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How Sports Improves Programmer Focus

I played a lot of sports as a teenager and it has helped me focus as a programmer.

There was some talk recently about distractions at work. Guys were complaining they can't get anything done with so many distractions. We used to have an open workspace where you could see and hear everyone in the room. Now we have higher cubicle walls. Personally, I preferred the old layout.

When someone tells me they can't focus because there is a conversation going on in another cubicle, I want to just tell them to "clear the mechanism". Sadly, I don't think any of them know what I would be referring to. It seems all the programmers I currently work with now hate sports & and make it known.

What I am referring to is the scene in For Love of the Game where Billy Chapel is starting to pitch. Yankees fans are being loud and obnoxious (go figure). Just before throwing the first pitch, he says to himself, "Clear the mechanism". The crowd blurs and falls silent and Chapel enters his zone.

I was going to share this video with co-workers, but I couldn't find it, so I took the time to snip it off my DVD.

This is for real. I played football, basketball, and baseball in high school. Honestly, I don't remember the crowd when playing. There are times when you do, like when a timeout is called, or you're passing a ball in-bounds and guys are yanking on your jersey. But most of the game, you are so focused on the game that you don't even know there is a crowd around you.

You really can get in a zone while programming. I don't notice other conversations around me unless I choose to. I can get in a zone while programming that I don't notice much of anything around me.

Sadly, I don't have tips on how to develop this type of focus — just letting you know it is for real.

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Dustin Davis

Dustin Davis is a software engineer, people manager, hacker, and entreprenuer. He loves to develop systems and automation. He lives with his wife and five kids in Utah.

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Dustin Davis