We live in the age of distractions and interruptions: the world is moving really fast, everyone is out of patience, we get bombarded with email, the deadlines are piling up, we want to stay updated with news, status updates from Facebook and twitter, your friends are texting you, your calendar is popping up with a meeting reminder and you just remembered that your wife asked you to pick up the laundry on your way from work. Whew! does it ever end? Can we get something done around here?
I’ve got one word for you: FOCUS! Learn to focus on what’s important and you can go back to being in control of your life. I think it’s that easy.
What does focus mean?
You may have heard this before: Focus! What does it mean, after all? Here’s what it means to me:
- choosing to work on what’s important
- minimizing distractions and interruptions
- finishing what we start
In the rest of this blog post I’m going to list a number of tips and techniques that have really worked for me over the years.
However, before I do that, I’m going to let you in on a secret: You’re completely in control!
Let me say that again: You can decide what to work on and how to do the work! not your co-workers, not your email, not your task list and not the reminders on your phone.
I am going to assume that all of us are trying to get better at something. Most of the times this involves going through some form of change: learning to do something new, doing something differently or stopping a bad habit altogether.
There is a lot of literature that covers how people deal with change, so I’m not going to focus on this aspect. Also, I’m not necessarily preoccupied with dealing with external change. That may be the topic of another post.
Suffice to say that most of us resist change (at least initially) and would rather continue to do things as we know and have always done it, instead of experimenting with new ways and getting out of our comfort zone.
That being said, I believe that in order to better deal with change (both imposed from the outside, as well as triggered by our own desire to change), we need to learn how to deal with our emotions and stress levels while managing the change process.
Tobias van Schneider, Spotify’s design lead, talks about the importance of side projects and how to make the most of them.
The core of the idea is to keep them simple and stupid for as long as possible, otherwise you tend to overcomplicate them and nothing gets done.
I use them as a vehicle for learning and starting new things at work and I currently have about 3 going on in parallel (2 based on the Arduino platform, one building on top of Spark).
success also comes in the form of learning new things, meeting the right people, feeling personally fulfilled, he says. You don’t know what will happen next. Perhaps your side project will lead you to your next job, your spouse, or a sustainable living that gives you the freedom to keep exploring.
Why Side Projects Should Be Stupid
If you have a hyper-active brain and you just can’t stop thinking about something, get it out! You’ll find out that as soon as you write it down, the inner voice goes away. Doesn’t matter if it’s a post-it, evernote, trello checklist or your favorite Moleskine agenda. You’ll sleep better and be able to focus more on the task at hand.
About a year and a half ago I decided that I wanted to change course and go back to being an engineer. I knew that I wanted to code, I just didn’t know where to start.
In this post I will go over:
- how I picked functional programming (FP) as something I want to study
- what FP is and why I like it
- go over a handful of examples to give you an idea on how you could use it in your day to day job
In closing, I will try so summarize what I learned about personal development as I went through this process.
How I got started
Right after I decided that I want to give up on management and go back to engineering, I had no idea what I should do next… All I could think of where the things I didn’t like about my job instead of the things I liked :).
My team was (and still is) heavily involved with distributed systems (mainly batch and real-time analytics built on top of the Hadoop stack), but simply joining those projects seemed very intimidating at that moment.
I really wanted to have fun and score a few quick wins, in order to validate if I’m still on the right track…
I didn’t have any experience with enterprise Java and the system and tech stack are both incredibly complex; on top of that I am very motivated by concrete results and enjoy working on more high-level problems — none of which can be found in building and optimizing distributed infrastructure.