I read the book "Deep Work" by Cal Newport about five years ago now and it completely changed how I think about my work habits. The book promotes intense periods of distraction-free focus to maximize creative output while freeing up more time to relax or pursue other activities. It really shows how important it is to set up time blocks on the calendar and block out distractions for high quality work and also a high quality life. The author, Cal Newport, also works in the field of computer science as a professor so many of his examples and experiences were extremely relatable to me.
It seems like our world is becoming a more and more distracting place all the time. Recently, there was the movement to work in open offices for the opportunity of constant real-time collaboration (and constant real-time distractions). Then there is the addictive nature of social media platforms and other apps with all their notifications vying for our limited attention seemingly ever moment of every day. It's overwhelming!
These are the things I do now to implement the principles of deep work in my own life as a software developer:
- Schedule distractions like checking emails so I only do them in a certain time block.
- I also schedule distraction free times that I call focus blocks. Just 2-4 hour periods of time where I turn off or remove all distractions. This has honestly been a little difficult lately with my work schedule while settling into a new job, but I have been able to find time with some schedule adjustments.
- I keep a distraction journal next to me when I work to write down any distracting thoughts I have so I can process them later.
- As the author of the book recommends, I sometimes take "deep thought walks" to just focus on solving one problem or brainstorming about one idea. This helps me get out of my office area and I am often able to think of creative ways to solve problems or new ideas during these times. I always have a voice recorder or my watch ready to record audio notes if I need to.
- I track the number of deep work hours that I get in a week and try to improve. If I got 12 hours one week, I might try to get 13-14 the next week.
Sometimes, it can still be hard to stay focused, even with all my systems and the best intentions. I like to use the 80% rule as goal for myself where I shoot to make at least 80% of all my scheduled deep work hours each week. Then if I mess up sometimes, I can forgive myself ❤️
What books have helped you as a software developer? Let me know over in my Discord server: https://discord.gg/KV4tKkMSky
I always love to read and discuss books.
Have a great week everyone!