I create software for fun and money.

Focus is a developer's best friend

Wed, Oct 18 2023

Ever since my daughter was born, the time I can devote to hobby programming has become scarce.

I consider that a good thing, though. It made me realize how important focus is, especially for a software engineer.

Before me and my fiancé had a child, I used to have plenty of free time to work on my personal projects. Sometimes I would learn a new programming language, at other times I would be attending an online course (for example, Harvard's CS50).

It used to be easy to get 3 hours of uninterrupted focus time.

Not anymore.

Toddlers, cute as they are, are demanding beings. My free time has been cut down significantly. Some mornings I can only get around 20 minutes of focus before my beloved daughter needs my attention.

I'm not complaining, however.

I've come to realize that a lot of the focus time I had before was not spent programming. I would scroll through Reddit and watch YouTube a lot. Chat with friends on Signal and Messenger.

But now that my free time is scarce, I have to make my focus razor-sharp. To get anything meaningful done in 20 minutes, I really need to concentrate.

The upside to this realization is three-fold:

  • The time I devote to hobby programming is spent by actual programming. Focusing on one thing only makes me feel better mentally.
  • I had to become a faster programmer. If I want to make an edit or write a new function, I have to do it quickly.
  • I almost entirely stopped going off on tangents. When I'm coding a new functionality, I'm not scanning the code-base for possible refactoring opportunities. Refactoring can wait.

Sure, I don't have as much time to devote to programming as I used to have. But is it a big deal? Not really.

I believe that there's always something to be learned from any situation. And having to learn to properly focus is a lesson I didn't know I needed.

Also, taking care of my child is more gratifying than any programming task could ever be, so there's no question there.