When Psychology and Software Development Collide

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A typical workday at iTexico involves an entire army of hard-working people crunching code, attending meetings, and speaking with clients on the phone. iTexico is a software development firm based in Austin, Texas and specializing in mobile app development and nearshore outsourcing services. They know a thing or two about how stressful the world of software development can be.

Stress is part of the software developer’s job description. Apparently though, it doesn’t have to be. A growing number of psychologists, business coaches, and wellness experts believe software developers can boost their production and simultaneously reduce their stress by practicing what is known as mindfulness. Where mindfulness and software development collide, good things ostensibly happen.

The proposed need from mindfulness in software development comes from the understanding that the developer actually wears multiple hats on every project. He/she must to have plenty of knowledge in computer languages, programming environments, coding, and design standards. Yet he/she must also possess a working knowledge of math, science, and engineering. Modern software development is nothing like the days of programming in BASIC 30 years ago.

Centering the Mind

Mindfulness is defined in several different ways. Psychology defines it one way, while religion defines it in another. The one thing all the definitions have in common is the practice of centering the mind and the present. In other words, a person who is being mindful has learned to master the thoughts so that they are clearly focused on the here and now, without the distractions of the past or the anxieties of the future.

This idea of centering the mind is said to be helpful to software developers because it provides for better focus and concentration. Some mindfulness experts also equate the practice with mental resilience, enhanced creativity, and better emotional intelligence.

It is not really clear how emotional intelligence is helpful to software developers and the pressure they are under, but proponents of mindfulness insist that it does help. An improved emotional intelligence reduces anxiety and negativity, paving the way for the mind to better focus on the task at hand with clarity of thought and enhanced creativity.

Centering the Office

Mindfulness could be a game changing tool for software developers if it is as helpful as proponents claim it to be. But as anyone at iTexico can tell you, there is something else that has to be addressed if mindfulness is to work for the average software developer: the office has to be centered as well.

Much of the pressure faced by software developers on a daily basis is not internal. It is external. A quiet chaos dominates the average software development workspace even though, to the casual observer, evidence of that chaos may be hard to find. But step back and observe more closely and you will hear phones ringing, conversations being conducted, papers being shuffled, etc.

The average software developer is constantly being pulled in multiple directions at any given time. Our modern smartphone is a big part of that. Carrying a smartphone means never being able to be fully disconnected. It means leaving an open door for text messages, e-mails, phone calls and social media notifications. Throw in all the other distractions of the office and you have an environment that makes mindfulness quite difficult.

Where mindfulness and software development collide, good things are supposed to happen. There is no reason to believe the concept is not true. But if mindfulness is to be as effective as proponents say it is, then it must move beyond the individual software developer to envelop the entire office.