter the TF2 guys completely.

The best set of Overwatch characters would absolutely destroy a TF2 team. If you noticed from the matchup above, TF2 doesn’t really have the concept of a tank — outside of the Heavy. A well-rounded Overwatch team would simply be too tanky to lose. The ability to negate damage completely with shields would lead to TF2 losing handily.

This post was originally written as an answer on Quora. Give me a follow both here and on Quora for more answers like this!

One Simple Thing: Get Rid of Your TV

At some point in the last fifty years the great American pastime pivoted from baseball to television. Ever since Philo Farnsworth invented the television (and gave my home state of Idaho at least one claim to fame outside of potatoes), the TV industry has exploded. Up to 97 percent of U.S. households have a television, and they are all put to use! On average, U.S. adults watch 5 hours of TV every day. That’s 35 hours a week! 🤯

Think of what we could be doing with that time. Developing a hobby, starting a side business, spending time with our families and friends; the possibilities are endless.

Instead, we choose to sit in front of a glowing box, binging on Netflix, sports, and pop culture.

I’m not saying we should ditch television completely. Watching your favorite show is a great way to relax. Giving your brain an occasional break vegging out in front of the TV can be awesome (it's one of my favorite forms of recovery when I've had a particularly bad day), but surely five hours a day is too much.

But the fact that it’s almost socially unfathomable to not own a television should tell you something about how addicted we are to our screens.

Every year, TVs get thinner and sleeker, tantalizing us with extras like 3D, Netflix, and even Facebook. Televisions have become the focal point of our homes. We literally build entire rooms for the express purpose of watching TV.

I ditched my TV back in 2017, and I've never looked back. I still watch an unhealthy amount of Netflix and movies (especially when I'm depressed), but it's all done from my computer screen. That experience isn't ideal, so I watch a lot less Netflix than if I had my 55 inch TV again.

But I'm not going to lie. It was difficult to get rid of the TV.

The first major purchase my (now ex-) wife and I made after graduating from college in 2014 was that 55 inch "flat" screen I mentioned earlier (oh god it was so fat compared to what we now can manufacture in 2019).

I clearly remember the day it arrived. I set up the entertainment center perfectly, with no cords showing. Then we sat down and watched Doctor Who.

I even have the photo to prove it! (Please forgive the potato quality. I hadn't learned how to take good photos yet. It's not even centered! How does that happen!? Plus the focus is all wrong. Ah, the foibles of youth...)

Entertainment center with a TV showing Doctor Who

It was fantastic.

But we had unwittingly invited a time-sucking demon into our home. It took us four years to realize it, but eventually we did.

Once we realized how much our TV controlled our lives, we gave it to my brother and his wife.

Like The Ring, we got someone else to watch the TV so it wouldn’t be our problem anymore. (Sorry, bro! You really should get rid of that thing! 😅)

On top of all the time I've gotten back with less TV viewing, the aesthetic gains are fantastic.

Living in a 500 square foot apartment really limits what I bring into my home and how it can be arraigned. Now that I no longer have a podium built for the express purpose of worshiping a TV, my home actually reflects my values and hobbies.

I'd show a picture, but it's a mess right now!

Again, I'm not saying watching TV is an awful hobby. Just that we do a whole lot of it, to the point where a good chunk of our lives are spent staring at a screen, especially when you throw phones and computers into the mix.

So, are you ready to radically change your life?

Then try ditching your TV.

You don’t have to remove it from your home immediately.

Throw a sheet over it and pretend it’s not there. See how it feels. Pick up a new hobby, like writing about how amazing it is to not have a TV anymore. Grab a drink with a friend you haven’t seen in awhile. Find an online course to enhance your skills. There are so many things out there you could spend your precious time on this Earth doing that will bring longer lasting joy than a TV show.

I know it’s hard.

I know it’s weird.

Before I got rid of mine, I thought people who didn’t have a television were crazy hippies who didn’t have a life (oh shit am I a crazy hippie now?).

But I was wrong. Getting rid of your TV is the a simple way to start living a new life.

The One Thing: Get rid of Your TV

Creating a Definition of Done

During my first year as a developer I screwed up a lot.

Unintended changes made their way into my files seemingly at random. My commits broke existing unit tests. Sometimes I missed entire requirements because I didn’t read the story thoroughly.

In short, I wasn’t deliberate with my work because I did not have a definable, repeatable process. My lack of process cost my team time and money when they helped me fix things that I should have done correctly in the first place.

What my well-intentioned but directionless self needed was a consistent template to follow. One that clearly laid out everything I needed to successfully finish a story. On my next project, I discovered what my first team had been missing: a “Definition of Done”.

The Definition of Done is a concept created for the Scrum methodology, but it is useful to all development teams regardless of your project management framework. It provides a written set of events that must occur before a unit of work can be finished. Adopting a Definition of Done standardizes your team’s approach to completing work and ensures that all stories go through the same process, regardless of the people involved.

This standardization reduces mistakes and leads to a better product. Common issues like not having code reviews or unit tests go away because your work by definition cannot be completed without them.

However, enforcing the Definition of Done does need buy-in from everyone on the team. Just like team working agreements, you must create yours as a team and agree to follow it for every story. Without enforcement, a Definition of Done is as useful as not having one.

A note for developers: while the Definition of Done is often focused on development, it includes processes for everyone on your team. This is more than just a developer checklist. It’s an agreement among your team to create a process that delivers high quality solutions for whatever problem you’re tackling.

What goes in a Definition of Done?

Every team’s Definition of Done will be different, but most will include many of the following items:

  • All styling is implemented in the proper location
  • Views are clean and concise, with no complex logic
  • Code styling conventions are followed
  • Static code analysis produces no errors
  • Proper patterns are followed in the implementation (MVC, MVVM, MVP, VIPER, etc.)
  • Code is delivered to source control with the appropriate comments and tags
  • Development is complete, meaning all tasks are developed and tested
  • Browser and form factor testing have been completed
  • Unit tests are written and passing
  • Localization has been implemented
  • Code is commented appropriately
  • Logging is in place
  • Any required documentation has been recorded
  • Code has been reviewed by another developer
  • All QA test scenarios pass
  • Any bugs found that will be fixed later have been documented
  • Automated testing has been created and passes
  • Feature has been demoed to and accepted by the Product Owner

This list is not exhaustive, but the concepts have served me well across many different teams and technology stacks.

If your team doesn’t have a Definition of Done, make one! The standardization it provides will help you deliver high quality work while saving time and money. Use my list to get started and tweak it with your team to fit your style of work. Your future self will thank you.

This is the second of nine articles delving into the processes that every effective development team needs. Stay tuned for more!

One Simple Thing: Stop Using the Snooze Button

It happens every morning. You have the best intentions of waking up with your alarm, but forty minutes later you’re still slipping in and out of consciousness.

The snooze button is mankind’s worst invention.

But there is a simple way to always wake up when you planned: Get out of bed!

You can’t fall asleep if you’re on your feet. So instead of reaching for your phone or for a book each morning, roll out of bed and shamble out of your bedroom. Do anything but stay in bed. Make breakfast, brew coffee, do pushups, sit down at your desk and write, or even just stand there!

The easiest way to make sure you get up every morning is to put all your alarms in another room. Make them loud, constant, and annoying. The only way to shut them off is to get out of bed, and once you’re up it’s much easier to stay up.

Waking up on your terms each morning is empowering. You prove that you are more powerful than your snooze button and each of your days starts out with a victory.

So next time you’re tempted by that snooze button, remember what we say to the god of snoozing:

“Not today!”

The One Thing: Stop using the snooze button

Team Working Agreements: The Why, What, and How

Every team needs a written working agreement. Without one, there’s bound be chaos, bloodshed, and death.

Or at least it might feel that way.

Team working agreements are the first step to good team building. Without a concrete list of rules for team interactions, invisible habits will start to creep into the team’s workflow. Habits that aren’t always good.

If you’re part of a team that doesn’t have a working agreement, read on. You’ll learn why it’s important, what it involves, and how to create one.

Why is it important?

Team working agreements minimize friction between teammates. The agreement gives all members of the team a template for what is expected during their day-to-day work. A good working agreement can help even the most contentious of teams come together to produce great results. They can also be used to introduce new team members to the group culture more quickly, since he or she will have a list to reference.

The key benefit of working agreements is their enforceability. Since everyone has agreed to follow the rules, enforcing those rules becomes less awkward when infractions occur.

For example, my team has a rule that everyone should be attentive during meetings and stay off their phone. Because of our working agreement, it is much easier to ask a teammate to put their phone away. Everybody knows that phones are a no-go, so when one does appear in a meeting nobody feels shy to point it out. The person on the phone will then realize that they are breaking their agreement and change their behavior accordingly.

By defining and agreeing on the expected behaviors for all team members, we are able to reduce behavioral problems. Good practices encouraged by the agreement ultimately turn into habits that propel the team forward, while the bad habits are weeded out.

What does the working agreement cover?

People are unique, so every team will likely come up with a different working agreement. While what works for one team certainly won’t work for every team, many agreements will contain rules similar to the following:

  • Core working hours when members are expected to be online or in the office
  • How to communicate vacation or sick days
  • When and where regular team meetings take place
  • Who should attend which meetings
  • Expected behavior during those meetings
  • Expected behavior during the rest of the day
  • Which software products are used to track work and to communicate
  • How and when to use those software products
  • Who plays which role on the team
  • What days the team eats lunch together
  • Etc…

The team working agreement is a contract between all members. It should be relevant to everyone and to the work that you’re performing. Treat it as a living document by revisiting it periodically and making updates as needed. Feel free to experiment! If one particular addition doesn’t work out, you can always go back.

How do I make one?

The most important part of creating a working agreement is that it must be done by the entire team. If you’re a decision maker or influencer on your team, this is easy to do. Otherwise, you’ll need to convince your teammates of the benefits to making one.

Make sure that the rules in the working agreement aren’t dictated by upper management — only your team truly knows what it needs, so outside influence should be kept away.

A working agreement can be created in a single meeting, even as short as 30 minutes. Ask the team to come ready with ideas, and then discuss each idea and whether it should be added to the agreement. By the end, you’ll be ready to go!

Any future updates need to be agreed on by the whole team as well. Depending on the extent of the changes, you can have another meeting or simply get consensus over email or chat.

Remember, your team working agreement is just the first of many processes that development teams need to implement to be effective. It defines the rules of the game and creates a common behavioral language. Finding common ground creates the bedrock on which future processes can be built.

Now take your newfound knowledge about team working agreements back to your team and start changing the way you work!

This is the first of nine articles delving into the processes that every effective development team needs. Stay tuned for more!

9 Processes Every Effective Development Team Should Use

To be effective, development teams should—at a minimum—have the following processes in place:

  1. Team Ground Rules or Working Agreement
  2. Definition of Done
  3. Code Reviews
  4. One on Ones
  5. Static Code Analysis
  6. Style Guide
  7. Automated Tests
  8. Branching Strategy
  9. Continuous Integration/Continuous Deployment

What's your team missing?

Over the next few weeks I’ll be fleshing out the why and how for each item in the list, so check back for updates!