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The personal site of Jamie Knight, an autistic web developer, speaker and mountain biker who is never seen far from his plush sidekick Lion. View the Archive

Topics: Autism Development

Using defaults to manage anxiety

A few weeks ago I gave a talk at Digital Croydon called ‘The Developer Mindset’. The talk details some of the engineering principles I have adopted for my day to day life as part of managing the transition towards independence.

The talk discuses a few things such as spoons and avoiding burnout. But I have written about that before. So for this post, I want to focus on a different topic. This post is all about ‘defaults’.

Default all the things.

I have a timetable and I like to follow it. I don’t follow it perfectly unless I am specifically quite anxious and seeking structure.

My timetable provides me with a default. I can choose to follow the default or go with something else.

Knowing the default is there gives me the structure I need to reduce the anxiety. While also giving me some flexibility.

For example, I can choose to avoid a shower in the morning because I had a shower the night before.

Or I can choose to go for something different for dinner knowing that the default is in the freezer waiting for me.

It’s a simple concept but I have found it to be very useful.

To put a development spin on it; effectively I have just decided on some sensible defaults for my ‘life’ API.

The default covers me for when I don’t know what to do or don’t have the energy or interest to make a comfortable decision.

In the past, departing from my timetable gave me a sense of falling into chaos and with it a surge in anxiety.

These days, I choose to treat my timetable as a defaults mechanism. It’s there when I need it or want it. But it’s just the default, if I think I can do better I am free to do so.

Published: 29 July 2015 | Categories: Permalink


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