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Flow daily routines - create habits that boost your productivity

This article is the next episode in our Flow series. You can find the first episode here. In this part, we will talk about daily routines that can help you go into the flow state

How you start is how productive you are

The most effective ways to enter the flow state are focus and involvement. This is why it is so important to start in a good way. It has a critical impact on your productivity and state during the entire day.

Home is the place where productivity is born

Let’s start at your house. You should take care about your night sleep. Don’t listen to all these crazy folks saying: “Be more productive, sleep less”. Bullshit. Sleep as long as you need. Even one-day sleep deprivation may cause impaired concentration for the entire day. What is better: be at work at noon in a good mood and productive state. Or maybe be at 9 a.m. and be able to do nothing for an entire day.

Achievement unlocked:

If you are employed make an appointment with your boss. Tell him you want to talk about your working hours. You want to make them flexible. Tell him it will be profitable to him and send him this article as a proof. He won’t probably read this but still you have some proof/papers you can refer to.

If he will be against the idea make him second offer. Little flexible working hours. You can start/finish your work +/- 2 hours once or twice a week. In reference to psychology, he should agree to the second smaller one. Then show him you are more effective during the flexible days. After a few weeks go back to him with the first proposal.

The Office - one of the biggest enemies of your productivity

Let’s go to your office. It is also very important how you start here. What are the first things you do after entering the office?

None of them is the best way to starting your work day. None of them is even a good one.

You can ask: what is a good way?

The answer is very trivial.

Do your work. Immediately after you enter the office.

To be honest, start work even earlier. The day before. When you are finishing the work day prepare for yourself an easy start for the next day. Think a little what will you do and how you can start it. Just a minute or two. It will make you calm and give you an internal peace. You will know that everything is under control. It also makes it easier to start your next day. You don’t have to think and figure out what to do first. You already knew so you can start your work from the first minute in the office.

What can be our obstacles here?

The noise! The disruptions!

These issues come up during our working time so we dedicate them an entire section

The disruptions kill your productivity

The main disruption factor is people. They can disrupt us directly. But most of them are not able to do that. The biggest group of them is far away from us. The second is too shy or too afraid of our amazing personality. The thing that connects these groups is that they use technology to inject disruption to our life.

Every single interruption can cost you a few minutes to go back to the stage of mind you were just before. Even if the break was less than one minute. Yes, recovering from the break can take longer than the break itself. I know what I'm talking about, I had two interruptions during this writing. Two short breaks, around 30 secs each, in two minutes, and I can not get back to the writing flow after 12 minutes(!).

How we can defend ourselves!

The are some strategies that we can apply.

No disruption mode is productive mode

All mobile devices or even computers have no disruption mode. Turn it on. No notification, no emails, no calls are allowed.

You can think: what if I will miss something important? A critical message from the boss or very important call from your family. And you are right. One percent of things you will miss will probably be important. But the rest of them, the 99%, will be a regular waste.

For the last one percent establish special emergency channels. Let’s say your company communication base on emails and slack. Let's turn off notifications from not relevant channels. I allow slack just to show me the sign on the page title, that there is a new private message or I was mentioned by someone. Then inform your team that they should call you in a case of emergency. As an emergency, I mean something like critical problems on production. You should add your boss phone number to the whitelist that allows to reach you at all times. Don’t whitelist all your coworkers, because they can overuse this privilege.

Silent hours are productive hours

Silent hours means the time when no one is talking to anybody. You can know it from your relationship. When something went wrong, you have pretensions against your partner. And you decided to not talk to each other.

Is not the best time in a relationship. But it is the best time in your work.

In job context, it means the time when people shouldn’t talk to each other. No meetings, no questions to ask, no discussions. Just pure work.

Some companies have silent hours in their DNAs. You are lucky if you work in one of them. You don’t have to do anything to enjoy silent hours because it is a part of the company culture.

Most of us are not so lucky. But we can still organize this amazing time for yourself:

Official way: discuss it with your boss, client and coworkers. You can start with a small proposal. Two silent hours at the beginning or the end of a workday. Sell it as a one/two weeks experiment.

Unofficial way: make it for yourself without asking anyone. The best way is to start work earlier than anyone. Or work at night. As a result, you will have a few working hours when no one else is working so they can not disturb you.

To be able to just work without asking questions you have to discuss your tickets, your tasks. Think a little about potential critical points and discuss them with the product owner. If you don’t have the clear plan of implementation you should discuss it with one of your coworkers.

Silent hours are good and useful for developers. But I would not recommend it for product owners. They should be available for developers all the time in case of any questions.

Pink noise can cut you off and free your internal productivity

When you work in the office or coworking space you are surrounded by other people. The noise they make can disrupt you and hinder your focus.

That is why many developers, consider headphones as a critical tool for their work. It helps them to isolate from outside world and focus on their work.

I would like to draw attention to the things we play with our headphones. Most of us use music to cut off outside worlds.

Unfortunately in most cases is not a good solution. Rhythm and melody can very easily influence our emotions and moods. High level of emotions can make our work less effective. It decreases our focus. Even worse if we have some memories related to the tune. In this case, our mind is taken by the song for an exciting time travel full of memories and strong emotions. Your work is not a part of this trip.

The new songs are not better. The new things are always attractive for our mind. It makes sense from an evolutionary point of view. The new means it can be dangerous. Or it can be a new source of pleasure and good feelings. Our brain has to identify the new sounds and categorize it. It requires some resources that cannot be used allocated to our work. Our focus is getting down. Even worse if the song contains the words in the language we understand. It is another task for our mind: to understand what it is all about.

Thank God there are some music genres take can increase our productivity. Search Youtube or Spotify for heroic music, epic music or focus music to experience the examples. But again we can start feeling too epic so we start dreaming instead of working.

The best sounds that help me focus and cut off from the office noises are other noises. If there are neutral and uniform noises then they can cover the sound pollution without disrupting your attention. The one that works best for me is called pink noise. You can check 10 hours example or use one of the many noise-generator apps. My favorite one is simplynoise

Measure your time - when you are productive and when not

In the previous article, I showed you the pomodoro technique. It helps us to divide time between real productive work and relaxing breaks. I like to say it is a quantity tool. It helps you to manage how much time you spend on your work. What about the quality of this time?

Pomodoro helps a little with this aspect. The rule is work during working time, relax during the breaks. But I needed something more. Something that gives me feedback about the quality of time I spend on my work.

And I found a great tool. It is called the chart of commitment and you need only paper and pen to use it.

Take a piece of paper and draw two-dimensional chart. Put time on horizontal axis and scale from 1 to 10 on the vertical one. Set the recurring reminder on your phone for around 10 minutes. When you see reminder then rate your commitment to the thing you SHOULD do. 1 is the lowest and 10 is the highest. Draw a dot corresponding to your rate on the chart. At the end of the day, you have the chart of your daily commitment. What are your profits from it:

Asking yourself a question makes you more aware of yourself and things you are doing. This in itself increases your focus and commitment.

You can observe patterns on your commitment chart. For example, a time ranges when your commitment are extra high/low. With that knowledge, you can discover what makes you more effective and what is your obstacle. You can also find the time when working is the easiest for you. Try to do the hardest stuff at this time. You will probably also find a time when you have big difficulties to focus. It is normal. You can use this knowledge to avoid hard tasks at this part of the day. Or even decide to don’t work at this time at all. Breaks are good and productive!

Listen to yourself, you can not be productive all the time

This post is all about daily routines that help you achieve flow more frequently. At the end, I want to say don’t try to use these routine all the times. Don’t force yourself to be 100% strict to all of them all the time. There will be a day when you will be able to work effectively for 12 or even more hours. But there will be also a time when you will be less productive. Don’t force yourself to hard work at this time. It won’t help. It will just make you feel worse. Accept that you are a human, not a machine. If you can’t focus then take a nap, go outside or start chatting with your friends. If you went sleep later yesterday allow yourself to sleep longer today. Especially if you had been on a party yesterday. It will help for your productiveness and happiness

What you should do next to boost your daily productivity

That is all for today! I encourage you to test routines I described above. Try them one by one, and check what works for you. Don’t try to implement all of them at once. It will only result in chaos and your frustration. Go step by step. Take one technique, one routine and test for 2-3 weeks. Then test another one.

In next episode, we will focus on coding. How the way you code can help you achieve the flow?

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