The Importance of Method

The Importance of Method

Recently I was approached by someone close to me with a story about chaos, or the lack of method.
This person works at a company where they are still growing and finding their way. This translates into processes not being well defined and confusions arise due to mismanaged expectations:

unmanaged expectations – You should have done that


– Wait but I thought you we’re doing it!?

– Why would I do it?


This sparked a thought in my mind. It got me thinking deeper and deeper about the way I do things (or could do better) and the importance of having a process on what you do.


The definition of Method is:

“a particular procedure for accomplishing or approaching something, especially a systematic or established one.”

This sounds like a good way of dealing with any task if you ask me.

Arguably the most famous and important method is the scientific method. It was an important idea that brought a set of rules into science and allowed the progress we see today. It gives us a easy to follow set of steps, that we can leverage in order to test a hypothesis and acquire knowledge. Kind of something like this:

scientific method

Here are the steps of the scientific method, a.k.a. the explanation to my “amazing” picture:

  1. Make an observation – An observation is made about something. This could be a phenomena, a problem or something else.
  2. Ask a question – Ask yourself how it works (or don’t) or even how it should work.
  3. Form a hypothesis – Do research and propose a potential, theoretical response to the question postulated before.
  4. Make a prediction – A prediction is the outcome you intend to see if you hypothesis is confirmed.
  5. Test the prediction – Run the tests and confirm your hypothesis or refute it.
  6. Iterate – If your hypothesis is confirmed than you can refine it: “Why does it work?” and if it is refuted you also iterate making observations into your tests and formulating a new hypothesis.

If you apply the method to any problem you have an excellent structure to get to a solution. Which brings me to my next point: Workflows.


It is important to have a workflow when dealing with almost anything. I am not arguing for you to become a robot or like TV’s Big Bang Theory character Sheldon, where everything has a planned out schedule. For all means I am all for having an adventure and doing something new. What I am arguing for, is for most of the routine in your life to have clear picture of how everything should work out and what comes first, what follows and what ends it. Knowing each part will allow you to understand what you are dealing with and it is possible to improve the workflow of what you do, in order to achieve a better performance or at least a smarter way to do it.

Using a Workflow, you or if it is a process in which more people are involved, everyone will know what to expect and also when to expect it. The problem of un-managed expectations is out of the picture.

Now arriving to a workflow that works for you or your problem may require some deep-thinking and even some trial and error and that is where frameworks and models like the one above (the scientific method) come in to help. So leverage tried out methods whenever you are doing something.

Mindless execution

Sure you can have a plan and follow it to a T. However it can be a bad plan.

Not everything is well planned
Not everything that looks good on paper works

Remember when you learned to drive? You were probably making small corrections in the driving wheel just to stay in lane. I bet that this need for correction went away after a while. Heck, I believe you don’t even think about now. This happened due to you paying attention to what you did. You improved a bit here and a bit there until it was quite good, maybe even excellent. But with high certainty, you are not the best driver in the world. You probably have got to a point and hit a plateau. This is normal and most of us get to that point: You learn something and get good enough at it and stay at that level.

This happens due to the lack of deliberate practice. This means that although you are still performing the activity, you are not thinking about what and how you perform it, thus you don’t create a feedback loop where you improve after identifying a problem (this again sounds like the scientific method somehow)


The Software Engineer Methods

As software engineers we have to go through the same problems and solutions described above. Whether you want it or not, our profession is a creative one at the same time that it is an analytical one.

If you try to go through your career without having a method of working you won’t go far. You won’t get a lot done when the tasks start to get more complex, if anything at all.

So before you sit down and start to program tomorrow, take a step back and think about how you do things. Think about how you could improve, automate what can be automated with some smart scripts and think about how to improve your output.

Here are some ideas you can do to improve your coding day or areas where you can put some thought into how you are doing things:

  • Memorizing some keyboard shortcuts for some tasks you use often
  • Creating aliases
  • Training your touch-typing skills (nimble fingers is a great tool for a developer)
  • Create a checklist for the things you do that are important (like committing or reviewing code)
  • What is your bug searching routine? (Divide and conquer?)
  • How do you tackle adding a new feature? Can it be performed in a better way?
  • Is there a problem which you can solve better? I am talking about those problems that you “clean the project twice and it works”. Ask yourself “why twice?” what is the REAL problem there?

And there are many more situations where you can think about. Write them in a paper and take some time at the beginning of the day to see if you can come up with improvements or ways to fix a problem.



I would like for you to take this out of this post: Think about your processes! At work or even at home: Is it smarter to put the cutlery up or down in the dishwasher? (I actually thought about this). Make you and your life better! Consequently those around you and your environment will get better too!

On a future post I would like to discuss some tips on productivity that you can leverage to create your workflow and make it work for you.

Until then… write to you later!

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