I’m a Flow Serial-Killer

Flow is a critical state of mind for programmers.

It’s a state of being where programmers perform at their best capacity, achieving both excellent productivity and life satisfaction over an extended period of time. Unfortunately, it’s very difficult state to enter and almost instantaneous to break out of.

How have I ruined Flow as an engineering manager?

I decided to keep track of flow-killing activities I’ve done over the past couple of weeks. The resulting list worried me greatly:

  • I let everyone know I’m going to lunch.
  • I walked into the engineering room and cracked a joke.
  • I requested an ad-hoc, unplanned 1–2 minute meeting to discuss an issue, even though I could’ve waited or used literally any other medium.
  • I laughed loudly from another room.
  • I rang the office doorbell because I was too lazy to get my keys.
  • I used the microwave and it beeped loudly. I wasn’t even warming up anything, I was just bored!
  • I made coffee with the Keurig.
  • I sneezed, loudly.

As you can tell from above, literally anything that’s an interruption can kill Flow. I’m trying to get better at not interrupting when people have their heads down. For example, if I see someone wearing their standard-issue noise cancelling headphones (needed as our office is relatively small and full of very loud people), I’ll remember to be as silent as a mouse around them (most of the time).

While I’m glad my team still tolerates my presence, I recognize I still have a long ways to go before I can truly say I’m never a hinderance to my team.

In the mean time, here’s a noise cancelling headset and an apology in advance.