« All Episodes

"Mindful Distractions" - Focus Week Listener Question

Published 11/17/2017

In today's episode, we continue Focus Week by answering a listener question about participating in mindful distractions.

Today's episode is brought to you by Linode.

Linode provides superfast SSD based Linux servers in the cloud starting at $5 a month. Linode is offering Developer Tea listeners $20 worth of credit if you use the code DEVELOPERTEA2017 at checkout. Head over to spec.fm/linode to learn more about what Linode has to offer to Developer Tea listeners!

Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
Have you ever heard this term utilization rate? This is a term that was used probably beginning in the industrial revolution, but it's a percentage and number that basically represents how much time a machine is sitting basically doing nothing. The utilization rate of a machine, if it's high, then that's a good thing. We can consider that utilization rate of 90% or something like that, that the machine is actually being used and it's actually getting the person using the machine, the operator, is getting the most out of that machine as possible. Of course, the utilization rate is going to be somewhat correlated with how long that machine will last. An unfortunate side effect of this concept of utilization rate is that we've carried it over to humans. That's what we're going to talk about in today's episode. My name is Jonathan Cutrell. You're listening to Developer Tea and my goal on this show is to help driven developers become better at the work that they're doing on a day-to-day basis. I do this because those people can then turn around and have a positive impact on the people they have influenced over. That's the goal. The goal is to connect with you to help you find your underlying career purpose. The thing that you care about, the thing that you can do that provides a significant amount of value. The thing that the market is willing to recognize you for, but beyond just providing monetary exchange value, that it's also providing you with a sense of fulfillment and it is improving humanity. It has a positive impact on humanity. The quality of the work you do every day, that's going to impact your ability to garner that influence, to capitalize on that influence. That influence may start out being over only you. In other words, you may not have a huge reach. You may not be influencing a lot of people. That's okay. Even if you're only influencing yourself, which at the very minimum you are influencing at least yourself, that is enough for you to actually care about this work. That's the point of this show. I'm saying it over and over again so that the people who are listening to Developer Tea, you will understand what this show is meant to do and you'll connect to that and adopt that goal for yourself. That's the whole idea of this show. Today we're talking about focus. This is focus week. It's the end of focus week. I want to read a question from a listener that speaks to this idea of focus. Listener Samyula writes in and says, I hope you're doing well. I'm Samyula from Peshawar, Pakistan. I am a front end developer. I usually listen to your podcast on my commute. It's 9.12 am here and I'm listening to your episode, the most important part of my day, part one, in route to the office. I really enjoyed this particular episode because it comes with a challenge. But there's something more I have realized after listening. I've had the feeling that time left or days even months passed without doing anything valuable. Even when I read a self-help books, but your episode perfectly labeled it as mindless time. I have one question though. I have kind of a funny question. Sometimes I go out of my schedule and watch a TV series or a movie. How can I intentionally engage in such activities? Sometimes Samyula. Thank you for writing in. Other people have probably felt this pressure. This sense that doing something that is purely a leisure that doesn't really have any direct utilization rate value, that that is somehow mindless. And I'm first going to tell you that it's not mindless and that Samyula, the way that you can do this mindfully, is quite simply by doing it on purpose, plan for it or be in that moment. Actually, enjoy the TV that you're watching. Don't spend your time watching something that you don't really care about, for example. Don't allow yourself an endless amount of time to just binge on a show that you're not really paying attention to. Be present in the moment. Notice the details about the show. Have conversations with someone about the details of the show. Engage your mind is kind of the idea here. Now, I do want to point out a very simple factor that a lot of people, unfortunately, they've been somehow poisoned maybe by the culture of overworking and the culture of turning our brains into machines. Your brain is not a machine and I'm going to back this up with science in just a second. But your brain is not a machine. So you can't really measure your work with the utilization rate. Huge companies, they try to do this so that they can control their losses and their investments. This is important for them to be able to do that because it's really hard to understand everybody's unique circumstances. It's hard to understand unique skill sets and the value that somebody's going to provide without having some unified way of looking at it. For example, unifying everyone by a clock. Your utilization rate might be how many hours out of your 40 paid hours did you actually produce something? This is billable work, for example. This is important for companies because it's extremely difficult to measure everyone in an individual way, especially at scale. So I don't want to demonize this practice of a company trying to create a metaphorical way of looking at your utilization rate. You do have to justify a transaction. The company makes a transaction with you by paying you a salary or by paying you per hour. It would be unreasonable for them to pay you for something that you're not doing or to pay you more than the value that you're providing back to the company. There's a lot of ways to measure this and we're going to get into the new ones, details here. But I just want to make the very explicit point that I'm not demonizing the practice of tracking time and I'm certainly not demonizing the practice of a company evaluating someone's value delivery to that company in a way that is not specific to the person but rather is unified across the workforce. What I am saying is, Samuel, for you and for your personal convictions and the way that you plan your day and the way that other people who are listening to this show, the way you should plan your day, recognize that mindfulness and work productivity value are not coincidental. Let me say that again. Mindfulness and working productivity are not coincidental. That means that your work productivity does not necessarily equate to mindfulness. Therefore when you're not working, that doesn't mean that you're not being mindful. In fact, some activities require you to stop working in order to be mindful during those activities. A perfect example of this is exercising. While I'm a huge proponent of listening to audiobooks and listening to podcasts while I exercise, because I can allow my brain to engage this information because the workout that I'm doing may not necessarily require a lot of brain power to process the movements or whatever. I do recommend taking the time every once in a while, at least, to be 100% mindfully present, meaning not engaging your mind on any other activity, but the thing that you are physically doing, putting your mind into the physical space that you're acting in. As I said, I'm going to back this up with a little bit of science here in just a moment. We're going to talk about today's sponsor real quick. Today's episode is sponsored by Linode. This whole focus week has been sponsored by Linode. I'm extremely grateful for Linode's sponsorship. You can know that Linode is helping developers simply because they're sponsoring this show, but they also have a dedication to customer service. They have 24-7 customer service. They don't have to do that. Not every service provider provides this, but Linode provides this because they care about your success. Your success equates to their success, they provide you a service. If you can use that service effectively, then you're going to keep going back to them. This is basic economics. You have multiple choices. Linode knows that if they provide you with value and they treat you well, that you're going to keep coming back to them. I believe that Linode is going to do that for the people who listen to this show. That's why I have them coming back all the time. They are supporting the show. I'm supporting them because I believe developers who have $5 a month to spend, there may be no better way to spend it than on a Linode service. Go and check it out. Linode provides a gigabyte of RAM for $5 a month. This is the best deal on the market, but it gets even better as you increase the RAM. The high RAM plans, for example, you can get a 16 gigabyte server that's their bottom tier of their high level plan, 16 gigabyte server for $60 a month. That's incredibly affordable. Go and check it out, spec.fm slash Linode, and you can get $20 worth of credit by using the code Developer Tea 2017 at checkout. $20 worth of credit goes a long way on Linode. They're not just throwing a useless coupon your way. They are actually providing you some value there. You can use that on any of the plans and services that Linode provides. Go and check it out. Thank you again to Linode for sponsoring today's episode of Developer Tea. The human brain doesn't act like a machine. It doesn't some ways, so we shouldn't throw the baby out with the bath water here. The human brain doesn't act like a machine in the sense that it doesn't have one thing that it does. A machine does one thing very well. It does it repetitively. It's relatively dumb. The human brain does a lot of things. It's a very broadly intelligent machine, if you want to call it that. A broadly intelligent computational engine that really can adapt to multiple environments, adapt to multiple tasks, and understand things and the way that they're connected. The other reality about a brain is that it's created out of biological matter. This means that your brain is living. It has a need to survive. A machine doesn't really have a need to survive. A machine doesn't have the urge to be lazy. A machine doesn't have the need to sleep, for example. Your brain does. This doesn't exist as some inborn evil. It's not something that is a bug in your machine makeup. It's not a problem, it is a reality of the nature of the brain. The first thing you need to do and simul it to your question is recognize that you are more than just the output. You are more than just the process of working. You also create connections in your brain. You also have a multi-dimensional experience in your life. This is not intended to be a hypothetical and it's not intended to be a metaphysical discussion, but rather, quite simply, your brain is making those physical connections when you're resting, for example. If you don't get enough sleep, then you can't process things that you learned that day. This is incredibly important for students because if you can't process the information that you learned the day before, and that's what happens when you're sleeping, if you can't process that information, then it doesn't matter how intentional you were in class. It doesn't matter how long you studied. All of that is going to be degraded by the fact that you didn't take the time to sleep. Our intuition or maybe our culture tells us that this time that we're using not working is that 0% utilization rate. But I want to challenge this idea and I want you to set up in your mind a different way of thinking about your brain in a different way of thinking about your body even. There are multiple dimensions, multiple ways that you need to be engaging your life and work is not the only factor. Here's the interesting thing. As it turns out, these are not separate buckets. You don't have a work brain, a movie brain, a sleep brain, an exercise brain. All of those things are the same thing. It stands to reason that your activities outside of work, your activities aside from coding, your activities when you're resting or when you are participating in a hobby or when you're exercising, those activities all have overlap in how they affect your brain. It's important what you do in your off time. Samula, to your point in order to engage something mindfully, first of all, you have to accept that it's possible. This is the underlying reality that anything can be done mindfully, eating, sleeping, walking, anything that you can imagine doing can be done mindfully, even simply being alive. The practice of meditation, for example, has you focusing on breathing very often as a fundamental awareness exercise. When you're watching a movie or when you're sleeping or exercising or when you're commuting to work, all of these activities have the opportunity for mindfulness. The question is, how are you thinking about them? How are you framing them? How are you engaging them? Are you actually doing it on purpose or are you doing it accidentally? I want you, Samula, and I want everyone who listens to this show to eliminate this sense of guilt or this sense of urgency to get back to work as if when you're off of work, there's a big switch that you flipped to the off position. Your life has lived both at work and not at work. Stop thinking about this utilization rate and instead focus on that mindfulness reality and focus on the fact that it's very possible that a positive experience at the movies for you, Samula, may translate into a better working day tomorrow. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode of Developer Tea. Thank you, Samula, for sending in your question from Pakistan. I appreciate every person who engages with this show at that level. So if you have a question that you'd like to ask, you can always send me questions at Developer Tea at gmail.com and check it every day and I read every single email that comes into that inbox. I want to remind you about the Beyond Boot Camp Interview Week prep guide. This is a book that I've written for developers who are preparing for an interview. I'll spoil their alert. It's a non-technical book and that means that you're not going to get whiteboarding coding sessions in this book. That's not what it's about. Instead, this book is intended to provide you with ways of thinking about your purpose, ways of thinking about your strengths and connecting those to the companies that you are applying to work at that you're interviewing with. So I highly recommend especially if you're preparing for an interview that you go and check this thing out. It gives you a week of content to engage on a daily basis, a week worth of exercises that you can engage that are going to prepare you and make you feel more confident for your interview. Go and check it out beyond bootcamp.io. You can download that free book there. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode. Thank you to Linode for sponsoring today's episode. Remember, you get $20 worth of credit by going to spec out a FIM slash Linode and using the code Developer Tea 2017. Check out. See you in for listening and until next time, enjoy your tea.