I constantly struggle with asking for help, but I’ve found that I’m more productive when I ask for help at the right time.

When’s the right time?


The balance is tricky and I’m constantly figuring it out, but here’s what I’ve learned so far:

A) If it’s something I’m sure I know already but forgot the specifics, I look up the docs IMMEDIATELY.

That’s what docs are for.

B) If it’s something I think I know but may have forgotten and the docs don’t help, I play/try to figure it out on my own for 5-10 minutes.

Then I ask someone else.

C) If it’s something I definitely don’t know but was supposed to learn, I play for 15-20 minutes with docs.

Then I ask someone else.

D) If it’s something I definitely don’t know and have time to learn, I play for 30-45 minutes.

Then I ask someone else.

Note that there’s never a point at which I flounder for an hour (or more!).

Because if you're floundering for an hour, you're not only no longer productive, you've gone down a rabbit hole and it will take you twice as long to find your way out.

Your goal, as a developer/engineer/hacker/whatever you call yourself, is to learn and ship code. If you're neither learning nor shipping, it's time to ask for help. Then you'll learn and then you'll ship and all will be right with the world again.

Fun fact: once you get the help you need, your productivity instantly goes up! Because now you're excited about taking the knowledge you've just gained and applying it to the next thing! Cool, right?

Remember: Asking for help is a sign of strength, not a sign of weakness.

It's you saying you're ready for some learning and you won't let a little rabbit hole tempt you away from shipping.