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Just a quick observation of how important it is to me that in order to achieve and maintain focus, I need to reduce my “sphere of awareness” as small as possible. I picture an imaginary bubble around me, and whether I like it or not, my mind is background-monitoring everything within that bubble. The larger the bubble is, the easier it is to be distracted as things vie for my attention, and the harder it is for me to zone in to what I’m doing as I’m constantly polling for updates from everything in that sphere. That’s why we all wear headphones.

The problem arises when switching between managerial and development tasks. A managerial mindset requires the constant awareness of the entire machine, and the ability to triage all kinds of interruptions. You get into that mindset, and you begin to habitually and frequently poll everything in that sphere. You begin to listen in to conversations, feel the need to check on status of things, re-check your to-do list for anything you might have missed. Then, when you detect that precious 10-minute pocket of time between fires, you have to get something done. You take of your managerial hat, and you put on your developer hat.

You’re refactoring the hell out of some code, the body flayed open with guts hanging all over the place, but you are constantly looking over your shoulder, expecting someone to ping you about something on your to-do list that is pending. I live in this place.

Twitter has become a once-a-day blog read, so no more Twitteriffic throwing Growl notes all over the place. IM closed. Yammer closed. Email closed. I decide that enough is enough and I have to get something done today. After a solid hour or two, I finally shake off the itching feeling of imminent interruption and get into a groove. I can’t shake it anymore, and I open my email, only to find that people are frustrated with me as they’ve been attempting to get my attention for hours. My sphere of awareness explodes, and now I’m putting out fires and feeling guilty for working.

My sphere is tired of expanding and contracting. I have to figure out a better way of doing this.

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4 Comments

  1. The real question is, “when will you get this comment?”

  2. Damn you. 🙂

  3. Look on the bright side: if by chance you do come across some modus operandi that solves your problems then you can write a book about it and make a mint. 🙂

    I’m at least fortunate that I don’t have people around me while I work, aside from my wife who also works from home. I find that my most productive hard-core-coding is done after breakfast while I’m still on the caffeine high. That’s when I do the work that’s going to require my greatest focus. Then after lunch is when I try and do busy work, emails, phone calls and such. I works out most of the time.

    Oh, another thing you can try: don’t be so busy. That really helps in getting things done. Not so good to the pocketbook though.

  4. good luck!


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