How I'm Seeking Flow in a Startup Environment

How I'm Seeking Flow in a Startup Environment

At Deveo things are pretty hectic right now, with n+1 things going on at the same time. Days can easily be filled with meetings, discussions, and intense collaboration. All of that's really important, but it also means there's less time for work that requires concentration and deep thinking. That time is a precious resource, and it should be guarded well.

What I do when I need to concentrate is I, first of all, stay home. Our office is a great place to collaborate, but an office was never a place where I could concentrate very well. I prefer to be alone when I need to get into flow to get those thinking tasks done.

At home there's yet another source of distraction, though, and that's the online services we use to stay connected remotely: Between GMail, Flowdock, Trello, and Twitter, and of course, Deveo, there's rarely a moment when there isn't something flying in to grab your concentration. While these services are immesurably valuable in staying connected, they also easily trap you into a procrastination pit.

Go Async

i love my retro kitchen timer!

It really doesn't have to be that way. Remote work is better if it's asynchronous. So, I've been experimenting with the following survival tactic - basically a slight variation on the Pomodoro technique:

  1. Turn off sounds and Chrome desktop notifications. Nothing is going to happen in the next half an hour that requires your immediate attention.
  2. Start your pomodoro timer.
  3. Work on your most important task for 25 minutes. Don't check your email. Don't mess around. Just work.
  4. When the timer goes off, have a break. This is when you can also check back online to see if there's something important going on.
  5. If there are discussions going on online, continue them. Then repeat from step 1.

I don't think I've quite nailed it yet, but it already makes a huge difference!

Update May 9th, 2013: Stephen Caver of Happy Cog has posted an excellent article on the importance of breaks. He uses a strategy where you focus on work deliberately for 90 minutes at a time, followed by a break of 15 minutes or so.

by: Tero Parviainen

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