If you can't focus, you are paralyzed. Everything you do in your career and life will be served better with clear and continuous focus. We revisit this topic after nearly seven years because it is profoundly true.
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Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
For our final episode of Developer Tea for this year and as we move into the new year, I want to return to a topic that we talked about first, nearly seven years ago now, which is mind-boggling that this podcast has been around for almost seven years. The topic is simple. It's about focus. My name is Jonathan Cutrell and you're listening to Developer Tea. My goal on the show is to help developers like you find clarity, perspective, and purpose in their careers. That first word, clarity, clarity is necessary for us to progress in our careers. Most often, when I talk to other engineers, when I talk to the podcasters even, when I talk to engineering managers, when I talk to product people, the most common problem, the most prevalent problem that I see is a lack of clarity. Either at the personal level, at the organizational or team level or both, the lack of clarity will completely destroy your progress and your capability to meet the audacious goals that you're setting for yourself. If you cannot focus, you can't have clarity. Think about the mental model of focusing a camera lens. The lens, no matter what length and what kind of aperture you're set at, has a focal point. Notice it is a point, not multiple points. Although there are software cameras now that can manage to focus on multiple points, the idea of having a single focus, a singular focus at a given point in time, is powerful. It's powerful not just because it provides you some kind of superhuman way of thinking. It's powerful because it is the human way of thinking. Our desire to multitask is informed by a more modern problem. Our solutions to modern problems, especially our intuitive solutions, are not always good. This modern problem of having too much to do or having a broad variety of things that require specialization in so many areas leads us to believe that our focus should be split. That we should develop specialization in as many areas as seems necessary, rather than deciding what areas we want to focus on. I am giving you the challenge as you move into the new year to focus. We're going to take a quick sponsor break and then we're going to come back and talk about what it takes to develop focus in your career. This episode is brought to you by Launch Darkly. Launch Darkly is helping you create feature management for the modern enterprise, fundamentally changing how you deliver software. Here's how it works. Launch Darkly enables development and operations teams to deploy code at any time, even if a feature isn't ready to be released to users. Rapping code with feature flags gives you the safety to test new features and infrastructure in your production environments without impacting the wrong end users. You're ready to release more widely. You can update the flag and the changes are made instantaneously thanks to their real time streaming architecture. Here's the reality about feature flags. There's been so many projects that have worked on where it was either cost prohibitive or nearly impossible to actually replicate what was happening on production, whether it's because you can't really replicate the stresses that are put on the production environment or you can't replicate the data because it's sensitive data. There's a lot of tricks that you might be able to pull to make your staging look like production. But at the end of the day, there's going to be something different happening in production than is happening in your staging environments. You can't replicate those one to one almost never. Especially for features that you were developing that you're trying to release either to a partial audience or maybe you're just trying to QA those in a production environment without actually releasing to the production environment. You don't have to do crazy weird hours releases where somebody might see the release if they log on in a particular time. But your QA team is having to stay up all hours of the night to finish this testing. That stuff is over. With Launched Arcade, you can release to just your QA folks or you can release to a beta testing audience or you can release to the wider public with a single flag change. Go and check it out. Head over to launchadarkly.com. You can start it for free today. That's launchdarkly.com. Thanks again to Launched Arcade for their support and I've developed a team. What does it actually take to develop focus in your career? What will it take from you? What commitments? What changes? What will it look like for you to focus? This simplest answer that shows that you are likely increasing your focus is that you're reducing the number of things that you think you're doing. You're reducing the number of things that you think you're doing. Here's what's interesting about this. Our perception is that when we multitask we're getting more done. If you've been listening to the show for any amount of time, you know this isn't true. We're not getting more done when we try to multitask. We're getting less done. We might be getting a little bit done on more things, but we're not making meaningful progress on any of them. Ultimately, we are much more inefficient when we're trying to multitask. This isn't just about multitasking in the moment. It's very clear that multitasking in the moment creates incredibly inefficient brain processes. We're trying to switch back and forth between two tasks. It's pretty obvious that this is detrimental to the quality of our work. It's detrimental to our mental health and everything in between. It's also at a more macro level. What are you focusing on this week and this month and this quarter? What are the things that you are improving? What are the things that you're already good at that you're becoming incredibly good at this quarter? If you have four or five things on that list, then in essence, you are doing the same thing as the person who's trying to multitask on a day-to-day basis. You might have slightly more optimal minute-to-minute progress. You might be able to make significant progress in an area or two. But the truth is the people who are going to make the biggest strides are the ones who are focused on fewer things. The scary part of this for most people is that it feels like you're putting all of your eggs in one basket. You're making too much of a bet. You're putting too much time into one area. But this is also skewed by our improper view of time. Let's imagine that our careers last about 45 years. If you were to spend three months totally focused on one thing, that's only one half of one percent of your whole career. Let's imagine that that three months that you spent investing in your career or being totally focused on that one very important thing yields you a five percent or even a one percent improvement. Whatever that improvement means to you, maybe it means that you're working on more interesting projects or maybe it means that you're earning more money. Maybe it means that you get a promotion that you want. Or maybe quite simply, it means that you're producing higher quality work and all of the other things will follow. Well, the one percent improvement that you get from that three month investment in focused work now pays you back one percent continuously. The compounding effect of investing in your career early or investing in your career as soon as possible, meaning right now, focusing right now, we'll pay you back in the long run. So even if you make three or four of these half of a percent bets in the next year, that's only about one percent to two percent of your career, your entire career timeline. And if you were to lose that, then you're not going to ruin your career from that. This isn't a significant portion of time, even though it may feel like it is. So let's go back to our kind of original challenge here. I want you to focus this year, this coming year, find ways of improving your focus by reducing the number of things that you're committing to. It's that simple. Reduce the number of things that you're committing to. And the things that you do choose to commit to commit to them, one extra step. Go that one layer deeper, become a little bit more involved in that community of learners that you're involved in. The book that you're reading reread the most important chapters. That course that you're taking, do the bonus work by the extra module. Take the next level commitment in the things that you're focusing on. When you take the other variables out, when you reduce the number of things that you are involving yourself in, the number of things that you're committing yourself to, you can deepen the commitments that you are making. The difference between a good experience and an amazing experience is usually one extra thing. The difference between a good project and a great project is usually a little bit of extra time spent. This doesn't mean to overwork yourself. Instead, I'm telling you, the only way to do this, the only healthy, sustainable way to do this is to cut out the things that don't matter. You can decide what this means for you. It might mean that you're choosing a monthly or quarterly focus. The thing that you are going to improve on with as much energy as you can. It might mean that you change the flow of your daily life, who kind of reduce the distractions that you already don't want to focus on. The things that you don't even want to commit to that seem to be impeding on your life, finding ways of blocking those things out. Whatever it means for you, make focusing your priority as you move into the new year. Thanks so much for listening to today's episode of Developer Tea. I hope you find this challenging, but also motivating and exciting. A huge thank you for the continued support of Developer Tea. You from launch darkly. You can get started with enterprise grade feature flags. You can launch all of that new code to the right people at the right time. Head over to launch darkly.com to get started with that today. Thanks so much for listening to this episode. If you enjoyed this discussion, if you want to share the things that you're focusing on or if you want support, if you want help from other engineers, if you want help from me, if you want to have discussions about the content that we're talking about on this show, all of that is available totally free to you. All we're trying to do here is create a community of like-minded individuals like you who are trying to become better in their careers, better in their lives. Go and check it out. You can join totally free. It'll always be free. Head over to developer.t.com slash discord to join today. Thanks so much for listening this year and until the next one. Enjoy your tea.