Hide your thinking face and do better work

You're working closely on a difficult project with a colleague. Difficult as in your face gets crushed up like a piece of paper regularly as you think of the combinatorics of possible cases that you guys need to handle. Yeah, that kind of project. You know what I'm talking about.

Today you started your workday as usual in your sweatpants, sitting at your adjustable standing desk in your home office and you see your colleague shoot you a message,

"Yo, you free to pair on the account-level discount thing?"

You already know it's going to be a mentally challenging session so you reply, "Yeah sure let's do it. Give me 5 mins," and you make a cup of coffee. You know you're gonna need the extra brainpower.

You're back.

You start an audio call and share your screen.

No? That's not what you did? What did you do?

What!? You started a *video* call instead and shared your screen? What in heaven's name were you thinking?!

... I'm just kidding. I also used to do the same thing. Not anymore.

What caused me to change was completely circumstantial, but it has made me much more effective at working on mentally strenuous with colleagues.

The change was that I joined a new company and this company used a different software for remote pair programming. (The tool is called Tuple if you're curious to look it up. It's awesome.) We didn't default to using Zoom or Google Meet for this kind of thing anymore, which meant what?

It meant the webcam is turned off by default.

What's on by default when you start a call is only your microphone, and you can optionally turn on your screen share.

This seemingly inconsequential decision, which in fact may seem oddly like a bid to save the company in server costs, has, I now realise, helped me do my work more effectively.

Okay, but how?

By no longer wasting energy being conscious of how I look when I'm *really* thinking, that's how.

I can close my eyes to enter my mind palace, turn my eyeballs inward with my eyelids still open, slouch like my parents didn't teach me well, put my head on the table in momentary defeat, make contemptuous faces at something my colleague just said, flip open my personal laptop to write a quick note for later, scratch my crotch, pick my nose, and all together look like a dysfunctional human being and I don't have to care.

All that's left for me to care about is the problem at hand.

So, hide your thinking face. Turn off your webcam. It's a simple but profound trick that's going help you do better work.

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