Welcome to DevChat #13!

Here's what's we've got for today:

  • 😴 Laziness isn't real
  • 💻💻 Multi-monitor setups
  • 🎥 Seth is streaming gamedev this weekend!
  • ✨ Your buddy Adam is FAMOUS

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😴 Laziness isn't real

For most of my life, I found it relatively easy to do things that needed doing. Even when I didn't want to do those things.

At least, I thought that I wasn't having trouble, because most people around me seemed to be having a lot more than I was. I was held up as a model of Puritanical work ethic through all jillion years of my schooling (K-PhD), so I was the shining example of not being "lazy", right?

The reality was that I had enough privilege and luck to be able to design my life such that my own particular brand of "laziness" had a minimum negative impact:

  • I had ADHD (but didn't know it), and the hyperfocus aspect made it super easy to do things that I found interesting.
  • I found ways to structure my life and goals so that I could neglect the stuff I wasn't interested in.
  • My interests aligned with those that American society deems Important and Industrious (math, science, etc). If I wasn't interested in these things I probably wouldn't have been able to focus on them.
  • My forgetfulness and social detachment were easily classified by everyone else as fitting the "Absent-Minded Professor" archetype. Consequently, I was granted permission out of the gate for many things that would be seen as "laziness" in others.
  • I didn't have to surmount constant, systemic oppression. People believed in me by default, and I didn't have to expend enormous energy just getting to the table. I was already at the table, with all my energy, ready to work.

This list could keep going and going, but that's probably enough to make the point that "industriousness" -- and therefore its opposite, "laziness" -- are context-dependent properties that societally we treat as if they are context-independent.

I've been thinking about this a lot recently, mostly triggered by learning that I had ADHD while also realizing I had developed a mild depression over the past couple of years.

The depression was raising all of my energy thresholds. The thing about depression is that it makes you disinterested in things. The thing about hyperfocus is that it requires your interest. So depression gave me all the downsides of ADHD without the upside.

(Note that hyperfocus is only an upside in the right context. It is often a huge downside because other people misinterpret it.)

For the first time in my life, I was having trouble doing things that I wanted to do. This lead to the question... was I being lazy? I certainly thought that I was, which didn't help matters any since that added guilt on top of all the rest. It wasn't until realizing I was depressed that I stepped back to think about the context of laziness.

Fortunately, there are more knowledgeable people than me who have already been thinking about this for years and years. Go read "Laziness Does Not Exist" by Devon Price (which was recently turned into a book on the topic). I hadn't seen this until today, which reminded me that I wanted to do some writing on the topic.

Devon focuses that article on how mental health and privilege intersect with societal ideas of academic laziness. This is a super important aspect of the problem, which I defer to Devon and others and recommend that you go explore.

What I want to do here is take a step back to ask what we even mean when we think of ourselves or others as being "lazy".

My bet is that if you try to define it you'll end up with something like:

Laziness: Avoiding doing something you're supposed to be doing, due to a character flaw.

We could spend hours fine-tuning that definition, but I think you'll have a hard time finding one that others would find accurate that also means something substantively different.

We define laziness relative to "supposed to", and use it as a moralistic judgment about a person's fundamental being.

This whole "supposed to" thing has been recurring in these DevChats and on our podcast because it so often goes unexplored. Why are you supposed to be doing these things in the first place? Why are you supposed to do them in that way? Why aren't you supposed to be doing these other things?

Who gets to decide?

I think that the message of "Laziness Doesn't Exist" is exactly right, which is that the moralistic idea of laziness is toxic, anti-human bullshit.

When the word "lazy" comes up, treat it as the discovery of a structural problem. By identifying someone (including yourself) as lazy, what you've actually done is uncovered a conflict between the context of reality and the context of your imagination. That means it's time to dig deep and find out what's really going on.

If you find yourself thinking that you are being lazy, or that someone else is, here are some questions to help you guide you to a more humanistic and empathic interpretation and hopefully reveal your next steps:

  1. Why this task?
  2. Why this person?
  3. Why might this task be particularly hard for this person?

Example time!

In college I spent most of my hours glued to science textbooks and doing related coursework and lab work. I never turned something in late, and usually had it done well in advance.

For my non-science courses, on the other hand... I put in the least effort possible and delayed all tasks until the last possible moment. I was, in a word, "lazy." But... why?

  1. Why this task? I took those courses because they were required to meet graduation requirements. I would have rather been in the lab, in another science class, or really anywhere else. Someone else decided this was important but didn't convince me of that.
  2. Why this person? My school required that everyone take courses across a variety of disciplines. I had to because everyone did. It had nothing to do with me.
  3. Why is it so hard? Turns out I had undiagnosed ADHD. The hyperfocus aspect allowed me to excel at the stuff I was interested in. The other aspects made it hard to do anything else. It has always been important to me to know why, and "because!" has always been an answer that chaffed. Again, probably because the why is what allowed me to become interested, which in turn allowed me to excel. For a person like me, something I don't see the importance of is something I can't pay attention to.

Importantly, the fact that laziness is the outcome of a structural problem doesn't necessarily let you off the hook for doing something. But taking out the bullshit moralistic component to get to the why allows uncovering the structural issues so that they can be addressed where possible. Where you can't address them directly, explicit awareness still lets you work on management strategies.

The next time you start getting down on yourself about being "lazy", remember that there's no such thing and then dig deep. If you feel comfortable sharing, I'd love to hear what you discover!

💻💻 Multi-monitor setups

This weekend I continued to experiment with my new workspace setup: now I have a second monitor!

Multi-monitor desktop PC workstation setup.

Well, technically I have three since I also have a Wacom tablet. It just somehow feels wrong to call that thing a monitor.

I'm a big fan of virtual desktops, and that's normally my preference over having multiple physical desktops. I figured the physical thing was still worth trying out. Here are some takeaways and tips!

Multi-monitor layout, according to Windows.

  • Ergonomics Multi-monitor setups are always ergonomically bad. The best ergonomic situation for a monitor is that it is directly in front of you and the top is roughly at eye level. You'll be doing a lot of looking up, down, or to the side with any multi-monitor setup. So make sure that you still have one main one where you do most of your work, and that one must have good ergonomics. My setup is:
    • Main monitor is in the regular position. Nearly all computer time goes here!
    • Wacom tablet is between my keyboard and my main monitor. So I just have to look down to see it. (Down is the least-bad ergonomic alternative.) I use this for reference items I need to look at frequently, and for virtual whiteboarding.
    • Second monitor is on the right. It's for less-viewed references and for stuff I shouldn't be doing for too long. That way the terrible ergonomics work in my favor.
    • 💡 Tip: If you have only two monitors Win + P brings up a convenient quick-menu for enabling/disabling/extending them. That sidebar would have been an excellent place to put a link to the full Display Management window but, well, there's only so much help Windows will ever give us.
    • 💡 Tip: Screenshare applications handle virtual desktops differently, so experiment before assuming that all desktops can get streamed (great for functionality), versus only one (great for privacy).
    • 💡 Tip: Move the virtual representations of your monitors around in the Display manager to minimize frustration when moving your mouse. For example, the layout should roughly reflect the physical layout to minimize confusion. But also you want to make sure that tasks you do at the edges of the screen won't be frustrating because your mouse ends up on a different monitor! In my setup (image above) I kept the top-right, bottom-right, and bottom-left corners of my primary display from connecting to the neighbors so that taskbar, window-snapping, and window-closing wouldn't be frustrating experiences.
  • Prefer Virtual Did you know you can have multiple virtual desktops? That lets you keep everything on your main monitor, which is ergonomically ideal. Windows 10 makes this easy. Just hit Win + Tab and then click the big "+ New Desktop" button at the top. Then Win + Ctrl + ⬅ and Win + Ctrl + ➡ will cycle between them. Unfortunately, they don't have any other good hotkey support 😞. (On my old Ubuntu workstation I had 9 workspaces with hotkeys that would take me to each one, or move a window to any one I wanted. It was a beautiful time.)
    • 💡 Tip: Since you have to cycle through virtual desktops on Windows 10, minimize the number of desktops you use. Also good general advice when you don't have this hotkey limitation.
    • 💡 Tip: Assign each desktop to a type of work and/or application (when I say "assign" I mean in your mind). You'll eventually get muscle memory for getting from one desktop to another if you stay consistent.
    • 💡 Tip: In that Win + Tab menu you can drag any window onto any desktop, and you can right-click your apps to get more features. In particular, the "Show this window/app on all desktops" option lets you sorta pin an application so it's always visible. I use this for my non-primary monitors so that when I'm switching desktops on my main monitor I still have the same content in the other two.

Have any tips for multiple monitors and virtual desktops (on Windows 10 or any other OS)? Share them!

🎥 Seth is streaming gamedev this weekend!

A few weeks ago Seth declared on the podcast that he'd be streaming for Ludum Dare, which is this weekend. He can't back out now.

I don't know exactly when or how much, so keep an eye on our Twitch channel (twitch.tv/bscotch). Subscribing and making sure you get alerts is probably the best move.

I plan to continue streaming roughly once a week for the foreseeable future, so if you want more nerdy web stuff stop by! I had a blast last Tuesday with everyone who came.

Also, our videos don't stay on Twitch forever, and uploading them to YouTube is a lot of work... So assume that any streams will only be available for a few days if you don't catch them live!

✨ Your buddy Adam is FAMOUS

When it comes to niche nerd stuff on community-blogging platforms, anyway...

Two DevChats ago I talked about "Documentation as Code". It felt like it would work as a standalone article so I posted it on Dev.to. To my surprise, it caught some traction. It ended up being featured in their "Top 7 Posts" for that week and appeared in their newsletter.

I have a dozen other posts on there that haven't done nearly as well (several of which I think are far better and more interesting), and I didn't think anyone at all would care about Docs as Code.

I suppose that's yet another reminder that no one can predict success, and the best move is just to keep at it.

Do you have any similar stories of surprise successes? Share them!

Until next time

That wraps DevChat #13!

I've been having a great time hearing from readers. If you haven't said hello, please do!

Share with others by forwarding, or link directly to the archived post.

Have a great week!

❤ Adam