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Three Tips For Practicing Focus

Published 1/4/2016

In today’s episode, we talk about focus, once again! Focus is a topic that can’t be covered enough.

Today's episode is sponsored by Hired! Go to Hired.com/developertea to start your job path today!

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Today's episode is sponsored by https://hired.com/developertea! If you are a developer or a designer looking for a job, Hired is a fantastic place to begin your journey! The special link for a doubled bonus (from $2,000 to $4,000) is https://hired.com/developertea.

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Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
Hey everyone and welcome to Developer Tea my name is Jonathan Cutrell and in today's episode we're going to be talking about three practical ways to practice focus during work. I want to thank today's sponsor hire.com. If you are a developer or a designer and you're looking for a job and you don't know where to start maybe you don't know of any companies in your area that are looking to hire a developer in your position go and check out hire.com we'll talk more about what hired has to offer to developer to listeners later on in today's episode. We're coming up on a year of Developer Teaone of the very first episodes that I did for Developer Tea was about focus it's still relevant today and hopefully most of the stuff that we talk about on the show stays relevant for a a long period of time hopefully indefinitely because you know things like focus they're never going to go out of style not like a you know a hot new language or something like that focus is a fundamental concept a fundamental need in this industry and really in any industry and when we say focus really what we're talking about is the ability to stay in a single mindset to stay on a single task or perhaps a single set of tasks long enough to see it through to be completed now the the reason why focus is so important is because when you don't stay in that single mindset you end up incurring a cost every time you switch your context every time you switch to a new task or to a new thought for example and so a lot of research has been done on this I'm not going to include it in the show notes because you can Google it and see a ton of articles around this idea that when you are interrupted or when your focus is disrupted you lose a lot of time because we aren't we aren't like computers we can't immediately switch to tasks to other tasks with little to no overhead we actually it takes some time as humans it takes some time to shift your brain into a new way of thinking but it's not just the big stuff it's not just the big interruptions that matter even the small stuff matters as well so in today's episode we're going to talk about ways that you can practice focus because just like any other skill focus takes practice it takes time and effort and practice you can't just tell yourself one day that you're going to start focusing better today that's not how it works your brain actually has to go through a process of change if you're not used to focusing for longer than say five to ten minutes so these are some practical tips some things that you can do each and every day at work that will hopefully help your focus they'll hopefully either create an environment where focus is more possible or they're they will help bolster your mental ability to focus so I want to jump straight in we'll talk about one of these tips then we'll talk about our sponsor hire calm and we'll finish up with the last two tips the first one is kind of a rehash of what we've already talked about in the past and that is to reduce the inbound flow of communications this is to your inbox to your phone to anything that you have around you even your physical inbound flow of communications and there's many ways to do this you can turn off your your push notifications on all of your devices you can put in headphones for example to reduce the inbound flow of communications around you quite literally you that also helps block out distractions obviously hopefully you know these kinds of things that if you put in headphones then you don't hear people you know leaving the room or you don't hear other conversations around you there have been some studies to show that if you hear talking in the background your brain is trying to process those verbal signals even though you aren't necessarily consciously trying to do that so putting in headphones and that helps reduce the inbound flow of communications but all of this centers around this idea that you need to understand to really understand why you should do this that is the most important thing you need to know is that interruptions in focus are incredibly costly that's there really only two ways you can go about responding to the problem number one you can you can cut the number of distractions that you experience in other words you can turn down the volume on all of those distractions by putting in headphones turning off those those alerts or number two you can practice ignoring those distractions unfortunately a lot of the distractions that we have though they come through the same channels as the things that we don't want to consider distractions or unimportant for example email for many people is incredibly important that people around you your co-workers your family those people are important and if you aren't careful you'll start treating the things that are important the same way you treat the daily newsletter that you never read you always market as read in your inbox you don't want to do that to an email from your boss or you don't want to do that to a family member who's trying to talk to you you don't want to dismiss them without giving them the time of day because those are the things that are important those are the things that should have your attention at the right times so I recommend you cut the number of emails that are sent to your inbox recurrently to as close to zero as possible the emails that end up in your inbox each and every one of those if you're doing email right each one of those should be worth your time that means stop having those alerts from get hub sent to you every time somebody comments on some project that you weren't even watching anymore stop having all of your slack messages sent to you an email and all of your Twitter DMs sent to you in email a lot of that stuff you don't even end up reading and a lot of it is not really necessary to be in your email inbox and a lot of it just serves as distraction so cut those things out an easy way of doing this by the way is to use this product called unrolled up me they are in no way affiliated with the show they haven't sponsored us at all I've just used this product a few times works very well unrolled up me of course that'll be in the show notes another way is to only allow notifications to come to your phone if it is an emergency if the notification for example is coming from your server if you use an app like push over for example you can get a notification from your server if you're experiencing a high number of 500 errors or something like that on your server so what you want to do is reduce this inflow of communications that way the things that are important can stay important because those channels are going to stay there regardless you're going to be using email for the foreseeable future and you want to be able to pay attention to the ones that matter you want to be able to pay attention to the people that matter so when you are spending time with people and when you are reading your inbox treat them as important and the only way to treat your inbox as important and the time that you spend with people as important is to remove the stuff remove the emails that are coming in that aren't important remove the distractions from your physical world that aren't important now I want to take a quick minute to talk about today's sponsor hired dot com on hired software engineers and designers can get five or more interview requests in a single week each offer has salary and equity upfront they have full time and contract opportunities on hired as a user you can view these interview requests before you ever even talk to the company they work with 3000 companies by the way from startups to large public companies that have been around for a long time in 13 major tech hubs in North America and Europe so if you are in North America and you want to move to Europe or vice versa then this is this is a way of finding a job in a place where you've never even been before if you get a job through hired by the way they give a two thousand dollar thank you bonus automatically that's just something that hired does for developers who get a job through their system but if you use the special link that hired has given to developer to listeners which is hired dot com slash Developer Teaif you use that special link that bonus goes to four thousand dollars that's a doubled bonus when you accept a job through hired dot com so go and check it out hired dot com slash Developer Tea and of course that link will be included in the show notes at spec dot fm thank you again to hired for sponsoring today's episode so let's jump straight back into talking about focus by the way you might notice that my voice is a little bit scratchy unfortunately I've been sick for a few days but the show must go on I have to keep on doing the show for you guys this show airs three times per week and I was lucky enough that last year I think I may have gotten sick only once in this year luckily my voice was gone for a few days I got a little bit nervous but it's back enough for me to record today's episode for you so forgive the slightly nasally sound of today's episode let's jump straight back into talking about focus the first point was to reduce the inbound flow of communications to every channel that you listen to whether that's your inbox your phone even your TV or your your mailbox at home your physical mailbox reduce the amount of communications reduce the amount of distractions that come in through those those various channels a number two the second tip that I have for you today is to turn off your mouse while you are coding turn off your mouse while you are coding now this may seem a little bit antithetical it may seem a little bit weird that turning something off is going to help you be more functional and and it really it's it does seem that way when you think about it it seems like you need to have all of the available tools in front of you I actually took this idea from a few people and a few different articles and it's an idea that I personally have experimented with in the past year using them using an editor that allows you to stay near your keyboard or purely on your keyboard the entire day this does require that you have a workflow that allows you to run tests for example or switch between applications if you are doing if you're a web developer you'll probably switch to your browser every once in a while so this requires that you work on that workflow that you develop that workflow and that you have the proper the proper macros the shortcuts in your mind and under your fingers you will be surprised at how this will impact your productivity have a good understanding of these key bindings and having a good understanding of the shortcuts should really be a major part of your job as a developer this year for example if you save just 50 keystrokes per hour for every working day that's 140,000 keystrokes this year 140 keystrokes is approximately 27,000 words if you use that 5.1 letters per word average in the English language of course you can't equate that necessarily to writing but even if we're just talking about words per minute that's about 540 minutes saved over the course of a year so turning off your mouse will encourage you to create shortcuts I would encourage you to invest some time over a weekend or maybe after work one day to get your environment on your computer to where anything you do multiple times per day is a streamlined as much as possible and relies primarily on keyboard shortcuts there's a lot of reasons why you are going to be faster on a keyboard than you will be with a mouse perhaps the most important one though is that you can be much more precise with your keyboard than you can be with a mouse not to mention the fact that a mouse requires a position on the screen to function properly and to perform a particular function with a keyboard you have so many options key bindings and shortcuts provide such power and they don't require you to be in a particular position that is the fundamental concept of a mouse you're pointing and clicking and the mouse really only has a few functions that it can perform in a given action the way that those functions are mapped are literally in space on your screen whereas functions being mapped in space on a keyboard are much faster to accomplish and so you're you're going to be much more dexterous when you're using a keyboard versus when you are using a mouse to perform various functions a natural part of this move will likely be that you will learn some things about the command line if you are a developer then you probably will end up learning more about the command line if you stick to using your keyboard for most of the day so tip number two once again is to turn off your mouse while you are coding and in fact you can probably turn off your mouse for a large portion of the day not just while you are coding this also by the way it's going to be important that you know your system level shortcuts first this is going to be the most important piece to making all of these things fit together the glue so to speak to make all the stuff fit together I use a tool on Mac called Alfred finder actually in the most recent versions of Mac OS finder has a similar trigger where it brings up kind of that omnibox in the middle of the screen of course I'll include links to these things in the show notes but this is a very powerful function on Mac OS there are similarly powerful features in other OS's but I haven't worked with them so I'm not going to speak to them probably people online can tell you what they are better than I can so the idea here is to start doing things faster than you would with a mouse start learning the things that you need to learn with a keyboard to perform actions that otherwise would take significantly longer with them else my final tip is kind of a different one and this is more of an experiment that I want you all to try with me this year it's not specifically related to any kind of research it's actually just something that I am trying out and that I think is really effective for me and that is called post lunch de-stressing and this is a very simple thing that I'm trying out this year post lunch de-stressing all it is is thinking about one thing that is stressing you out right after lunch learn to evaluate how you're feeling your mental energy evaluate it right after lunch now you shouldn't spend your morning working on this thing that is stressing you out because things that stress you out typically are reactive work in the morning you should do proactive work proactive work being things like moving features forward for example but in the afternoon I found that doing one or two things that reduce my stress level to a significant degree is very helpful for my mental clarity so example of this might include getting to inbox zero this is hugely important to me now responding to a coworker or client email or finalizing a schedule a lot of times these things kind of hang over our heads and we don't even realize that they're hanging over our heads until we have finished them another one is cleaning off your desk or taking out the trash from near your workspace something in the physical realm around you to help declutter the space around you and another one may be paying a bill or sending a few invoices I know one for me is going to be going and renewing the registration on my car so these are things that may or may not have anything directly to do with your work and if you plan to do them right after lunch that allows you to use part of your lunch break if it isn't necessarily directly related to your work these kinds of things may only take a few minutes but the relief will help clarify the remainder of your day and the start for your tomorrow and note that it may be a bit difficult to identify what is the most stressful item on your mind scientifically though clutter creates stress even when it isn't visible so decluttering is a good place to start whether that is physical decluttering like decluttering your desk or perhaps you know even a closet at home taking some time running home and taking out the trash at your house smaller tasks can act as a mental clutter and knocking them out or deciding to ignore them may make all the difference in the world to your stress levels not only today but also in the days that follow so try to de-stress yourself find the thing that is stressing you out the most I do this exercise with my wife very often when we're at home on a weekend and we don't have necessarily anything that we've planned to do I ask her what is stressing her out the most whether that's a cleaning project or perhaps it's something that she needed to do that was left over from work the previous week and then we find ourselves once we finish that particular thing we find ourselves more able to relax and more at peace so I'd love for you to try out this post lunch de-stressing with me here at the beginning of the year in 2016 so to review our first a first tip was to reduce the inbound flow of communications to your inbox your phone and also to the physical space around you a number two was to turn off your mouse try turning off your mouse while you are working and the final one is post lunch de-stressing figuring out what is stressing you out the most right after lunch and trying to eliminate that thing especially if it's a small task or a few small tasks that you can do in just a few minutes thank you so much for listening to today's episode of Developer TeaI hope you've enjoyed this discussion on focus and these practical tips these things that you can try out to help increase your focus levels we'll be talking about focus we'll be talking about learning all of the themes that we had last year we'll carry forward into this year with Developer TeaI appreciate you listening thank you so much again to hire.com for sponsoring today's episode make sure you check out the show notes to find the hire.com link for doubling that bonus a two thousand dollar signing bonus to four thousand dollars when you get a job through hired if you're a designer or developer I highly recommend you check it out hire.com slash Developer Tea and of course the show notes for this episode and every other episode of Developer Teacan be found at spec.fm if you are enjoying the show I would appreciate if you would leave a review for Developer Teaon iTunes this is the best way to help other developers just like you find Developer Tea and for those of you who want to give back to the show this is actually the biggest way that you can give back to the show is to go and leave a review on iTunes thank you so much for listening to Developer Teaake sure you subscribe to the show and whatever podcasting app you use so that you don't miss out on any future episodes of Developer Tea and until next time enjoy your tea