Narrowing Your Focus: The Key to Being a Successful Developer?

 In Advice, Software Engineering

Do you have a lot of goals you can’t seem to make progress on? I do.

Why is working towards too many goals bad?

I’ve recently come to the realization that I can’t work towards all my goals and achieve the progress that I need. When you’re actively trying to make progress on too many goals, it makes it harder to get to your milestones. You’re spread too thin. When you can’t complete milestones, you quickly loose the drive to work on anything. Before long, you’ll give up. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

I’ve fell into this trap way too many times before. I’m guilty of being an overly ambitious developer. I have a ton of goals I want to achieve, and not enough time to get them all done.

For example, here are some of my goals:

  • Have a successful software development blog
  • Write an eBook
  • Write a real book
  • Progress at my full-time job
  • Start working part-time as an independent contractor
  • Work on my open source projects
  • Do research in the software engineering field
  • Start a podcast
  • Write more for Simple Programmer

I try to do all these things, and as a result I’ve only hit a few milestones on the way to completing my goals.

What can I do to achieve my goals?

You might be asking what you can possibly do to achieve all of your goals—is it even possible? I’m here to tell you it is possible, but it’s not easy.

If you want to start completing your goals, you’ll have to start narrowing your focus. You can’t work on 10 different things at once. Pick one of your goals and focus on that. If we look at successful programmers like Dennis Ritchie, Linus Torvalds, and Bill Gates, we start to notice that they poured everything into accomplishing just one goal. After they completed their first goals, it only became easier to achieve more.

Where would Bill Gates be if in the beginning of his career he split his work evenly between developing Windows, giving to charity, playing tennis, learning trombone, investing, and raising a family?

No where.

Prioritize your goals. Realize that some of them may have to be put off for a while, or you may not get to them at all. But once you start focusing on your top priority, you’ll start to see real progress being made.

For me, that means I’m going to focus more on my blog. If I keep blogging consistently, I’m going to improve as a developer, build skills in writing, build reputability, and attract attention from my employer and potential clients.

If you can accomplish one goal, the rest will get easier.

So think about what goals mean the most to you. Put them in order of priority. Also take into consideration which of those goals, when accomplished, would have the greatest impact on your other goals. Then you can start focusing on one goal, and you can start making real progress.

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