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Benefits of programming outside

laptop outside
image (c) Steven Duerinckx – www.darkink.be

Developing quality software requires a lot of mental effort. The concept could be difficult to grasp for people outside the field, those who associate work with physical labour — movement, assembly, typing up reports. Though when it comes to writing software, a bulk of effort goes into thought. So much in the same way how one needs to take a break after lifting heavy boxes, it’s also a good idea to give one’s mind a break after a mental workout.

Personally, I like to go outside for short walks.

While distracting yourself with reddit takes one’s mind off actual work just the same, there are a number of additional benefits to going outside:

  1. Get some fresh air — the brain is very sensitive to the levels of oxygen. Assuming that the quality of air is actually better outside, it is very refreshing to recharge with a fresh supply.
  2. Reduce eye stress — walking away from your screen reduces the stress on your eyes. Preventing the buildup of stress on the eyes is very important for their maintenance.
  3. Refresh the mind — when stuck at a problem, going outside puts things into a new perspective, one away from all the lines of code. Sometimes I come up with new ideas to try, but more often I just let my mind drift and sort itself out, in a zen line state.

During one of my work terms, even as a student, I have gotten a few senior developers to regularly join me for coffee breaks across the street from the office. It was a much needed opportunity for the mind to take a break from the programming and refresh itself in the afternoon, so the idea quickly caught on. As an added bonus, we were keeping up with each other’s progress much better than the weekly meetings ever could facilitate.

What do others do to keep their mind from burning out after long programming sessions? Leave a comment!

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  1. Posted by Dave Ross | January 2, 2008, 12:18 am

    Every afternoon, most of our staff goes out for coffee. A different person pays for the group every day, and it’s a good team-building experience.

    I seem to be solar powered, and some days I just need to get away from our interior programming room and plop myself down next to a window with my laptop. It’s the next best thing to actually getting out of the buliding.

    Reply to comment

  2. Posted by Alan Carter | January 3, 2008, 4:47 am

    I often keep a background task. When I’m tired or stale on my main task I can switch to my background task, which I’m not stale at. Later I can switch back.

    Reply to comment

  3. Posted by Buford Twain | January 3, 2008, 10:19 am

    I take a walk, almost without fail, around lunchtime. I find it a huge help to get away from the office if only for a 1/2 hour. Many times I have come back to my desk with a simple solution to a problem that I had been stuck on. For a while I used to ride a bike at lunch but I work in Chicago and I concluded that the benefits to my health were outweighed by the risk of getting killed by a cab :-|

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  4. Posted by arun | January 3, 2008, 10:37 am

    It is just superb to write programs near the beach!!! I once wrote a blog while fishing on a river bank,too!!

    Reply to comment

  5. Posted by Dave Ross | January 3, 2008, 11:02 am


    You’re either a freelancer or the luckiest SOB out there. :)

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  6. Posted by Darkman | January 5, 2008, 6:50 am

    Hi, I would appreciate it if you would place my credits beneath the photo your are using. It is not placed on Flickr under a CC license but with “all rights reserved” meaning you have to ask permission for any kind of use. Please add the following disclaimer underneath the picture “(c) Steven Duerinckx – http://www.darkink.be“.

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  7. Posted by Tony | January 5, 2008, 2:28 pm

    Darkman/Steven, the credits for your image have been added more explicitly now, as asked.

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  8. Posted by Juan Vidal | January 5, 2008, 3:31 pm

    Software maybe sometimes difficult, specially when creating complex applications.

    What I do for relaxing because sometimes you may get your mind in blank is to make some walks, take a nice cup of coffee or smoke a cigarrette.

    It is important to clear your mind in order to continue programming.

    Reply to comment

  9. Posted by Iproxx | January 6, 2008, 11:45 pm

    here in my office, our administrators really spend budget for some recreation activities. cause they believe that this type of job is really stressful.

    and i agree with your idea but not at all, working outside may give you lots of destructions.

    Reply to comment

  10. Posted by Tony | January 7, 2008, 12:22 am

    Getting all of the work done outside wasn’t really the idea, after all — typing code is more comfortable when there’s a desk and a dual-monitor setup. Though there’s more to it than just writing code, so trips outside might be quite productive overall.

    Though I suppose Arun should be asked about this, he seems pretty excited about writing programs near the beach ;)

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  11. Posted by Darkman | January 7, 2008, 7:09 pm

    Thank you very much for the link Tony.
    Btw, coding outside (the office) can indeed do wonders for the productivity. Been there, done that myself on more than a few occasions.

    Reply to comment

  12. Posted by michaelp | January 8, 2008, 6:32 pm

    But what if you are programming in a room with some windows? Opening the windows would be bound to help you concentrate more and feel refreshed after programming for a while.
    An alternative to programming outside might be programming in a room with lots of windows and sun light being able to come inside your room. If I had a lap top, I would have the perfect room on a bright, winter day with the sun coming off the snow. Assuming there’s snow outside, otherwise it might not look so good. Otherwise, it would feel great to have some curtains and windows up to stay on my computer and work.

    Reply to comment

  13. Posted by Konstantin | January 10, 2008, 1:18 am

    I’ve yet to understand how to program with dual monitors better than with one. Can someone explain how their setup works?

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  14. Posted by Tony | January 10, 2008, 2:10 am

    dual-screens just offer more usable desktop space. Depending on the configuration, one large widescreen monitor could be as good as two smaller ones. I’m going to write up about my work setup this coming week, stay tuned!

    Reply to comment

  15. Posted by Web Design New York | January 10, 2008, 3:12 pm

    At our office we actually put a Pool table so when we have those stressful sessions we usually have a good game of pool

    Works for Us!!!

    Reply to comment

  16. Posted by php programs | January 13, 2008, 6:13 am

    try to keep your self fresh not by just having a walk while on the computer just rotate your eye balls over the walls and that works all time:)

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