I sometimes hang out on #org-mode or #nikola and answer questions. I usually am not able to answer off the top of my head and I look up docs or dig through the code. Sometimes, we find ready-made documented answers, but other times we end up contributing some documentation, filing an issue, submitting a patch or hacking up something for that super-special use-case.
Until now, I looked at this time as IRC time, which loosely translates to distraction time. But, I’m usually learning about the tools I use a little bit more. Even when I’m not, I’m helping someone do something they want to do. Sometimes empowering them to fix future problems on their own. And indirectly making the user community a wee-bit happier, and possibly the software a tiny bit better.
This isn’t limited just to helping someone on IRC. Helping out a co-worker do something that they are new to, or just adding a comment or editing a Stack-overflow answer may end up in the “distraction time” bin, just because you weren’t doing something on your TODO list. It needn’t be.
Taking cue from scorers in Football, I decided to call this time assist time and to try to start seeing this time as (semi-)productive. Naming helps.