July 27, 2010
protect your flow
Yesterday started well. I did the bait-and-switch described in yesterday’s post and it worked wonderfully well. My flow didn’t even notice the difference and I started jamming on the new project after just 15 minutes of the other. I read somewhere that it takes 15 minutes to get into a state of flow, which is roughly my experience as well. If you’re interested in flow, there’s a great book:
Getting your flow going, and keeping it going, is probably the single most important productivity boost for any creative professional. When you’re grooving on a project, your work is more creative, more focused, more fun. You keep wanting to do more, which is a wonderful way to spend your work week.
The biggest danger to flow is distraction. Every “quick question”, every phone call, every little side trip on the web, every email read, kills your flow. If it takes 15 minutes to get it, and 1 minute to lose it, it’s easy to see why most people never really experience flow. They’re like the father in Vonnegut’s story “Harrison Bergeron”, who has a state-mandated electric show disrupt his thoughts every few minutes so that he’s officially no smarter than everyone else.
Completely avoid distractions while you’re doing creative work.
I always schedule creative work in the mornings, since it’s much easier to get and maintain a flow before I start talking to people. I also avoid checking my email or answering the phone until after my creative timebox is over. I also listen to music to keep my mind from wandering off into the well-worn tracks of yesterday’s to-dos.
Let me underline this dramatically: the single biggest reason for my lost productivity over the last three years is that I didn’t protect my flow. I either answered the phone, checked my email, or did “one quick thing” which opened the door to another lost day.
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