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3 Things Aspiring Developers Should Be Doing Today

Published 8/26/2016

Today's episode is for all aspiring developers, and you can start today. It won't be easy, but it will work.

And lastly...

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Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
Hey everyone, welcome to Developer Tea. My name is Jonathan Cutrell and in today's episode I'm going to give you three things every aspiring developer should do starting today. If you are an aspiring developer, no matter what stage of the career you are in, today's episode is for you. So that should be pretty much everyone who downloads this episode. I'm going to give you three tips and really there are three practices for things you can do today to help your career. Now these are not single shot in the arm tips that you're going to be able to go and do in five minutes. These things are not necessarily easy. They will require effort. They require commitment and determination. Most good things require those traits, but these simple actions are nearly guaranteed to help boost your career as a developer. You all know that I'm not into the idea of talking about life hacks on this show or career hacks. Those are all short cuts and they all have their downsides and they all come with a significant amount of luck that is necessary for them to work. There are certainly things you can do to inject a bit of adrenaline into your career, but the things I'm challenging you with today are more like a workout plan. So let's get started. I recommend that you take notes for today's episode. There's going to be some specific things that you can walk away with and actually do or start doing. And if you don't have notes in front of you, you know, bookmark this episode, subscribe so that you can come back to this podcast. Of course, subscribing is always a good idea. So you don't miss out on future episodes, but subscribe. You can come back to this episode and write down these notes. I really think this stuff is going to be very helpful to those of you who are aspiring to make your career better. Number one, eliminate the bottom 20. Eliminate the bottom 20. Here, we're talking about cutting out the bottom 20% of what you are spending your time on. Prioritize the way you are spending your time on a list and simply drop the things that are least important to you. Now 20% is just a rough estimate. Most likely you won't be able to easily quantify exactly how much time you're spending on something, but identify the activities that you participate in that are not providing value to your life. That's what this exercise is about and eliminate those from the bottom up. This isn't an easy task, as I said previously, this is going to take determination, cutting things out takes determination. Sometimes it's a little bit painful. Some simple examples. If you have five books sitting on your desk that you read one page in per week, well, cut that down to one book. If you're trying to learn multiple languages at a time, like five or six languages, try cutting that down to one or two. If you're trying to read 10 or 20 blogs, cut that down to three or four. There's some evidence to say that interweaving your learning can help you achieve better long-term learning results. But if you're spread too thin, you won't have enough focus to gain momentum. We talked about a little bit more of this in an episode called Media Consumption Diet. We'll include it in the show notes and you can go and listen to that. This is really an exercise of focus. And focus is one of the main themes of this show. You need to recognize the things you are doing that seem more like distractions than anything. You can look at one task and feel like that's a distraction or you can look at that same task and feel like that's on the critical pathway. That's something that you absolutely should be putting your energy into. Now, I think it's important to note that this applies to both your only professional life, like your office hours, the 40 hours per week. And it also applies to your personal life. But you have to recognize that your personal life is going to require some of the things that you don't really want to do. Like, for example, you can't cut out paying your taxes. Even if it takes 20% of your time, there's some minimum things that you absolutely have to do. Now, there are ways that you can outsource that kind of stuff. That's not really what this podcast is about. You can go and find those resources. But ultimately, cutting the things that are not important to you that can be cut, that is a way of gaining margin. This isn't easy for most people to do. But remember, if you want to reengage those things later that you've cut more than likely you can. Many things that fall into the category of cutable are things that are internal commitments rather than an expiring commitment, like, for example, a contract or a sweat equity deal. That's usually the stuff that you can say, I don't want to do this anymore. And if you decide that you want to do it later, it's easy enough to pick it back up. And what this does for you is it provides margin. And that margin will allow you the space to focus on what actually provides value in your life. Now, it's kind of a secondary challenge and add on challenge to this first tip. I would recommend that you don't immediately fill that 20% up with work. Don't inflate everything else to fill up your time. Instead, provide yourself the margin to rest at first and then make investments with that extra 20% capital that you have in the form of time. This puts you back in control of where your time goes. But perhaps equally important, as we'll talk about number three, it's important that you have margin that is not filled up in your life. We'll talk a little bit more about that in number three. But number two is first, make one single value statement for the next six months. Make one single value statement for the next six months. And I recommend that you put this as the background on your computer and as the background on your phone. And then you send yourself a text reminder using something like if this, then that every single day and reminds yourself of this value statement. If you want to get better in your career, you can't assume that you will stay the same as a person and just somehow rise to the top. You have to challenge yourself to grow in every aspect. It's much easier to think in terms of long-term dreams. How much money you want to make or what kind of job you want to have in 10 or 20 years, those are easy things to think about. What's more difficult is deciding what you want to do about those things today and perhaps how you want to marginally grow in the next six months. So if you're like most people, you probably made a New Year's resolution in January. That's something that typically takes 12 months or so to accomplish. And I've asked you to do this before, but I'm going to ask you again, how are those things going? How are those resolutions going? If you have them written down, I want you to dig them up and revisit them. Do a self-assessment in relation to those New Year's resolutions. On January 1st of this year or whatever day you made those particular goals, you decided that those goals were worth your investment for a year. If you're like most people, you didn't meet those goals, or you've decided that you didn't think they were actually worthwhile. Things have changed since the New Year. This is a definitive difference between people who advance in their careers and people who stagnate in their careers. Those who advance take their goals seriously, and they see them through to the end, even if things change, even through seasons. And goals start with values. They start with defining what direction you want your energy to go in, what things are important to you. So what I want you to do is make a simple value-driven statement for the next six months. And stick to it. Perhaps over the next six months you want to make physical or mental health your priority, or maybe you want to make learning a specific language your priority, or perhaps you want to make relationships with your coworkers or relationships with your clients, your value-aligned priority for the next six months. Whatever that value statement is, I want you to write it down, put it on all of your devices, put it somewhere you can see it. Every single day, then you can take this statement and derive more specific goals. Perhaps you have a weekly workout goal that you want to hit if physical health is an important thing to you, or maybe you want to push yourself to make friends outside of the office and spend time with them at least one night out of the week. Those are concrete goals that are driven by that value statement. Whatever those goals are, keep in mind that you're going to stick with them 100% for the entire six months without any wavering. This perseverance is incredibly valuable and you can take it into the next six months with a new value statement that informs new goals. Instead of only viewing your career in terms of either the long game or the day by day, start viewing it in terms of chunks of commitment time. These are kind of like iterations. They're large enough that they allow you to achieve something meaningful. They allow you to gain momentum, but small enough that they don't feel like your commitment is an entire chapter of your life, an entire era of your life. So again, number two, make one single value statement for the next six months and then put it everywhere, put it where you can see it. Number three, make learning about yourself a priority. Make learning about yourself a priority. We have talked about learning being important on the show before. Most of the time we're talking about learning in terms of technology, whether that's learning new technology or learning how to handle people around technology, but most people really never get in touch with their own selves. They really don't spend time learning about themselves. This isn't necessarily something religious or spiritual, but rather it's a product of our busy lives. We often don't take the time to learn about ourselves because we're too busy learning how to code or we're too busy actually performing our job or we're too busy participating in some hobby that we have. Ask yourself questions. What do I want to do with my work? What kind of person do I want to be? What kind of impact do I want to make on culture or on the people around me? What do I want to be known for? What are my weaknesses? What are my strengths? How do I relate on a social level with the people around me? What things am I interested in outside of work? Where do I want to live? These are the kind of questions that you can ask yourself and if you don't have answers right away, that's a sign that maybe you don't know yourself as well as you think you do. And that's an okay thing. It's okay to also change these answers. It's okay to change, for example, where you want to live. That's not a problem. And this is not something where you write it down and set concrete in stone. Instead, it's about a process of learning how to uncover these things about yourself. Ask other people questions about yourself as well because other people provide perspective on what they perceive about you and what other people perceive about you is also incredibly important. You can ask your friends or you can ask your coworkers, what do you think about me? That's an open book question, of course, but asking them that kind of question gives you information that you wouldn't have unless you asked them. What can I do to be a better friend or what can I do to be a better colleague, a better coworker? What opportunities do you see in my life that it seems like I'm missing out on? What things do you think I do well? Now, of course, this is something that you should preface by saying you know these questions are somewhat centered on you. You don't want your friends to think that you're completely self-centered, but rather that you value their opinions and that you're looking for their insight, not just to use them for their ideas or stroke or ego. You should also be exploring your personal feelings and thoughts, not just asking yourself, you know, what you want to do or where you want to be, but rather understanding the things that you feel throughout a day. Most days go unnoticed and undocumented in our lives. I don't count social media in the documentation because that's really kind of our social media persona, but rather the unfettered access to our emotional side to really understand yourself. It's important to understand your own emotional patterns and your ways of reacting to the world. Take some time to jot down your emotions, write down your favorite parts of the day, for example, write down how you feel even on a physical level. I don't have a degree in psychology. I don't understand everything when it comes to self-exploration, when it comes to understanding your own feelings and thoughts, but I do believe that it's important that you start to learn more about yourself because really you're working on yourself, your entire career, and investing in knowledge about yourself is always going to pay you back. A last part of investing in yourself and learning about yourself as a priority is considering participating in some kind of meditation or mindfulness practice. A lot of people are talking about this stuff and the thing is I don't want this to be considered the magic bullet and I don't think that everybody has to do it the same way. Some forms, in fact, a lot of forms of mindfulness and meditation are agnostic of any particular belief system. It's more of a exercise, a mind exercise. Take some time to be quiet and think about nothing. Now, once again, just like I'm not an expert on psychology, I'm also not an expert on meditation. You can go and Google about this stuff and learn a lot about it. Remember, this is not the only solution to learning about yourself. Certainly one that is worth trying. I'm not going to teach you how to meditate though. Some people feel the same way about meditation as they do about exercise or yard work. So certainly take some time to explore those options, those kinds of things that give you some time to focus on very little. In other words, little cognitive overload. What I want for you to do is practice the concept of mindfulness, being aware of your own self and your place in the world, the feelings and the thoughts you are experiencing and taking note of those things, taking note of the patterns that you experience in your life. Now, this won't necessarily make you a better coder tomorrow. That's not the point of this exercise. Instead, the point of the exercise is to help you grow as a person. Become more in tune with yourself, learning about yourself, becoming mature and aware of your own intentions and more in control of your own feelings. Again, I want to reiterate that I don't believe that meditation is the silver bullet to mindfulness, but I do believe that investing time in becoming self-aware, learning about yourself, that that is time well spent. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode of Developer Tea. A quick recap of the three things that every aspiring developer should be doing today. Number one, eliminate the bottom 20. Eliminate the bottom 20. Number two, make one single value statement for the next six months, and then make it visible to you every single day. And number three, make a learning about yourself, a priority. Thank you so much for listening. I hope you enjoyed today's episode, and I hope you took notes and that you'll actually go and try these things out. If you have other ideas for things that every aspiring developer should be doing, please share them with me on Twitter. You can find me at at Developer Tea. You can also send them to me in an email, Developer Tea at gmail.com. If you're enjoying Developer Tea, make sure you subscribe to the show. It's the best way to make sure you don't miss out on future episodes of Developer Tea. Thank you so much for listening, and until next time, enjoy your tea.