Hello and welcome to another blog post for Anthony’s Techie Thoughts! If you’re new here, my name is Anthony and I’m studying programming to make a career change from mathematics teacher to frontend web developer. In my blog posts, I reflect on my journey and share things I’m learning along the way. You can find me on Mastodon, GitHub, LinkedIn, Hashnode, DEV.to, and CodeNewbie.
In this blog post, I’ll share my top three tips for staying focused while studying or coding. These came out of a reflection after completing a third round of the #100DaysOfCode challenge. These techniques worked for me and they might work for you. Feel free to take what vibes with you and toss the rest. Alright, let’s get to the tips!
Image Credit: Prateek Katyal
If you’re looking to stay focused and, perhaps, get into a state of flow, then you’ve got to eliminate distractions. Apart from choosing a quiet working environment, this means turning off notifications on your devices (e.g., phone, tablet, computer) for the duration of your work session. The last thing you want is to hear a ‘ding’ and then get pulled down a virtual rabbit hole and lose valuable work time. Your future self will thank you.
Turn off the notifications and, if you can, put your phone out of arm’s reach. I’ve found that even if I pick up my phone, even when it’s on silent, I can still get sucked into something distracting. So I’ve started following the motto of “out of sight, out of mind” by placing my phone out of arms reach, but still where I can hear my interval timer go off (more on that in Tip #3).
Image Credit: Adrian Korte
Jazz, Classical, Lo-Fi, whatever floats your boat or, in this case, wiggles your eardrums. Choose some music that puts you at ease and helps you focus. I prefer music without any words otherwise I find it distracting. Any else perform tiny desk karaoke? No, just me. Okay, moving on!
Bonus music-listening tips:
Use headphones to block out surrounding noise
- This is especially helpful if you’re somewhere like a cafe or a busy office environment.
- I’ve also found that when others see me with headphones on it signals to them that I’m focusing on important work and don’t want to be disturbed.
Listen to the same song on repeat
- This might sound a little whacky, but having it on repeat lets your brain worry less about the patterns in the music and more about the task you’re trying to complete (because yes, your brain is using energy to analyze the patterns in music even if you’re not conscious of it)
Image Credit: Slejven Djurakovic
In case you’re not familiar with the Pomodoro Technique, here’s a quick overview:
Set a timer for 25 minutes and work until the timer goes off
Take a quick break before setting the timer again and continuing your work
Repeat 3-4 times or until your task is complete
There’s plenty of room for variation within this technique to tweak so it fits your needs. I use an app called Interval Timer on my iPhone where I’ve set up three different Pomodoro timers. This is an app designed for HIIT workout timers, but I found it useful in this situation as well. I like this better than using the standard timer that came with my phone because I can customize both the time spent working on a task and the time spent taking a break.
Here are my three Pomodoro timers:
Short Session: Two 20-minute work sessions with a 3-minute break in between each session (46 minutes total).
Medium Session: Three 20-minute work sessions with a 3-minute break in between each session (1hr 9m total).
Long Session: Five 25-minute work sessions with a 5-minute break in between (2hr 30m total).
I’ll select one of these timers based on how much time I have to study. This helps me use my time effectively and stay focused. When the timer starts, I get to work and when the session ends I take a quick break. During the break between work sessions, I like to get up and move around. I will either stretch or do bodyweight exercises (e.g., push-ups) to stay active and not be seated at a computer for too long. I found this also helps with eye strain too. During the break when I get up and move, I also make a point to go look out a window.
Thanks so much for reading this post. I hope you found it useful.
These are the top three techniques I’ve used over the past three rounds of the #100DaysOfCode challenge. They’ve helped me stay focused and get into a flow state which has allowed me to learn many new skills for my career change.
What techniques do you use to stay focused while you code 👨💻 or study 📖? Leave your suggestions in the comments below 👇🏼. Hearing your thoughts 💭 makes this more of a conversation and helps us learn together.