Staying Focused as an Engineer in 2022

Keep a Goal in Mind

It’s always easier to do something when you have a goal. Whether it’s a new hobby, a new job, a new career, a conversation, or anything else that you have a dedicated plan for. If you don’t have a goal, it makes completing a task harder and you’re sort of just going day by day on auto-pilot.

Understand That Depth Is Better

Once you have a goal, you need to achieve it. To achieve the goal, you have to understand that anything worth achieving takes a massive amount of hard work. To put in the hard work, you have to put time and focus into what you’re doing. You can’t be distracted or think about other things while you’re striving towards your goal. Otherwise, how will you achieve it?

Remove Distractions

It takes the average human 23 minutes to get back into the rhythm of what they were doing if a distraction occurs.

  • The willpower to say no to yourself if your brain says to check social media or your email
  • Put your cell phone in another room
  • Understand that you have a goal that you want to accomplish, which should give you motivation
  • Get in the habit of not wanting to be distracted
  • Understand that in reality, the email that you received or the Slack message that someone sent you may be urgent, but not important. Remember, urgency is typically important to others, but may not negatively impact you. Also, let’s be honest; the world isn’t going to explode if it takes you an hour to respond (unless you’re on-call for some critical services).

Practice Deep Work

All roads lead to deep work, which is a method of removing all distractions and becoming so focused on what you’re doing that you’re pushing your cognitive limits. Simply put, you can’t do your job or a hobby or really anything else if you’re not 100% focused.

  • Monastic: You’re completely engaged in what you’re doing for weeks and months at a time. You take no meetings, answer no emails, and don’t need to worry about social media. This is great for people that can completely disconnect to do their jobs, for example, high-regarded authors. J. K. Rowling (author of Harry Potter), can go months writing a book and doesn’t need to focus on anything else.
  • Bimodal: Bimodal is an easier-to-achieve version of Monastic. With Bimodal, you can go away for a few days, or possibly a week, for deep work. A great example here is Bill Gates, who is known for having Think Weeks, which are a few weeks out of the year that he goes to his lake house with no communication to the outside world. This is the time that he reads, thinks, and plans.
  • Rhythmic: If you can’t go days or a full week without communicating to the outside world, Rhythmic makes the most sense. It’s essentially blocks of hours that you’re in deep work. For example, you would go into deep work from 8:00 AM to 11:00 AM, leaving the rest of your day for distracted work.
  • Journalistic: This method, which is coined after journalists that have to pop in and out of deep work, is an approach that you take deep work sessions when you can. For example, let’s say you have kids and they’re taking a nap. You would use that nap time to go into deep work. The journalistic approach is arguably the hardest because it’s difficult to get your mind into such a state of depth with a snap of your fingers.

Explain Your Deep Work To Others

This is arguably the hardest part because in today’s world, being in a state of deep work is sort of looked at as not normal, primarily because it’s not normal. Because of that, you need to tell people that you want to go into deep work sessions and explain to them why.

  • Send an email to your manager explaining the value that you want to provide with deep work. Word it in a way that they’ll understand and can possibly relate to. For example, bring up a situation that occurred that could’ve been avoided if there were zero distractions.
  • Email your team letting them know that you’re planning deep work so they know you won’t be answering emails or Slack for X amount of hours.
  • Understand that deep work is the best way to get things done, and going into deep work will show that to others.
  • Say no to things that are urgent to others. This is going to feel uncomfortable at first, but it’s a reality that we should all live.



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Michael Levan

Michael Levan

Leader in Kubernetes consulting, research, and content creation ┇AWS Community Builder (Dev Tools Category)┇ HashiCorp Ambassador