5122e54437a4b89911623dfbe9a2f3c4

When involvement rhymes with enjoyment

“If you do what you love, you'll never work a day in your life.”

I’m sure you've heard this quote more than once. This popular saying, from Steve Jobs (or Albert Einstein or Marc Anthony depending on which 'reliable' internet source you use), illustrates how important it is to choose the right thing to do in your life.

If you make the right choice, then your life will be paradise. You will spend every single day doing something you love. You will greet every single day with a smile. If you choose wrongly, then every single day you will struggle to do things you don’t like just to earn money. It will be hell on earth!

It’s like being in a relationship. If you find your perfect match - your soulmate, the love of your life - then you will always be happy, and all your problems will disappear. You will understand each other without words, and there will be no arguments, and no silent treatment.

Bullshit!

Even if you are in a relationship with someone you truly love, there will still be problems and hard times. Even if you do the job you love, there will also be problems, hard times and periods when you will struggle and even hate your job.

That is why as soon as you find the person or job you love, you should start asking yourself: How should I do this job (love)?

That was the question that Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi had been asking himself for years. He had been trying to figure out what makes an activity, and our entire life, enjoyable. After many years of research he developed a theory of optimal experience, also called the flow state.

There are 7 factors that show whether or not you are in the flow:

  1. You are completely involved in the thing you are doing;
  2. You experience a sense of ecstasy - you are beyond the everyday problems and ways of thinking;
  3. You know exactly what needs to be done and how well you are performing;
  4. You are confident that you can accomplish the task at hand;
  5. You feel serene - you have no worries about yourself, you’re reaching beyond the ego;
  6. You have a sense of timelessness - you focus on the present, you’re in the here and now. You can work for hours but it feels like five minutes;
  7. You have intrinsic motivation.

These factors can apply to any activity.

I will describe the application of these principles for developers in my lecture during the 4Developers conference on 11th April in Warsaw.

If you are not able to be there with us, don't worry. I will describe the most important points from my presentation here on the blog.

Let’s start right now with the first point:

You are completely involved in the thing you are doing.

Here are the three most important techniques that will help you to focus on the things you want to do.

Pomodoro technique.

This is something that is very easy to use and you can start right now. With this technique you will see your productivity increase straight away.

You should split your time into periods of work and breaks.

The working period should last around 20-25 minutes. After each period of work you should take time for a short break of around 5 minutes. Every 3rd or 4th break should be longer: from 15 to 20 minutes.

In my case it looks like this:

  1. Work (25 minutes)
  2. Break (5 minutes)
  3. Work (25 minutes)
  4. Break (5 minutes)
  5. Work (25 minutes)
  6. Break (5 minutes)
  7. Work (25 minutes)
  8. Break (15 minutes)
  9. Repeat from the beginning

You can experiment with the length of each cycle to find what works best for you.

The key point is that during the work period you really do the work and during the break you stop doing any work.

You can learn more about this technique here.

Internal clock

All living organisms (humans included) have their own internal clock. This clock is ticking inside you all the time. It decides when is the best time to work and when is the best time to rest (sleep).

Based on the nature of their internal clock, humans can be divided into two basic types: the larks and the owls.

The larks wake up around 5-7 a.m. and they are most productive around 11 a.m. After this their productivity starts to decrease, reaching its lowest point at around 3 p.m. This is the best time to take a nap. Around 5-6 p.m. you are back in productive mode, which reaches a peak at around 8 p.m. After that, it will gradually decrease, allowing you to easily fall asleep at around midnight.

The owls, on the other hand, like to wake up later, at around 10 a.m. They need some time (and coffee) to become productive and they are most effective during the late afternoon, evening and even during the night.

Observe yourself to find out which type you are so you can then adjust your work-style to your internal clock.

Work at the time when the force is with you.

I am a lark. I have no difficulty in waking up at around 6 a.m. without an alarm. I work from 8 a.m. to 1-2 p.m. After this time, thinking becomes difficult and even painful for me. This is when I switch to less demanding activities: going to the gym, having meetings, taking a nap. If I still have something to do, I return to my productive mode at around 5-6 p.m. for the next 2-3 hours.

Meditation

Nowadays we live in a highly disturbing environment. Every second we are attacked by dozens of stimuli - requests from co-workers, domestic issues, advertisements, social media activities, unexpected phone calls or all those important push notifications from every single app you have.

With all this stimulus no wonder our mind cannot focus on one thing for longer than a minute or two.

But there is a solution!

You can train your brain not to follow all the thoughts that appear in your mind.

You can do this by using meditation. Basically the only thing you have to do during meditation is to sit and observe your thoughts. Allow them to come but don’t go deeper into them. Don’t try to avoid any thoughts - you are human and it’s ok to have them. Just don’t allow them to take control of your mind. For example, if you meditate in the morning, thoughts about work appear in your mind. Say to yourself: ‘Oh, that's a thought about work - nice,’ and allow it to pass. Don’t start worrying about your work day, such as, 'I have to do this, this and that. How can I cope with it?’ Allow your thoughts to pass one by one.

You can start this daily routine by taking 5-10 minutes and extend this by a minute or two every week. You can start on your own, just sitting, or you can use one of the meditating apps, like Headspace or Stop, Breathe And Think.

After a week or two you will begin to see the benefits of meditation. It will be easier to focus, and your thoughts won’t be so disturbing. The stress in your life and work will decrease and you will feel happier.

If you want to know more about meditation in modern society i recommend you the book: 10% happier.

That’s all for now! If you want to know more about how to increase your involvement and other flow factors please join us for my lecture at the 4Developers conference on 11th April in Warsaw.

Or wait for my next blog post.

See you!

Bibliography:

At Ragnarson we help companies deliver great products. We take care of development and deployment so that they can focus on growing the product and working with customers.

Work with us