Lately, I have been having discussions with my boss about distractions and how to overcome them and the sensory overload that goes along with our new office space. We recently moved into a new building. They are some pretty sweet digs. But we also switched from cubicles to bench seating. You can check out the new look here. One of the coolest things about our new building is that neither the company nor our founder, Stan Richards, took on any debt. In fact, we operate without debt. Pretty cool.
But, I have found that, as a developer, I am very distracted by being able to see all the activity coming off the elevator and into my floor. Even if it isn’t in my direct line of sight, it is still distracting. The white noise created by the air conditioning as well as the constant interruptions by friendly, well-meaning people to ask for updates (I’m looking at you project managers 😉 ) can be overwhelming at times.
I have noise-cancelling headphones. In fact, I consider the pair I own to be extremely good (Bose QC-15s) for what I paid. These help tremendously. I’ve also been working to get away from my desk and work at one of the many nooks hidden away in our building when I need periods of uninterrupted coding time. It is a huge thing in the life of a programmer to be interrupted and have to restart a task. A five second interruption can cause 20-30 minutes worth of lost productivity or more.
But even more than little attention savers, I’ve been focusing on how can I increase my focus on specific tasks in order to accomplish more and gain more satisfaction from this thing that I do to provide for my family? Chris Lema wrote a very thought-provoking article recently about productivity hacks and how we each get the same amount of time each day. I think he is spot on. We have focus where we invest time. We have returns where we invest time. See someone with lots of Twitter followers? They’ve invested time and life there. See someone whose family is in great shape? They’ve invested time into those relationships.
…that if someone was “internet famous” or “huge on Twitter”, it was likely because they had invested their time there.-Chris Lema
So how does all this apply to work and focusing? For one, work is a major part of our lives. We spend a huge amount of time there over the course of our lives. I believe that this is by design. We are meant to work. If this is true, then shouldn’t we do something that makes a difference? I love the questions that these guys pose in this article. Not only that, but shouldn’t we focus each day on a single goal (not necessarily a single task) to accomplish that makes a difference in someones life? I want to be able to tell my kids each day that I made a difference with my life. Not just as a whole (as a whole is just the sum of its parts) but each day. I want to focus on the task at hand. Focus is much easier with this perspective as things that don’t make a difference don’t take precedence. Who’s with me?