Reach the flow: the key to improve your productivity

It’s Monday. You get to the office after a very good relaxing weekend. You check the email and notice the list of items to complete this week finally arrived.

After an extensive review, you know you have a lot of things to complete and that makes you feel stressed because you don’t know how to manage your time in an efficient way to complete everything on time before the important demo on Friday.

We all have had this feeling at some point, and it is something hard to think about. Here is where reaching the flow is important.

The flow

In positive psychology, flow, also known as the zone, is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does.

Reaching this state is hard, but the first step to reach it is to know that it exists.

This will help you to focus and use your time in more efficient way, in special for people who work with computers and programmers.

It takes a long time to dig over the code and reach a flow state, any kind of small interruption will require several minutes to focus and get to the previous state to continue. During the day you get emails, chat messages, phone calls, have meetings, and you get notifications from Clash of Clans game stating that your troops are ready for battle. This is probably why most developers feel more productive working at night.

In order to reach the flow you need to focus in your task completely without interruptions for a fair amount of time.

The believe that having the meetings “first thing morning” is good, it is not completely true. Your body and mind is full of energy the first 4 hours after you get up. This is the time when you are able to fix complex problems in more efficient and faster way. If you think about it, this time is burned mostly in not that productive things like: stuck in traffic during your commute, having meetings, checking Facebook and reading the email.

Thankfully, there are some points that helps to improve productivity:

  • Use the last hours of your day to plan next day tasks.
    This will help you to be productive since the beginning.
  • Make a list of items small enough to be completed.
    If you do this you can start removing things from the list and that will makes you feel productive.
  • Try using the first hours of your day resolving the more complex tasks you have assigned.
    You can use the rest of your day to do simpler tasks and planning.
  • Avoid having unnecessary meetings.
    Most problems can be resolved easily with a good question in an email or chat.
  • Disable notifications in your phone, chat clients and similar if they are not critical.
    These notifications are distractions that prevents you to get to the flow state.

Two simple tools that helps to be Focused

There is a combo of tools that you can use to take advantage of your time in a good way that I highly recommend:

Wunderlist

Wunderlist is a simple tool to add items that you need to complete. You should add small tasks to complete and mark them as complete when you are done.

Wunderlist provides online lists of tasks which can be accessed in the computer and mobile

It is very helpful to keep track of the items remaining and know what you have already completed. Your mind will feel good to see how much have you done after a while and that will improve your productivity.

Pomodoro technique

When you have your list ready, you can use the Pomodoro technique to make sure you focus in your work and get things done.

The idea is to start a Pomodoro time, which consist of 20 minutes without any distraction. During this time, you can’t do anything that is not related with your task. You need to forget about the phone, chats, emails and other distractions to make it work.

Then you can have 5 minutes to do anything you want, attack in the Clash of Clans war, watch 5 minutes of your favorite movie or play with your cat.

Then you go back and start the process again. It’s fun!

The key thing is to follow the rule and avoid distractions until the Pomodoro time is over. You can even put a note in your back to let your co-workers know that you are in a middle of something important.

Do not disturb during pomodoro

Some tasks are bigger than the others, so they will need more pomodoro cycles to complete, but that’s ok if you are following the rules.

There are several apps to use this technique, but Be focused (Previously named Pomodoro Time) is the one I use:

Be Focused app

It contains a timer to keep track of your time and that notifies you when you have completed the pomodoro, a small to do list and some stats.

Conclusion

After knowing these tools my productivity improved a lot and I was able to reach the flow in a better way. I hope they help you in your daily basis.

Feel free to leave comments or answers, I’ll answer as soon as possible.

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