Dan Newcome on technology

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Achieving flow in unlikely situations

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I was thinking recently about how to more reliably get into a productive flow when working on my programming tasks. Typically, I think that when I really need to get deep into things, it is best to go sit at my desk with the big monitor and ergonomic keyboard and get to it.

However, it doesn’t always follow that the most productive work will happen given the `perfect’ circumstances. I forced myself to think back on the times recently where I really felt like I got clicking on something.

After some reflection the following two instances came to mind:

1. I was on the back balcony at 10:00 or so one night with a cup of espresso and my laptop. It had already been a long day of coding, but I had just taken a shower and was feeling kind of fresh again. I think I posted a tweet about it being a nice night to be outside on the balcony, and I emerged from thought an hour later to find that I had solved a problem in my code that I had been trying to solve since earlier in the day.

2. On the metro riding into the LaunchBox offices. It was later in the day, so I was able to get a seat on the train by myself. I don’t usually have any inclination to take my laptop out on the train, but somehow I really zoned in that day. Sitting on a moving train created an artificial sense of urgency and focus I think. A heightened sense of awareness. Sort of like going to a coffee shop where the bustle of people can be just the energizing factor that you need.

I’ve tried to replicate the first scenario several times since with varying degrees of success. The second scenario has been tougher for two reasons: First, I can’t control whether or not I’m going to have room to pull my laptop out on the train. Second, since I got a smartphone, I’m more likely to pull that out instead, and I have not quite reached what you would call `flow’ on the little keyboard yet.

I don’t know what the critical elements are to recreate the perfect storm of productivity. Maybe there isn’t really a repeatable formula. Maybe it is a function of all of the day’s or week’s events and the phase of the moon. I have a feeling that it is mostly internal though, so I think that there is hope.

Written by newcome

July 9, 2009 at 7:35 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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