For a while now, I've been struggling to make good use of my train rides, and various odd moments in my spare time that seem to be about
25 minutes long.
Like many people, I've read books, magazines and done crosswords / number puzzles, but being a software developer my focus is often on code, and while ago I bought a laptop with the intention of having a bash at one or two potential projects that float around my mind from time to time.
The difficulty is that 25 minutes isn't a great deal of time to do a great deal to achieve a lot, and its tricky to self manage a project on this basis. I like this time to be self contained, so it doesn't overlap with other areas of life.
Accidentally I hit upon what seems at present to be an interesting technique. I decided to use some of this time to write a presentation about some thoughts I had on a technical project. I've just started using open offices impress package, but It turns out that in 25 minutes I can get a large part, if not all of a slide done( Earlier on I was belting far more out - it seems to slow down over time ). By focusing on recording my thoughts in a presentable manner, rather than cutting code, or design methods, it provides a usefull implement for self criticism. I've tried not to go to far back in slides, preferring to leave mistakes documented, and focus on documenting the leading edge. Occasional reviews of the entire presentation refresh my thoughts and remind me of why I made particular decisions. It has also allowed me to suspend activity for a period and return later without significant overhead.
Another unintended benefit is that it has facilitated me to be more self critical - I find it easier to review than by looking at code, as I merely flick through a slide show, and my failings become very apparent. When coupled with with the focus that deciding which bits are worthy of documentation, Visual presentation software seems to be a usefull tool in this context.