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