My New Year’s Resolution: Be lazier
I wrote this on New Year’s Eve but given the contents it seemed more appropriate to post a few days late. In many walks of life, laziness is a terrible vice but for programmers and statisticians it can be an unsung virtue. You don’t believe me? Then read on to hear my ideas for virtuous laziness.
Idea 1: Write less code
Writing less code means less code to maintain which means even less work – a virtuous circle of laziness. Of course, you can’t just stop doing your job, but you can use existing packages instead of reinventing wheels and you can write code that is reusable (write functions instead of scripts and packages instead of loose functions).
Idea 2: … but code instead of clicking
There are loads of little tasks that computers (and other machines) do better than humans. You just need to tell them to do it! If you find yourself typing the same thing over and over again, write a function, script or macro so you don’t need to bother next time. Jobs that complete themsleves automatically are the best kinds of jobs!
Idea 3: If your can’t automate, then simplify
Of course, many tasks are tricky to automate. In that case, can you simplify your problem? If you’re doing bleeding edge research, can you make your task straightforward enough that other researchers can do it? If you’re doing something more routine, can you simplify it enough that the intern could take over? If you’re the intern, can you simplify your job so that a kid could do it? Now we’re nearly at the point of automation.
Idea 4: Give the gift of laziness
I know that a lot of you readers are coders and will probably have heard something like this idea before. Out there in the wider world, I don’t think the concept of automating tasks is as common. This doesn’t always mean programming things either. Over the coming days, teach your grandma about keyboard shortcuts or take the time to introduce a less technical colleague to the idea of network shortcuts or the button that minimizes all your windows. (It’s amazing how few people seem to know about that!)