In this episode, we're talking about working with distraction and how we can focus better in the new year.
This is the last episode of the 2019 year, and like most people spending time with family and preparing for the upcoming year, we're thinking about goals. In today's episode we're talking about resolutions, planning and focus in the new year.
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I want you to try something very simple. While I'm speaking during this episode, even during this little intro monologue, I want you to take one earphone out if you're listening on earphones and try to recite the Fibonacci sequence or maybe the alphabet backwards. Something that you don't have kind of muscle memory in your head for, but you can still think about and produce the answers kind of systematically. And what you'll find is that you're going to be severely limited in listening to what I'm saying right now and actually retaining what I'm saying while accurately reciting whatever that thing is that you decided to recite. Now doing one or the other, your fluency is very clear. You can listen to what somebody is saying and retain most of it, although even after a certain period of time that starts to fall off, hence why we make this show shorter than the average podcast. And you can also recite something that has a systematic nature to it. You can recite the Fibonacci sequence or do the alphabet backwards. Most people can do this. Not much hesitation without much input, not much processing power, but because we can't really multitask. We've talked about this plenty of times on the show. It's difficult to do more than one thing at a time. And as we approach the end of the year, this concept, the idea of multitasking or perhaps more appropriately working with distraction is something that I want you to focus on moving into the new year and the new decade. My name is Jonathan Cutrell. You're listening to Developer Tea. My goal on this show is to help driven developers like you find clarity, perspective, and purpose in their careers. This is the last episode of the year. We will be re-earing some episodes in the upcoming week, two weeks or so most likely. But like most people, if you are spending the end of the year contemplating what happened this year, spending time with family, perhaps having conversations with people that you don't normally talk to, preparing for the upcoming year, and of course, turning over from the teens to the 20s. This is a new decade. If you're following the same calendar that I'm following, then you're probably thinking to some degree about your goals. And we talk about this every year around this time of year. We refresh our memories on what it means to make a resolution. What exactly is a resolution? How do we create these goals for ourselves? And there's a lot to discuss here. Of course, there's so many different ways to think about goal setting, about tracking those goals, how do you maintain both productivity and motivation over a long stretch of time? How do you build better habits? These are all worthwhile discussions to have. But in today's episode, I want to talk about something very simple. And that is simplification. You see, our minds are not just distracted when we try to do two things at once. Our minds are distracted at a meta level when we have more than one priority in our lives, more than one important thing that's in front of us. So I want to talk today about ways that you can think about simplifying questions that might help you narrow down where you're headed. But first, I want to talk about today's sponsor, Flywheel. Flywheel has created, in my opinion, the best local WordPress development environment. And it's free. This is such a good tool. It's called local. It is a simple, free, beautifully designed local development application that's optimized for WordPress. If you have ever set up your local environment to build WordPress websites, you know that this can be a total pain. Not only is it a total pain, but it's probably likely that your local environment doesn't match up to the remote environment. And this stuff is so simple, but it turns out that all of these simple things, they can just be a headache. And to take that headache away, go and use local. This is by far the best tool, at least for the average WordPress developer. And it's not, you know, old school, it is a modern tool. People love it because it's, of course, completely free, as we've already mentioned. But it's also incredibly simple. You can launch a new WordPress site in a matter of minutes, and it's constantly improving. This isn't something that you install and maintain on your own. This is a product that Flywheel is actively managing. You also can SSH into the box that local is running kind of behind the scenes. You can use things like WPCLI, so you can manage things on the command line. Like I said, this is a modern tool. It gets shareable demo URLs. This allows you to show your site to your clients, your collaborators, or even your friends. You have customizable environments for developers, which helps you configure the way your local site runs. Go and check it out on any platform you use. They have Mac, Windows, and Linux support. Go to localbyflywheel.com. That's localbyflywheel.com. Thank you again to Flywheel for sponsoring today's episode of Developer Tea. I want you to think about the last five days or maybe the last 20 days of work that you've done. You don't even have to limit this to work, perhaps just the last 20 days or last month of your life. I want you to imagine any one single day. Imagine one day that you felt particularly productive. What marked that productivity? Number of things that you got done was the feeling that you were productive or was it perhaps the depth that you went to to be productive? None of these answers are wrong, per se. There's plenty to discuss about the difference between a feeling of productivity and actual productivity. The difference between our sense that things are getting done and our way of measuring whether that's true. But I want to return to our fundamental assertion at the beginning of this episode. That is that it's very difficult to focus on multiple things at once. I want you to take a step back. Take five steps back. I want you to look at the big picture of the next decade. If you could only accomplish one thing in the next decade, what would that thing be? In other words, as you close out this decade, perhaps you look back and you can identify the thing that you really appreciate that you accomplished in the past 10 years. Maybe there's two or three things, but one stands out for most people. If you were to look forward to the next 10 years, imagine that you can fast forward time and you're sitting in the same spot that you are now and you're listening to something, perhaps Developer Tea, or something totally different, and you're reflecting on the 2020s, the next decade. That thing, what one thing that you accomplished in the 2020s was worth your time. Made you feel fulfilled or something that you're happy that you spent your time doing. And if it's hard to come up with this answer, perhaps approach it from the opposite angle. Imagine that you get to the year 2030 and you're looking back at the last 10 years and you have a deep regret. What is that regret centered on? What would you regret deeply over the next 10 years? What's interesting is when you ask these two questions together, they often have different answers. Something that we consider an accomplishment is not something that we would consider a regret if we didn't actually accomplish it. This isn't always true, but the closer you can align these things, the more likely that answer is true. The more likely your projection is accurate. So imagine this at the decade level, the one thing that is most important to you over the course of that 10 years. Now I want you to scale that down and imagine that you're looking at this at the yearly level, but then scale it all the way down and you can look at it at increments as you go down. What is the most important thing that you can do in the next month? Now you might be wondering why do we start at the 10 year at the decade level? And the reason for this is that when you start at that level, a lot of the things that you are typically concerned about in the next month, we seem to become less important. For example, you might be concerned with impressing your current boss in the next 30 days. And while this is a totally valid concern, you want to make sure that you are performing well at your job and that you're doing the things that your boss is asking you to do, for example, when you zoom out, whether you fail at this job or not, doesn't typically have a drastic impact on the next 10 years. Your overall trajectory is so much more important. And so if you start with a frame of 10 years and then you scale down to the month level, then you start to get a perhaps more impactful picture of what is important and truly important over the next month. That will feed into what is important in the next decade. Now I want to end this episode with a series of questions that are intended to not have explicit answers. There's no right answer to these questions. They're intended to help you think about your situation, think about your life, your work, a little bit differently, gain a new perspective, gain a new focus on your life and your work. So we're going to start those questions now. What are three things on your list of things that you expect to do in the next year that are the least important? Think about this for a second. What are three things on your list of things that you are kind of planning to do? You're expecting to do that are the least important. Now, once you have those three things, ask yourself this question. Are there any other things that you could replace on your list that are more important? Is there something that you don't plan to do that could take the place of these three things? And why or why not? If you have three things that are not very important but you have to do them anyway because they're part of your job, then you can ask yourself further questions like, what could I do to make them not a part of my job? What could I do to make these things unnecessary? Next question or a set of questions. What things have you done in the last year or three years or even in the last decade that you believe you should no longer do? What are the things that you've done in those periods of time that you believe you should continue to do? What are the things that you haven't done in those periods of time that you believe you should start doing? This is a framework for thinking about behavioral change. There are things that we are doing that we should continue doing. There are things that we are doing that we should stop doing and then there are things that we are not doing that we should start doing. Of course, then there's also a whole litany of things that we're not doing that we shouldn't start doing and that's actually another interesting category. How will you avoid the things that you're not doing and that you don't want to start doing? Here's why we frame these questions in this episode about simplifying. There are so many parts of our lives that are controlled less by our motivation, less by our instincts and much more by our regular operating system. The things that we do on a regular basis, the behaviors that define us from a macro level. When you're talking about simplifying your life, much of the conversation should center around how you spend your time versus how you want to spend your time. The reason that's important to talk about how you spend your time today is because everything comes with a cost. Your time will not simply expand to make room for the things that you want to do. Instead, you have to make the things that you want to do the most important things. You have to elevate the importance to the point that you're willing to sacrifice other stuff. This probably seems like common sense, but yet we have a hard time adopting new habits and dropping old habits. We also have a hard time changing in general because it's very difficult to change our behaviors from an ingrained pattern to a new pattern. The next question. What is your number one kind of top priority for improving yourself, either in your work or in your life? And that one's probably easy. The hard one is what is your number one enemy to achieving that goal? Often the way that people respond to this question is, my number one enemy to going to the gym and becoming healthy is junk food. My number one enemy in getting a promotion and my job is the bug list. The list of bugs that I have to fix. I can't prove my worth as easily because I'm always dealing with bugs. These are the enemies that come to mind, but most likely the things that stand in the way of us doing whatever that number one goal thing is are things that simply take up our time. There are things that are attractive and perhaps even good, worthwhile things to do, but they're not as important. These are the hardest sacrifices to make because they seem to be running in second place. They have a lot of our attention because they seem like good ideas. But oftentimes these things that seem like good ideas, but they're not the most important thing. Those are the things that take the space necessary to focus on the most important thing. When your day-to-day work, this is how prioritization should be thought about. There's plenty of work that should be done, but there's only one thing that should be done now. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode of Developer Tea. And for listening over the past five years. We're coming up on the five-year anniversary of this show and I'm totally blown away that we're still able to record this podcast and we still have people who get so much value out of what we talk about here on the show. If you've enjoyed listening to this podcast and if you'd like for us to keep on going, the best way to help us do that is to share the show with other developers. If you don't know anybody directly who will benefit from this, another good way to help the show is to go and leave a review in iTunes. iTunes is still the dominating platform for podcasts and this is a great way to help other developers decide if they want to listen to the show. Of course, these reviews play into Apple's special algorithms, their secret algorithms for ranking these shows as well. That's a huge help. Thank you so much to today's sponsor, Flywheel. If you're a WordPress developer and you're not already using local, I promise you your mind is going to be blown in a very good way. Go and check it out. Localbyflywheel.com. That's all the same word localbyflywheel.com. Today's episode and every other episode of this show is available on the spec network. Other designers and developers like you are listening to other shows like this one, head over to spec.fm to find fantastic content that's made specifically for you. Today's episode is produced by Sarah Jackson. My name is Jonathan Cutrell and until next time, enjoy your tea.