That magical word that all of us programmers humans want to find: flow. The thing that makes us feel superhuman. The thing that makes us feel like we can actually conquer our never-ending to-do list.
I consider myself superhuman somedays. I believe that I'm better at figuring out how to maximize every single spare 3 minutes of time in my workday to get more items done than other people. Spoiler alert: I'm probably not.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi originally coined the term "flow." He describes flow as "being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you're using your skills to the utmost."
Two weeks ago, I found actual flow at work for the first time in maybe months. I forgot how electrifying it can feel. How it feels like you can really solve all the world's problems, or at least yours. It was wonderful.
I was working on writing a presentation for an internal retreat, about a topic, I am passionate about: scrum.
A major part of my role right now is being a scrum master. My work days normally involve working on projects for 30 minutes between meetings and answering the seemingly never-ending list of questions people have for me.
It's rare for flow to actually occur for me anymore. If it does it's because I'm working in the early morning, and no one else is around.
One thing that scrum has taught me is that getting into flow is how people are able to complete complex tasks faster. By making your brain do constant context switching you are not doing your brain or your coworkers' brains any favors. It, in fact, can and will actually make both tasks later. There's a chart in The Quality Software Management by Gerald Weinberg that illustrates this perfectly actually.
Number of Simultaneous Projects Percent of Time Available per Project Loss to Context Switching
1 100% 0%
2 40% 20%
Simultaneous Projects"3 Available per Project"20% Context Switching"40%
4 10% 60%
5 5% 75%
Pretty much as soon as you have two tasks you're trying to focus on, your brain is done. You've lost the game. Flow isn't happening. Let alone if you have 4 or even 5 tasks going on at once.
So please, be kind. If your coworker is in flow, stop and think about if your question can wait (or be emailed) before you interrupt their flow.
Until then, keep chasing that superhuman feeling we all love.