PRODUCTIVITY: How The Flow State Can Help You Write Better Code


If you are a coder, writer, a performer, a sportsman or even a student, there are moments you may have experienced peak and focused performance. Scientists and psychologists have defined a state of heightened state of consciousness and performance as being in the zone or being in the flow.

Many artists and scientists over the years have expressed their masterpieces or inventions to being in the flow state. This state can bring peak performance for a athelete, a coder or even an artists, bringing out masterpieces or inventions that amaze mankind. There are ways to achieve this flow state, as psychologists and scientists have discovered.

“Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience” is a book by Hungarian-American psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (1934-2021). It is a groundbreaking book that explores the concept of flow, a state of heightened focus and immersion in an activity. The author, defines flow as a state of mind in which an individual is fully absorbed in an activity, and as a result, experiences a sense of joy and satisfaction. The body forgets the experience of pain even while delivering the high performance. The book is based on Csikszentmihalyi’s extensive research on the topic, which spanned several decades.

The author begins by providing a detailed definition of flow and the conditions that are required for it to occur. He states that flow requires a balance between the individual’s skill level and the challenge of the task at hand. If the task is too easy, the individual will become bored, and if it is too difficult, they will become frustrated. However, when the task is challenging yet within the individual’s skill level, they will enter a state of flow.

Csikszentmihalyi also notes that flow is characterized by a loss of self-consciousness, and an altered sense of time. Individuals in a flow state often report that time seems to fly by, as they are fully absorbed in the task at hand. They also report that they are less aware of their surroundings and their own thoughts, as their focus is solely on the task at hand.

The author also explores the various benefits of flow, including increased productivity and creativity. He states that individuals in a flow state are able to perform at their highest level, and as a result, are able to accomplish more than they would have been able to otherwise. He also notes that flow can lead to increased creativity, as individuals are able to think more freely and openly when in a flow state.

Csikszentmihalyi also examines the relationship between flow and happiness. He states that individuals who are able to enter a flow state on a regular basis are more likely to be satisfied with their lives. He notes that flow is not a transient state, but rather a state that can be cultivated and nurtured through practice and training.

In conclusion, “Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience” by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is a seminal work on the topic of flow.  The book is a must-read for anyone interested in understanding the concept of flow and how it can be applied to their own lives.

In his another book, the author has said that the flow state can also be found in the small and mundane tasks of daily life, such as cooking, cleaning dishes, walking or gardening.

When the task is challenging but within one’s capabilities, flow can be achieved. Csikszentmihalyi also notes that flow can be found in solitary or collective activities, and it can be experienced in any setting or environment.

Furthermore, Csikszentmihalyi highlights that flow can help us to improve our skills and become more efficient.

Another book that explores the flow state is “The Rise of Superman: Decoding the Science of Ultimate Human Performance” by Steven Kotler. It is a book that examines the flow state in the context of action and adventure sports, and how it can be used to achieve peak performance. In the book, Kotler presents the idea that the flow state, a state of heightened focus and immersion in an activity, is the key to unlocking ultimate human performance. He provides a detailed explanation of the flow state and how it can be achieved in the context of action and adventure sports such as surfing, skateboarding, and snowboarding.

Kotler uses the term “stoke” to describe the feeling of flow, and argues that it is an innate human desire that drives the pursuit of action and adventure sports. He examines the neuroscience of flow, and how it relates to the brain’s reward and motivation centers. He also explores the various benefits of flow, including increased focus, creativity, and decision-making abilities.

The book also examines the various ways in which flow state can be accessed and cultivated, including mindfulness, meditation, and other techniques. Kotler also provides examples of individuals and teams who have used flow to achieve extraordinary performance in their respective fields.

There are several ways to achieve the flow state, also known as “being in the zone.” Here are a few tips:

  1. Stay focused: Either by listening to music, podcasts or just by immerse in the flow of thoughts.
  2. Keep away from devices: These include clocks, phones or any device or content that makes you distracted or disrupts your line of thought.
  3. Challenge yourself: The flow state occurs when the task at hand is challenging but still within your skill level. Challenge yourself to push the boundaries of your abilities, but make sure the task is still doable.
  4. Eliminate distractions: This could also mean turning off your phone, closing unnecessary tabs on your computer, or finding a quiet place to work.
  5. Find the right balance: Experiment with different levels of difficulty to find what works for you.
  6. Immerse yourself in the task: When in flow, you become fully absorbed in the task at hand. Try to minimize interruptions and distractions and focus on the task at hand.
  7. Practice mindfulness and meditation: Mindfulness and meditation can help you to focus your attention, which can make it easier to achieve the flow state.

Never compare a code written during one state of flow to another, as they are all created in under a certain state, and their quality depends on your skill level and not on the state. Develop a playlist and list of things, including watching your circadian rythms which may exacerbate your flow state, and develop masterpieces, inventions or write clean and great code for your software!