Procrastination Day: Practical Pointers from Developer Marc Backes

6 min read
Mar 24, 2021 12:16:00 PM

Procrastination Day: Practical Pointers from Developer Marc Backes

Marc is a self-employed developer from Luxembourg who’s very active on social networks. In French-speaking countries Procrastination Day is celebrated every 25 March, and for this special day, Marc lent himself for an interview to reveal some of his tips to avoid constantly putting off all the tedious tasks in our day-to-day lives. On the program: a look back at his career, a typical day in his shoes, tips to curb laziness, as well as tips for developers just setting out and a focus on his own sources of inspiration! Thank you, Marc, for taking time to answer our questions! Back to basics: Can you tell us more about your background — how you developed a passion for computers?

Marc: As early as high school, I had the chance to take computer classes. I realized very quickly that these subjects, as well as everything that had to do with computers, fascinated me. I naturally turned to a specialization and a master’s degree with a focus on computer science & technology in Austria. Then I developed my skills in computer languages on my own, by taking a close interest in the various news in the sector and by reading a lot on forums. Even today, I’m very interested in learning new skills and technologies on my own. After my studies, I had the chance to work on the creation and deployment of an intranet service in a university in Mexico. Before writing the code, I had to conduct a survey with different departments within the university to make sure that the deliverables would meet the expectations of all. Before writing even a single line of code, I spent many months gathering everyone’s needs! The project was completed in two years. Okay, so you’re back today in Luxembourg, and what are you doing here? Have you joined a company, or have you decided to become a freelancer instead?

Marc: I’m self-employed, but in reality, I dedicate about 80% of my work time to my company, which I’ve been supporting for seven years now. What’s a typical day like for you?

Marc: I get up, have a coffee, take a shower, and then get straight to work. I first check that there are no emergencies to be dealt with, in which case I get straight on it. In the morning, I also talk with the company’s project manager, to whom I offer my expertise. He helps me prioritize my day’s different tasks. Then comes lunchtime: with my wife, we like to cook together (she also works at home). Again, in the early afternoon, I check that there are no emergencies to deal with. If not, I just work through my list of tasks one by one. Toward the end of the day, I devote a few hours to my social media — creating new videos for my YouTube channel, following my community, updating my blog — there’s always something to do! Finally, in the evening, as I’m a big fan, I usually catch up on Netflix. Tell us a little bit about how you ended up in this position.

Marc: In these pandemic times, every employee realizes how important it is to have a home office — both in terms of motivation and performance. I’ve invested a lot to create the best environment and work efficiently. I use the following equipment:

  • a 16" MacBook Pro. I don’t use its screen, but connect it to others instead. In truth, I’ve combined several quality devices to create the ideal installation: RAM, CPU, memory… I went for the best performing equipment Apple offers.
  • two screens, including one which allows you to navigate within three windows simultaneously
  • a desk with a small electronic motor that allows you to adjust to a standing position
  • a quality headset that reduces ambient noise. This is indispensable for me: whether I work in a coffee shop or outside, it allows me to concentrate and remain efficient in all circumstances!
Setup — Marc Backes What kind of music do you typically listen to in order to concentrate?

Marc: Most of the time I listen to lo-fi. It’s a style of electronic music, purely instrumental, which helps me a lot to be totally immersed in my work. When I need to be a little less focused, I sometimes listen to a little bit of everything, like Latin music! I’m a fan of, an app on the phone that provides playlists of soft, relaxing music, specifically designed to help its listener focus. Do you have a developer who inspires you in particular?

Marc: That’s a tricky question you’re asking me since there are several! If I can only mention one or two, I would say:

  • Evan You, a software developer and creator of the front-end vue.js technology. I had the chance to meet him twice, and he’s inspired me a lot with his modesty and natural empathy.
  • Wes Bos, a full-stack developer and teacher in Canada. He creates web development courses with a lot of pedagogy. Can you tell us a bit more about your hobbies? What do you like to do in your free time — for entertainment or rest?

Marc: I bought a Playstation during the first confinement, but the truth is, I never use it! I love playing online chess with friends, even though my level, I must admit, isn’t that great. It’s more for fun and just the pleasure of spending time with friends. Before COVID, I used to travel a lot and go to the movies at least once a week. Let’s get back to the main topic: Procrastination Day. First, let’s remember it’s not necessarily a bad habit! Procrastinating from time to time allows everyone to rest, to take a step back from a situation, and to renew their energy. Do you have any tips to help overcome the lack of motivation?

Marc: Like everyone else, I sometimes have trouble motivating myself to move forward on a certain task. Even if these techniques don’t always work, they still help me be more productive some days:

  • a walk of about 15 minutes, just to stretch my legs and get refreshed
  • at least five minutes on a task that seems daunting, telling yourself before starting that you can enjoy Playstation or listen to music afterward, for example. Often, you will spend much more time on the task than you first expected.
  • If you’re struggling with a specific task, solve another one in the meantime to (re)build your confidence.
  • A technique I got from a book I particularly like called “Eat the frog.” The idea is to do the task that seems the most difficult first, so that all the tasks that follow in the day seem easier to do.
  • Download the app “Forest”, available for smartphones and computers. The concept is great: a tree grows little by little as the minutes pass. The more you work, the more your tree grows and becomes majestic. Is there anything else you’d like to add, Marc, before this interview has to end?

Marc: Yes, I wanted to share a message to novice developers. When you start out in this business, it’s essential to continue to train, do research on the Internet, and follow threads on forums. As far as forums, I recommend Stack Overflow. It’s loaded with information. Some people say that a “real” developer is not supposed to do research on the Net and should already know everything about languages and code. That’s not true! The IT sector is constantly evolving. The area is so vast. Only after you realize that you still have a lot to understand are you really on the right track. This idea is taken from the famous proverb, “If you know you don’t know, then you will know. But if you don’t know that you don’t know, then you won’t know.” Don’t hesitate to search and ask around on forums. Move forward little by little, slowly but surely. In my opinion, it’s useless to start learning about new technology without having a solid knowledge of the basics. Master HTML, CSS and JavaScript first. For all those who start, I strongly recommend the Free Code Camp website, which offers very complete and fun code courses to learn about what developers do.



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