18 Apr 2015

Productivity from 'The Flow'

Have you ever started a task and before you knew it hours had passed ?

You were so focused on achieving that task that the rest of the world ceased to exist. This is known as the flow / being in the zone. The flow is good for productivity and I’m going to show you how to get into it and stay there.

First you need a task with a clear goal where you have everything you need to achieve progress towards completing that goal. The goal must have some value to you.

Next turn off anything that will distract you:

  • Email
  • Instant Messenger
  • Your Phone

If like most of us you are cursed with working in an open plan office, then people will be the ones who will be the problem. If you can’t avoid them, if not:

  • Go somewhere quiet, a meeting room or empty office, or even work from home.
  • If you normally get a lot of interruptions then put up a do not disturb flag. People will soon learn when you want some quiet time, and will interrupt you anyway if it is urgent.
  • Put on some headphones. White noise will drown out the distrations of the general office noise, or if white noise doesn’t appeal then try “Music to Code By” http://mtcb.pwop.com/

Now that the distractions have been avoided, we need to make sure that your mind is kept engaged in the task and demands its attention.

Make sure your hardware is up to scratch. Waiting for your PC to catch up with your mind, will make your mind wander off the task. A second monitor or one with a higher resolution helps to keep everything you need close at hand. Let’s face it hardware is cheap compared to your salary, if you saved 10 minutes a day then most of the cost would be repaid in a year.

So, now its time to start. If you find yourself procrastinating then try simply preparing to do the task without planning to actually do it. You may find you are so engaged with preparing that you start the task. The Pomodoro technique can also help to break the inertia.

Once you have experienced the flow, you should feel energised and have been effortlessly productive.

“I’m going to give you a little advice. There’s a force in the universe that makes things happen. And all you have to do is get in touch with it, stop thinking, let things happen, and be the ball.” Ty Webb “Caddyshack”

“Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless - like water. Now you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup, you put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle, you put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.” Bruce Lee

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Image attribution: "Soft Flow" by Christian Weidinger is licensed under CC BY 2.0

About Me

My first computer was a Commodore VIC-20, I had great fun trying to code text adventures and side scrolling shoot ‘em ups in BASIC. This helped me lead the way as the first in my school to pass a computer exam.

Currently I work as a Senior Software Engineer in Bedford for a FTSE 100 Company. Coding daily in C#, JavaScript and SQL. Outside of work I work on whatever is interesting me at that time.