Watching paint dry

This is something we all do. Me especially. I’m a paint-watcher by nature. Not literally. I have never seen anyone literally watching paint dry. But metaphorically, we do it all the time.

Instead of setting a task in motion, then leaving it alone to sort itself out, we keep on popping back to check.

Click the install button, and watch that little circle spinning round, chasing its own tail, as if there’s a hidden message in there we might decipher if we stare at it long enough.

Hit the download link, and watch that green bar creep towards 100%, slowing inexorably as it goes. ‘50% done,’ you tell yourself smugly. ‘67% done,’ like it’s nearly there. It’s getting slower all the time. ’92 fucking percent done.’ You’re slowly losing your mind now. By the time the green bar reaches 100% you’ll be completely gaga. We’re all just watching our own lives slowly ebb away.

Publishing posts on WordPress is another good one. Write the post, publish the post and walk away. Don’t sit at your keyboard anxiously waiting for likes and comments to appear. It will drive you nuts. If you aren’t already.

I do the same thing with Google Analytics. It’s there to be checked every single day, right? Because every single day is unique and important, and completely different to all other days? No. This is not usually a productive use of time. Just don’t do that.

Hell, who am I kidding? Sometimes I check Google Analytics several times during a single day. This tells me nothing and is simply stress-inducing.

So don’t do that.

Facebook. Twitter. Instagram. No. No. No.

Paint the wall. Walk away. Leave the paint to dry. Come back 4 hours later to check it’s done. Just like it said on the tin.

Don’t be that guy watching the paint dry. Because if paint could laugh, it would be laughing at you.

33 responses to “Watching paint dry

  1. Great post Steve – love the humour! No idea what Google Analytics is.

  2. Synchronicity…that’s what this post is as I was just thinking of writing a post along similar lines: the waste of worrying about things we have no control over.


  3. Watching tonight’s lunar eclipse will be another example.

  4. I’m so glad I haven’t figured out what Google Analytics is (I don’t even know if it’s “is” or “are”), or how to check the Amazon rankings for books by category. I dread the day someone shows me, as from that day forth I know I will share your filthy habit. They say that knowledge is power but sometimes knowledge is neurosis.

  5. Another good idiom is “pulling the leaves to see how the roots come”.

    Still, there is something mesmerizing about watching progress bars. It gives you a sense of progress and achievement without you doing anything.

  6. And just like paint, the vapors may get you sick if you spend too long time watching it dry….

  7. Thanks. I’ve experienced it so many times.

  8. I expect you to wait until at least tomorrow morning to read or respond to this comment.

  9. Excellent advice. I’m a natural paint watcher myself, to the extent that I make a strong effort to avoid it. When I first started blogging, I recall hovering over the site, checking the stats obsessively. Funny that now I can’t even recall the last time I looked at them.

  10. Great advice! I used to run Pay Per Click advertising campaigns on social media and my boss would ask me to pull numbers within minutes of posting! It’s like running a long-term experiment that will track changes over the course of years and popping in to jot down data every 30 minutes! So frustrating and a huge waste of time!

  11. I never thought about watching the spinner or progress bar as the equivalent of watching paint dry — good way to put it!

    I bore very easily (in some regards), so I usually find something else to do the same way I start channel surfing when the commercials come on.(I’ve been watching the BBC America’s 9:00 showings of Tom Baker Doctor Who episodes, and they’re shoveling long commercial breaks in, some as long as 4:45! Really hard to take.) For those installs in the days of yore (yore what, I always wonder), where you often had to do a lot of “Insert Disc #14” stuff, I’d sit there with a book.

    I’m not on Facebore, TWITter, or any other social media site (other than WP). I was on Facebore, but deleted my profile a couple of years ago and haven’t missed it even slightly. (More like how you “miss” an aching tooth after it’s fixed.)

    And I do know what Google Analytics is… I just don’t care. XD

    • I remember the days when “downloading an app” meant sending a large reel of magnetic tape off to another building with a request for someone to load it into the mainframe. There were even some old punch cards lying around my office when I first started work. People have it too easy nowadays 🙂

      • Some of my very first work was done on punch cards and punched paper tape. I remember when a 300 bps modem or a 5-meg hard drive were a big deal. (Common quote from the time: “Five megs?! I’ll never fill that up!!”)

        • Photos and video are the big consumers of space and bandwidth, of course. Without them, 5 megs might still be useful! But I hate the way that software bloats ever larger too, seemingly without need.

        • A long-time minor rant of mine, too! Some of that is due to a perceived marketing need for tons of features. Some of it is driven by lazy or incompetent programming.

          I worked with a programmer once who turned in a Java solution that required some 150 megabytes of 3rd party JAR files (and did a poor job for all that extra support). I later rewrote it into a far more powerful suite that used native Java, no 3rd party JAR files. The install footprint was less than 10% of the first one’s.

        • Good work! A man after my own heart. You should abandon retirement and go back to work immediately 🙂

        • Nah, I just write a blog telling people how to do it right. XD

          (Although, for some reason it’s been a hard blog to write for. Not coming up with posts so much as the desire to talk about programming. It’s like I left some part of that all behind when I retired. I keep hoping my interest will return. Lots of post ideas on the TODO list.)

  12. I’m relatively new to the blogging world – just over two months – so must admit I’m still in the ‘checking stats every day’ phase. Kind of exciting, but also nerve-racking. But also really enjoying browsing other blogs, which I seldom did before, and connecting up with people all around the world – that’s the best part!! 🙂 so yay, ‘go us’.

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