If I were to single out one personal skill that matters most in work and in life in general, that would be the ability to focus. It's ever so hard to keep focus in the digital age, with all those many distractions that lure us; and it might be especially hard for IT-specialists, people who spend most of their time cuddling with computer screens.
Digital creatives are more inclined to having their focus loosened. Their work allegedly requires a good deal of looking at how others do things. One can easily get lost in graphics, designs, promotional concepts, and have all their buckets so filled up with what someone else has created, that they would have difficulty detaching and focusing on their own thing. I'm mostly talking about UX designers, graphic designers, marketing specialists, and other roles that involve the mixture of creative and strategic thinking. It's both a very fine line and an insidious trap: whether we absorb all the treasures of the world, re-mix them inside of us, and produce another facet of digital reality available for all people through their screens; OR we strangle our creativity by blocking its flow with passive perceptions, disrespecting our innate abilities to bring something authentic to the table. Ultimately, that would be one and the most important thing that we need, if we ever want to be fulfilled professionally and to have people enjoy software products that we create: focus on this well of creative thinking inside of us, nurture it and let it find an outlet.
How about other IT specialists? Software developers and quality assurance who, on the contrary to the creatives, seem to be too focused on their work? It's hard to believe, but in some companies they still block access to social sites, or even to the Internet, not to let even a single second of work time sneak anywhere outside. The employers who allow such things to happen obviously mix people with machines. There's no way a human being will work more productively if treated as an inanimate object. On the contrary, developers and QA need to be encouraged to distract from their work time after time, to be able to keep their focus on it.
These are 2 basic approaches to keeping focus in knowledge work, and any work in IT is knowledge work, as we know (tautology intended). Creatives need to be encouraged to tap inside themselves, to learn when and how to block distractions and outside influences. Technical specialists, on the contrary, experience emotional drain if they don't have some relaxing outlets and distractions at work. It takes some high-profile personal skills to balance the focus-loosening phases, and it seems there's no ready-made universal recipe for that. What works for someone, might not be working for someone else. My personal indicator is this: if I feel that my time is wasted — something wrong's with the focus; if I feel that my time is spent productively — this shows that I'm well-focused. I hope we all will have this focused feel all the more often, as our work helps us learn how to do things in a productive and personally fulfilling way.
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