I've been a developer for many years, and for over two years I’ve been working at Visuality. For us, developers, productivity, which usually depends on focusing, is one of the key values. I wanted to improve my focus skills to become more efficient during the working hours. 2 years ago I've started to analyze my ability to keep focus and this is what I’ve learned.
In the beginning I wanted to see what distracts me while I'm coding: news, social media, watching some short videos, going to the kitchen for nuts, having some fresh air… I saw that after a couple of minutes of focusing, my brain just wanted to escape from that since it's harder than the other things, which finally leads to losing focus. Then I've thought about the past when I was studying.
At high school we had 40 minutes of lecture and 10 minutes of break. During these breaks, we were doing all the things that actually distract me now (nuts, fresh air, etc.). So I just wanted to try that at home for one of my personal projects. I put my phone on the table, switched stopwatch on, and started coding. I was looking at the stopwatch, and in 10 minutes wanted to stand up for something. Here we go - I caught myself!
So I tried not to stop working until 40 minutes pass. Returned back to coding and during this 40 minutes lap I didn't want to stand up, but I was always checking the timer (just like in high school). 40 minutes are gone, tadaa, the first lap is done, I’m taking a break. I had a strict rule not to do anything related to coding in these 10 minutes break. I went for drinking water, looked out the window, took some fresh air… Then I came back to coding, did another lap and than few more.
For the first time my 6 hours of working (including the breaks) were very productive. Most of the developers will know that it's hard to do such thing for their personal projects. I delivered 4 weekends tasks in a day, and tried it for few more times with my personal projects again, with less laps, and it was all successful.
Doing it at work
After I've gathered the results, I wanted to implement it for the working days as well. I'm using Safari as a main browser, so I've downloaded this (http://dohahn.github.io/stopwatch-safari-extension/) - a great extension that works as a stopwatch. I put on some songs to listen to on my headphones, pressed start on stopwatch, and took the first task at the beginning of monday morning. It was the same as the first time - after 10 minutes I wanted to go to kitchen to grab a coffee, but I managed to stop myself for 30 minutes more and kept coding.
I was preparing my awesome coffee (Visuality has that) at the first break, while I was chatting with my coworkers. Then went back to the table, put another song, pressed Start again, waiting for the next break. At this break I went to the garden, the other one was for nuts, the other one was for another thing… Each time after different activities, I was going back to the table hungry for focusing, with full energy. I applied it many times for couple of months whenever I needed to focus. I'm not doing 40 minutes laps every day for every hour, but whenever it becomes hard for me to focus, I'm using this method – and it really helps me every time
So let's remember why was I doing it. Did I reach my goals? Yes, I did!
• I wanted to have deep focus for challenging tasks which require to think about edge cases, compatibility and ease for future implementation
• I wanted to work without being distracted, be efficient for the days when its hard to work, or when the task doesn't seem easy to start
• I wanted to complete as much as I can when there are couple of small tasks
Applying this technique helped me with accomplishing my goals. I've also realized that it's also good for health - not to sit all day long. Moreover, when I come back home I definitely have more energy.
In our company we're having discussions about many different topics, and once my co-worker mentioned that he's using Pomodoro Technique with Tomato Timer as well as many other techniques and tools to manage his life. Soon he's going to have a Lighting Talk, I can't wait to listen to him.
At Visuality we aim at highest quality of performance. Projects are getting more challenging and your pure talent and skills are sometimes not enough. This is why we try to work together on every-day efficiency. Besides, it’s great to see other people struggling with similar problems because we can help each other.
In my opinion it's good to have a technique to motivate yourself, maybe even a small set of rules - not trying random things. And I think it's not only about developers, it can be applied to any type of work when you need productivity, focus, and efficiency.