A developer's guide to achieve the Flow state faster
The concept of "Flow" was first recognized and studied by psychologist Mihály Cskszentmihályi, who is credited with helping to develop the discipline of positive psychology. Even if you've never heard the term before, you probably know it by other names such as "being in the zone".
When you're in a state of Flow, it seems like you could keep going forever. There is no single event that causes Flow. It might occur as you code, read, write, paint, run, or tend to your garden. But as soon as you enter the state of Flow, the pace at which you can get work done increases exponentially, making getting to it important. It can take a few minutes or even hours to reach that zone of high productivity. Let's learn how to do that faster!
Table of contents:
How to achieve the Flow state?
- Plan your focused time
- Challenge yourself, but not too much
- Set a clear goal
- Practice pre-Flow ritual
- Take rest
- Use tools to reduce efforts in reaching Flow
1. Plan your focused time
Examine your calendar and set out times when you won't be interrupted to work. You could want to plan these blocks around particular tasks or times of the day when you're more awake and productive by nature. The most significant and frustrating fact is that you cannot multitask your way into the Flow. You must focus solely on the task at hand to achieve the desired mental state. Given that you cannot feel attentional focus without giving anything your full attention.
In your focused time, eliminate the distractions you might have such as your phone. Put your phone aside once you've informed people that you'll be unreachable for a specific period. Of course, you can just turn off the notifications, but I like the hard way and I simply turn off the phone.
2. Challenge yourself, but not too much
The level of difficulty for the activity must be just right. If it's too simple, it won't be engaging enough. If it's too difficult, you won't be able to get into it. The correct level of difficulty makes activities more enjoyable.
If you can't change the task itself, you might be able to adjust other aspects of it to make it more difficult or easier. Finding ways to make mundane work more difficult is more pleasurable. And if you need to simplify, break down the task into simple manageable chunks.
3. Set a clear goal
The activity must have a purpose for it to cause Flow. It need not be great; you could simply be writing posts, working out, or coloring a picture. However, to focus your attention, you must have something to focus on.
Knowing exactly what you're working on will help you find the proper mindset more quickly. Although you might set a deadline, it's frequently more beneficial for the activity to have a specified finish or completion date. You feel more in control when you are clear about your goals.
4. Practice pre-Flow ritual
Establishing a ritual can assist your brain in entering the zone. You may get a drink, play "concentration" music, take a shower, work out, talk to a friend, etc. It doesn't need to be uniform, functional, or formal for every activity. It's simply a signal to your brain that you are ready to start working and that it should follow suit.
And if you're already doing that, you can further optimize this pre-Flow ritual. How? Try to set this pre-Flow ritual according to the type of your task e.g. before working on the article, write about your day; before coding, play a logical puzzle game. The aim is to set a pre-Flow ritual that primes your brain to the activity you're going to perform in the Flow state. So it is faster and more fun for you to reach Flow.
5. Take a rest
The brain cannot continuously be in Flow. The mind operates at its best for between 90 minutes and two hours when it is in a creative, Flow state. Techniques like the Pomodoro method might help you make the most of this time. Your brain may function at its most effective and creative level while avoiding burnout by alternating focused times with brief rest periods.
It is possible to experience numerous Flow episodes throughout a single day, which is excellent for both the body and the mind. For instance, you might complete your best work early in the day, run in the afternoon to unwind, and read a book at night. There are three different types of Flow experiences, but each one improves your well-being in some way.
6. Use tools to reduce efforts in reaching Flow
Of course, when you're motivated, you'll be able to do all of these things but not all days are the same. The more effort you need to reach Flow, the more likely you will fail. So use the tools that can make it effortless to reach Flow such as
Developer Diary brings clarity and insights to reach the Flow state faster.
Developer Diary is a minimalistic offline journaling app for developers inspired by "Deep work" by Cal Newport. It is an amazing tool to support you in your Flow state. When you are working on your coding problem and remember to note something down, you can use a simple shortcut (`⌘+Shift+I`) to open the app and start journaling.
Developer Diary also provides AI-based insights that help developers like myself understand how much time are we investing in "Maker Mode"(creative work) compared to the time in "Manager Mode"(communication and administrative work).
As you can see in above picture from my Developer Diary, my maker time was not that good today, only 31%. So I need to make sure tomorrow to focus on more Maker type of activities.
The AI-based progress tracker helps track my time and evaluate how much deep work I do. It helps organize my day and maximize those deep work sessions resulting in getting work done in less time. I can make a more objective decision about what time is more likely to get me into the Flow state.
As you can see in my insights, the best time for me to achieve Flow is at the start of the day at 10 AM, then around noon 1 PM, and then at the end around 5 PM. 10 AM time beats all other Flow sessions.
Being in the Flow state is rewarding and essential for developers. Instead of leaving it to luck, we can reach the Flow state faster by doing some things such as practicing pre-Flow rituals, blocking time, challenging ourselves, etc. There are dedicated tools such as Developer Diary that help us do this with lesser effort.
Of course, when it comes to productivity, there is no silver bullet, but we as a community can help each other. Join our developer community and chat more about productivity with us on discord.