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Weekly Inspiration - Happiness and Doing Our Best Work: 3 Practical Steps to Getting The Right Things Done and Finding Focus State Faster

Published 4/24/2015

In today's inspiration episode, I discuss the importance of removing barriers between you and your most important work, and why that is such an important thing to do. I then discuss 3 practical steps you can try that have helped me get to my focus state, and get more meaningful work done every day.

Today's episode is sponsored by DigitalOcean. Go to https://digitalocean.com to get started, and use the promo code "DeveloperTea" on the billing page after you create your account to get a $10 credit!

Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
Hey everyone and welcome to Developer Tea. My name is Jonathan Cutrell and today I'd like to talk to you about doing your best work. This is an inspiration episode for this week and I was inspired by a quote by a guy named Theodore Isaac Rubin. Theodore Isaac Rubin is 92 years old. He was actually born on my wife's birthday back in 1923 and he's an American psychiatrist, he's an author, he's a past president of the American Institute for psychoanalysis and you can get all of this information on google.com just like I did. But his quote is really really good so here's the quote. Happiness does not come from doing easy work but from the afterglow of satisfaction that comes after the achievement of a difficult task that demanded our best. Theodore is saying that our best work is what makes us happy. There's another quote that's similar to this one from Benjamin Franklin who said it is the working man who is the happy man. It is the idle man who is the miserable man. And even Henry Ford said that there's joy in work. There is no happiness except in the realization that we have accomplished something. And you know this to be true if you've ever had the experience of accomplishing something that took a lot of your mental energy and a lot of your talent and your skills. That is an ultimate feeling of happiness at the end of a work day where you've put in a lot of hours and haven't really done anything significant haven't really accomplished anything. That feels awful. It's the worst kind of work day at least for me and very likely for you as well. So how can we do our best work? Well there's so many answers to that question. I'm going to give you just a few answers. I'm going to take a quick sponsor break. And then I'm going to give you just a few answers. Certainly not all of the answers. There are entire books written about how to do your best work. But I think I have some interesting insights into this that you will appreciate. I'm going to take a quick sponsor break and we'll be right back. Today's episode of Developer Tea is sponsored by Digital Ocean. Digital Ocean is simple cloud hosting built for developers. They're dedicated offering the most intuitive and easy way to spin up a cloud server. And in just 55 seconds you can deploy a solid state drive cloud server. Plan start at only $5 per month for 512 megabytes of RAM, a 20 gigabyte solid state drive, one CPU and a full terabyte of transfer. In addition to offering simple and affordable SSD cloud hosting, Digital Ocean is dedicated to building out a strong community and supports open source software. They offer a vast collection of hosting tutorials and invite Developer To submit articles and they pay $50 per published piece. Deploy your SSD cloud server with Digital Ocean a day by going to digital ocean.com. Now Digital Ocean has been kind enough to provide Developer Tealisteners a discount of $10 when you use the code Developer Tea. So go to digital ocean.com and use the code Developer Teato get $10 off today and you'll get up and running with your own SSD cloud server in just 55 seconds. That's digital ocean.com. So we started the episode with a few quotes about the importance of doing our best work and how that is actually what makes us happy in life. And that's true whether you're a developer or anything else. But how do we do our best work? Well, as I said before the sponsor break, the answer to that question is most definitely not going to fit in a single inspiration episode of Developer Teabecause there are entire books written on that subject. But I do want to give you a little bit of advice that you might be able to try in your own life and see if it helps you do your best work on a day to day basis. I know it has helped me. So all of these recommendations center around a simple idea. And that idea is very simple. We must clear the path to our focus state. We must clear a path to our focus state. So what do I mean when I say clear a path to our focus state? Quite simply, I mean remove all the barriers between you and being able to focus. So there's three really simple steps that I take as often as I can to try to get me to focus as early in the day as possible to get as much done that is most necessary for that day. Which to me is is the things that are most important to accomplish the hardest things that take my skill rather than just my time or just my energy. In other words, these are the things that I do to remove the busy work between me and my focus state on the work that matters more than the busy work. Now, that's not to say that busy work is inconsequential, but rather that you will be the most valuable when you are doing the things that only you are able to do. Okay, so number one, take five minutes every night to determine two or three of the most important things you have to get done the next day. And then prioritize those and that is your absolute focus list for the following day. That's it. It's so simple. Take five minutes, five minutes, everybody has five minutes. You can even do this while you're laying in bed, write it out in a digital format on your phone if that's if that works for you or you can write it out on a piece of paper. You don't even have to keep it recorded because you can remember two to three things. Usually most of us can remember two to three things, but go ahead and determine what those are and then put them in order of priority. And immediately the following day, you don't have to take the time to try to figure out what is the most important things for your day. You've already done that in the five minutes the night before. And so you won't be going through this process every time you sit down to work or every time you walk away from your desk to get a glass of water and you come back and you think what should I do. That has already been solved for you so that barrier of trying to make a decision about what to do that can be completely removed and now you can focus on actually doing rather than deciding what to do. Number two, remove all busy work and decision making tasks from your morning so that getting started on your focus tasks is immediate. Now this is very similar to number one in a lot of ways, but this includes the simple decisions like for example what you're going to wear for the day. And these kinds of things help you make it to your focus state more quickly, even if it's just two or three or five or 10 minutes worth of energy, that is extra productivity. That is extra energy that you can put into the things that matter the most. So take out those decision making tasks and all of that other busy work from your morning, if you have busy work to do like for example, we all have to check our emails at some point during the day unless you work at some crazy job that will allow you to check it like once a day. That would be ideal, but most of us have to check our emails at some point during the day wait as long as you can and get as much as you can done before you check your emails start immediately whether you wake up early in the morning or not the very first thing you do during the day make it one of those focus tasks and I can guarantee you that you're going to get more done during the day than you did when you waited later in the day to do your focus tasks. Okay, so number three don't shift tasks until you have truly reached a state of completion or a real stopping point. This one is a really hard one for me because I have a book sitting on my desk that I really want to read and then I'm a subscriber to upcase and Ruby Topaz and I want to watch videos and learn things and then I'll see a tweet. And I think I have to respond to that tweet or maybe read an article that's connected to that tweet and also I have my focus list in front of me and so I try to do all of these different things in parallel and when I do that I get nothing done I get nothing actually completely done. So if I were to focus on one thing at a time instead of trying to do eight things at a time then it's much more likely that not only am I going to get something done but I'm going to be able to get the thing that is most important done remember I've made a contract with myself the night before to determine what the most important things are and once I've decided what the most important things are that I realize I'm more aware of the other things that distract me. From focusing on the most important things so that very first step sets you up for success for the other steps getting an idea if you if you walk away from this episode and only implement one of these make it the first one the five minutes the night before is the most important thing you can do for yourself because it gives you a mental anchor to remember that you have three very important things to do today and I'm going to be able to do that. So I'm going to be able to do that today and when you decide what those priority items are and when you say to yourself that those are the three things that you've decided to do today. Those are the three things that no matter what else gets done whether you read a chapter in your book or not whether you watch a tutorial or write a blog post whatever it is those three things are the most important things that you have to do today. That is how you do your best work because it gives you a sense of meaning and purpose when you sit down to do your work or stand up to do your work if you have a standing desk like I do. Thank you so much for listening to Developer Tea. I hope you enjoyed this episode and I hope that it enhances the quality of your day and of your work. If you are enjoying Developer Tea, please consider leaving a review and iTunes. The reason this is so important is because it helps other developers just like you find the show and when other developers find the show, it helps me keep on making the show. It's pretty simple, right? You help other developers and you help me by leaving a review and iTunes, especially if you are enjoying the show. Thank you so much for listening to Developer Tea and until next time, enjoy your tea.