Programming in The Zone

This post is a few years old now, so some details (or my opinions) might be out of date.
I would still love to hear your feedback in the comments below. Enjoy!

A lot has been written about the concept of flow, and I was well aware of this particular psychological mode way before I had a name for it. I like saying that I’m in the zone. In The Social Network, they refer to this state as being wired in. The most interesting thing about the zone is, of course, how to get there. I can’t really pinpoint the variables that help me get in the flow (possibly because when I’m in it, I usually don’t think about it), and Wikipedia agrees:

One cannot force oneself to enter flow. It just happens. A flow state can be entered while performing any activity, although it is most likely to occur when one is wholeheartedly performing a task or activity for intrinsic purposes.

There are three conditions that are necessary to achieve the flow state:

  • One must be involved in an activity with a clear set of goals. This adds direction and structure to the task.
  • One must have a good balance between the perceived challenges of the task at hand and his or her own perceived skills. One must have confidence that he or she is capable to do the task at hand.
  • The task at hand must have clear and immediate feedback. This helps the person negotiate any changing demands and allows him or her to adjust his or her performance to maintain the flow state.

When I was reading this article, I simultaneously thought about how this translates to programming and I was surprised to see that every point mentioned very clearly suggests opinions I’ve held strongly for quite some time. Here’s what I came up with:

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