From time to time, when working on trying to solve a problem (especially in coding), I get into this state of intense concentration where I am entirely focused on the work I’m doing and enjoying the process simultaneously. This is commonly known in psychology as flow or the zone named by psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi. I haven’t done as much research into this fascinating area of psychology as I would like (just a brief look into a few articles) but it ultimately sums up how I feel when I’m sometimes problem solving, whether it’s from programming a complex feature in a program or even something as simple as planning my day. If there is some kind of generic solution finding to a particular problem, I believe I can get into the zone and work intensely with full involvement and gratification.
This is how I managed to code a (somewhat simple) program/script in one day: the FBAlbumDownloader. I simply started this project since I wanted to collect all the photos that my friends had of holidays and adventures we shared, and instead of downloading them manually or pestering my friends for these photos I thought there could be a way I could code this in a Python program. That was all it took: my realization that there must be an easier way then downloading each photo manually or asking my friends for these photos.
There are a lot of areas I explored when creating the code and learned much from completing it. Areas such as parsing webpages, browser cookies, decrypting Chrome cookies and finally setting up a Python script for use in a command line.
What’s both strange and fascinating is that time would appear to pass much faster when I was in this state of flow; I would keep working so deeply that I would forget about needing to eat or drink, which lead to both a delayed lunch and dinner for me during this project when I realised that I hadn’t eaten in a while. I only intended to work on the project for a few hours, but I guess my motivation to complete the code and get it working compelled me to work the entire day on it.
When I finally finished the code and got it working, I was ecstatic and glad that a day of intense work had paid off with something I can use and show. I think I even remember exclaiming a bit out loud to myself on a job well done (no one was around = no embarrassment). Flow in itself is satisfying, but completing what I set out to accomplish is even more so. A result to be proud of at the climax of a lot of work is always cause for celebration.
I think that if there is anything in your life that you can do this, enter the zone and experience flow, than you should figure out how you can make a living from doing it. It’s amazing how much you can get done in such a small space of time when you really enjoy doing it and are intensely focused on it. If you can do this for a job then you will not only go far but you will have fun whilst doing it, leading to a happy life. Maybe I’m being a bit idealistic or the fact that I’ve found and am doing that “thing” that I really enjoy it’s easy for me to say, but much harder to do. These are just my thoughts.
Has anyone else found flow like this in their lives? and if they have, where and what were you doing? Let me know, I’m interested!