I am one of those people who do a lot of stuff. Really really a lot. I am a product manager of Кanbanize, but I also do blogging, consulting, training, programming, testing, documenting, presenting at events and what not. You may think I’m showing off, but I’m rather setting the plot character – a busy person that has many different tasks on their list, but at least one of them requires deep concentration (in my case this is programming).
Being a technical guy I would rather sit alone in a room do some coding. This is hardly ever the case, though. First and foremost I have too much other stuff to do before I get to dev tasks, but even if I get to that, frequent interruptions by colleagues, phone, email, whatever are sometimes a challenge.
If you are like me, you would soon feel that productivity is hindered by frequent interruptions. Until recently I thought that I was somehow broken, because other people didn’t seem to care too much, but then I read this fantastic book called Peopleware and it all became very clear. Apart from being genial, Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister are putting a lot of words to explain the state of your mind which is called Flow. Yes, flow – you need flow in Kanban to get things done and apparently you need flow in your head too. They say that Flow is the state of your mind where things just happen and work is pleasure. You start doing something and the next time you take your eyes off the screen you realize that it’s been five hours. “Wow, how did that happen?” you ask yourself. Well, you were having a Brain-Flow.
The hard part? It takes between 20 and 40 minutes to get to flow and only a second to be taken out of it. Do your math. Getting distracted 6-8 times a day guarantees that you will hardly ever get to flow. No flow means no work done. No work done means demotivation, frustration and overtime. I hope you see the vicious circle already.
You think you can code and Skype your friends all day? Sorry, you can’t.
You think you can take each phone call and stay in flow? Sorry, you can’t.
You must protect your flow if you want to be really productive. I haven’t managed to find a good way to do it yet, but when things get bad I find sanctuary in my living room where flow is almost permanent. Still a lot to think about and accomplish, but now that we are aware of the real issue we can start tackling it, right?