I’m going to tell you the recipe for a pill that will increase the power of your brain.
Well, NO! Not that kind of pill.
Also, just a heads up. This post is not about meditation.
But in fact, in this post, we will discuss some simple yet effective tips to use your brain to achieve more in your Development career. So let’s get started.
The human brain is a complex machine and it’s a result of thousands of years of human evolution. Our world has evolved very fast. For the brain, being such an old machine, working in today’s complex and distracted world is very hard. But if we use our brain as our ancestors did, we can use most of it. The following steps will help you achieve that.
Our brain can focus efficiently on one thing at a time. When our ancestors used to hunt, they needed extreme focus. They couldn’t risk focusing on anything other than the animal they were about to hunt. For them, it was a matter of life and death. The only way they would shift their focus was if they got attacked by some bigger predator, because that became a more immediate threat to their survival, and hence, took higher priority.
Similarly, when people in other professions enter their workspace, it’s a completely different world. Take the example of a composer in his studio or mechanic in his workshop. Their workspace has tools just to perform a specific task and that’s their work. You won’t see a guitar in a mechanic’s workshop even if they happen to know how to play one. And that’s no coincidence. It’s to make sure they have no distractions and can focus on the task at hand.
In case of software developers, the room where you sit in is not the workspace, but your laptop is, and it looks something like that ⬆️.
We have all the tools there, but along with those tools we also have tons of other distracting things that have nothing to do with our work. These apps are great at distracting you from work and giving you instant gratification. That’s the reason you start working on bug #396 but find yourself watching cat videos on YouTube after two hours.
How to Improve Focus?
1. Use as few apps as you can
- When you are developing, you only need a text editor, terminal and browser most of the time. Shut down that email client of yours for a while, mute Skype, Slack or any other messengers you use, and try to open as few tabs in your browser as you can.
- I have also seen another approach which is to make a separate user account on your laptop: one with all your work-related apps and one with all the other stuff. Let me know in the comment how well that works.
2. One task at a time
- Dedicate yourself to one specific task at a time and block that time. Don’t do anything else or allow any other person to disturb you in that time.
- Use Pomodoro Technique to achieve that. Set a timer and get hustling to crack one task a time.
3. Choose your music wisely
- If you have premium YouTube and/or Spotify accounts, that’s fine. If not, use offline music. In that way, you won’t get distracted by ads and your music will also help you get into the zone.
- Play YouTube mixes instead of one song at a time. Going back and forth changing music is super distracting and is often an unnecessary time sink. Remember you’re a developer, not a DJ.
- Listen to non-lyrical music. This is debatable but studies show that non-lyrical music is far less distracting than lyrical music. If you don’t know any good instrumental music, check out this this repo, and if you already know some, don’t forget to contribute.
4. Put that phone down
- Mobile phones distract you the most. Put your phone on silent or flight mode while working.
- Manage your phone’s notification settings well to make your phone less distracting. Check this guide out for more tips on that.
- Use a secondary phone for your workspace. I have personally tried and found it very effective. Read this article for more info on that.
5. Track distraction and get rid of it
Do this little experiment the next time you get distracted. Observe what stimulus lead to that distraction, note it down, and then rid your workspace of it.
You can’t remember everything and you don’t have to. Although thanks to the internet, we all are bombarded with lots of information that we process every day and we don’t remember most of it. The best way to go is to organize information with the help of meta information. It’s a simple technique that our ancestors used for directions as well. Before we had powerful GPS and even maps, it was hard to remember the exact path to some place, so they used the directions of the stars to point the way for them, and that’s a great example of storing meta information.
Writing things down also helps and the best way to do that is to keep a journal. You don’t have to remember simple things all day, like taking your dog for a walk or cleaning the garden. Just write it down somewhere you can check later. That way, your brain won’t be bugging you every minute to remind you of something that you have to do hours later.
How to remember better?
1. Organize bookmarks
- Don’t just bookmark sites and important links. Make folders to organize them so that it’s easy to find what you’re looking for.
- If you are using some other tools like Pocket, then use relevant tags to store them.
2. Save code snippets
- Make a habit of storing important code snippets and remember the shorthand for them. Remember the metadata, that’s the key.
- Check this post out to learn how to use code snippets effectively in VS Code.
- Tell everyone how you store your code snippets in the comments section below.
3. Use official documentation more than Google
- I can’t tell you how important it is to master this skill. Documentations are the most organized form of information that you can get out there. While learning any language or framework, spend some extra time on official documentation as well.
- Use tools like DevDocs to access these documentations offline on the go.
4. Go analog and write it down
- In one of my discussions, I talked about the importance of having a journal and using it. If you haven’t started it yet, this is the right time. You remember more by writing more. Check out this guide on how to start your first journal.
5. Just do it
- Stop spending more time on just reading and watching tutorials. Stop in between, test the code by writing and then move forward.
- Start your first Open Source app. Yes, do it. No one will judge you. Think of an idea and start writing your first line of code and learn as you go. If you don’t have any idea, go with the plain old to-do list for yourself. Remember, your own experience can teach you more than any book out there. Because experiences are hard to forget.
Most obvious section of the blog is here, yay! Like any machine, our brains require maintenance too. Although your brain’s health is dependent on the overall health of your body, there are a few actions you can take to improve the health of your brain.
How to improve the brain’s health?
1. Get enough sleep
- While you are sleeping, your brain processes and stores information for future use. If you sleep less than an optimal amount, your brain won’t be able to do that and will fail to retain enough important information.
- Use 90 minutes sleep cycle technique to get a night of better sleep.
2. Drink more water
- Well, of course, the brain is made up of water mostly so you should consume more water to keep it healthy.
- Drink at least 2–3 liters of waters as it’s also good for your eyes, as explained in this articles and other body parts.
3. Work out daily
- Doing exercise will provide more oxygen to your brain. More oxygen means more energy for your brain.
- Studies has shown that individuals who work out daily have better productivity than those who don’t.
4. Eat healthy
Here is a list of things that you should include in your diet to improve your brain power. My favorite is walnuts, quick and easy snacks to carry along to your workspace.
- Coconut Oil
- Dark Chocolate
- Egg Yolks
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Green, Leafy Vegetables
5. Start meditating (Tricked you, ha!)
- Relax, you don’t need to go pro. Start with this simple exercise.
- Sit in a quiet place, plug-in earphones, play some natural sounds like beach, forest or a windy mountain. Now, imagine yourself sitting in that terrain. If imagining is hard, just try to focus on the various sounds. Do this for 10 minutes a day and don’t let your surroundings distract you. If that happens, just bring your focus back as soon as you realize your mind is wandering.
Hey guys, hope you liked this article, and if you did, share it with your friends and colleagues to help them too. If you have some more tips, share them in the comments section. I have more great content ready for you all this year, so don’t forget to subscribe.