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The Zone and being done

The more experience at work I get, the more I find it especially hard to keep being "in the zone" once I'm done with a particular, say, 2 hour job. The tension goes away, the last obvious bug is gone and you play around a bit with what you got just finished. Getting back on track and hitting the next job at hand is quite hard, at least for me. It's not that I don't like the work, just the opposite, web-surfing and other work-time-"activities" bore the hell out of me. It's just hard to enter the zone again.

Anyone else got the problem? Any tips, anything that works for you?

Sebastian wagner
Thursday, January 23, 2003

I know the feeling.  It's not unique to programming jobs, of course; I think a similar feeling can be had in any job with tasks where you get into the "flow".

One method of I've heard of for getting past it (and which I've employed with limited success) is to just start going through the motions of your new task.  If you just decide to get started on it -- even when you don't feel the flow -- you will very likely get sucked in and get back into the flow.

In any case, you're guaranteed not to get back into the flow if you go websurfing or do activities unrelated to your next project.

I've found that my hesitance to start on the new project is often because of a sense that "it's too big and/or too messy" and is going to be very difficult to do.  If I get past that feeling and just start going through the motions of working on the new project it's neat how things can magically fall into place.  It never turns out to be as big or as messy as I'm afraid it's going to be.  It is often hard for me to get past that and start going through the motion when I'm not in the flow.  But whenever I'm able to do it, it works.

Herbert Sitz
Thursday, January 23, 2003

Whever I finish something like this, especially if its been a 'heads down' piece of serious concentration, I give myself a little break. Go to the kitchen and talk about football for ten minutes, or go and raid sombody else's supply of candy. I always feel more more like starting again afterwards.

David Clayworth
Thursday, January 23, 2003

Once I've nailed "the last known bug", I get out of the zone totally. I think "hurrah, job done".

But it never is. There's always one more bug. Then it's head's down and fix it. And of course, that involves a new build, regression testing, the fear that any bug you fix will introduce a new one.

That gets me quaking in my boots. It seems like such a large intertia curve just to change one line of code but still guarantee the same quality as all other builds. Just can't get into that at the end of the day.

Better than being unemployed...
Thursday, January 23, 2003

There was a time when I had problems going into the "zone", too. When my mind isn't ready to take on the next task, I now know that the problem only exists because the task is too big - I have to divide the task into several smaller tasks.

As soon as I've made the steps small enough, I can continue programming and get into the zone very quickly.

So now I know that going into the "zone" is just a question of dividing tasks into several smaller ones. At least it works for me.

Jerry Lewis
Thursday, January 23, 2003

Being in "the Zone" is task specific.  It is not mearly a matter of concentrating on a specific task, it also involves building up a metal picture of the task at hand so you can see your way to the goal.

Once the task is done you have to start building the mental environment for the new task.  If it is quite similar you may be able to get going quickly, but it is difficult, if not impossible, to end one task and jump in to the next one with the same level of concentration immediately.

Thursday, January 23, 2003

When I finish something, I clear everything away and put it out of site. That goes for the stuff that's on my real desk as well as the stuff lingering on my computer desktop. I then start setting out the things I'll need for the next task. Then I leave my office for 15 minutes or so by going for a walk, or into the kitchen for a soda from the fridge, or whatever. When I come back I usually (not always) feel refreshed and more ready to start on something new than if I hadn't gone through my little ritual. Surfing and emailing NEVER help me head back into the zone.

Friday, January 24, 2003

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Friday, July 2, 2004

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