James Broad

23 May 2022

Developer Productivity: How to Reach Flow

As a developer, have you ever felt “in the zone” while working on a project where time seems to pass by effortlessly? If so, you were likely experiencing flow.

Flow is a state of optimal experience in which a person is fully immersed in an activity and is able to achieve their highest level of productivity. During flow, a person is completely focused and concentrated on the task at hand, to the point where all other thoughts and distractions disappear.

Flow is often associated with positive experiences, such as a feeling of enjoyment, creativity, and success. However, flow can also occur during difficult or challenging tasks. In fact, many developers report feeling flow during times when they‘re struggling to solve a difficult problem.

There are a few key things that you can do to increase your chances of reaching flow while working on your next project:

1. Set realistic goals

When you have a clear and attainable goal in mind, it is easier to focus your attention and stay on task. Make sure your goals are specific, measurable, and achievable.

2. Eliminate distractions

Flow requires complete focus. Turn off your email, close your social media tabs, and silence your phone. Phones often have a do not disturb feature that allows calls through from specific people in case of urgent issues. If you work in an open office, consider wearing noise-cancelling headphones. Set your Slack/IM status to “Do not disturb, reaching flow”, or similar.

3. Get into a routine

If you find yourself constantly starting and stopping your work, it can be helpful to establish a set routine. Decide when you will start working each day and stick to that schedule as much as possible.

A useful tactic here is to set aside deep work time in your calendar in 4-hour blocks (optimal focus time). This also prevents people from scheduling interruptions.

4. Take breaks

It may seem counterintuitive, but taking periodic breaks can actually help you achieve flow. When you step away from your work, your brain has a chance to rest and rejuvenate. This can help you come back to your work with fresh energy and new ideas.

5. Be patient

Flow is not something that can be forced. It happens when the conditions are just right. If you don’t achieve flow on your first try, don’t get discouraged. Keep practising, and you will eventually reach that state of peak productivity.