Category Archives: Flow

Tee ’em up

Golf provides another metaphor for getting things done. Take #2 on “crankable widgets”.

Growing up in Las Vegas, our favorite place to hit golf balls was Desert Pines. It was 30 minutes away, but it boasted a double decker driving range and automatic tees. After each hit, the tee dropped into the floor and re-emerged with a new ball. You could hit ball after ball without the pesky work of bending down to tee them. You could keep your stance and stay in the zone.

Imagine “teeing up” your tasks. Thoroughly prepare each task so the actual work of doing it is a simple, fluid stroke. Poorly prepared tasks require you to lean down. Well-prepared tasks are ripe for the hitting.

Bad: “Do taxes”
Good: “Find W2 forms and receipts in folder. Call accountant to setup appointment.”

Bad: “Christmas shopping”
Good: “Spend 10 minutes with pen and paper brainstorming what David might like for Christmas. Ask Mom for suggestions. Wait a few days to think about it. Order it online.”

Can you see how using concrete words makes each task easier to grasp? These changes may seem obvious to you, and perhaps you won’t need this much description. Be as descriptive as you personally need. But you’ll be surprised how fluidly you’ll move from task to task if you’ve taken the time to describe each task specifically and concretely.

More Flow, More Happiness

I usually spend only 20% of my workday programming, but this week I’ve been doing more of it and it’s been awesome. There’s something really rewarding about refactoring code — making it more concise, more logical, more consistent. More beautiful. This isn’t even new code; I’m just pruning the old stuff in preparation for coming additions. Jon Udell says good programming is like good writing: you need multiple drafts.

For me, programming is the way I get into flow. Sometimes writing can do it for me too. For my grandmother, I think it was quilting. I believe much happiness comes from creating something.


Oneness with work is “flow”.

Flow is the mental state of operation in which the person is fully immersed in what he or she is doing, characterized by a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity. (source)

The act of creating something, whether it be an article, a poem, a website, a computer program, or some other creative human expression, is one of my most cherished activities. … It usually takes a while for me to fully enter the highly creative flow state, but once I’m there I lose awareness of everything but the present moment and the ideas flowing through me. (source)

Oneness with surroundings is a principle of Eastern thought.

…practitioners of Eastern religions such as Buddhism and Taoism have honed the discipline of overcoming the duality of self and object as a central feature of spiritual development. (source)

The idea of overcoming duality of self and object is a key theme of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values by Robert Pirsig (1974). “When you’re not dominated by feelings of separateness from what you’re working on, then you can be said to ‘care’ about what you’re doing. That is what caring really is: ‘a feeling of identification with what one’s doing.’ (ibid.)

Oneness with people is a Christian virtue.

…be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you. (source)

And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind… (source)

Oneness with God comes through the Atonement of Jesus

The word [Atonement] describes the setting “at one” of those who have been estranged, and denotes the reconciliation of man to God. (source)

And now Father, I pray unto thee for them … that they may believe in me, that I may be in them as thou, Father, art in me, that we may be one. (source)