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leadingIn(tech)#17: Small things, Done well. Part III.3; Anti-Flow
Hi there! 👋🏽
This week’s issue is a continuation of the series dedicated to The Art of Leadership: Small Things, Done Well by Michael Lopp. This week I’ll be covering the chapter about “Anti-Flow,” a short chapter about a theme I love, “shower thoughts.” I find it fascinating how our brains continue working around specific topics even when we aren’t intentionally doing so. Is it a coincidence that most of our “ah-ha!” moments come from times when we are doing something else? How can we use that to our advantage?
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In software engineering, it’s a common topic to discuss how we optimize for flow states, where we are productive and have a continuous work throughput. As an engineering leader, it also translates into time blocks of your day where you meet with people to follow through an established agenda and make decisions or progress at work.
The Anti-Flow is about those moments when your mind is loose on some mundane activity and not constrained by the task at hand. There, your brain (involuntarily?) connects thoughts and ideas to produce something new that sometimes makes that “ah-ha!” moment spark; others give you a fresh look at something you had previously dismissed.
The thoughts generated on the anti-flow states are valuable and necessary inputs for your subsequent flowing sessions. These thoughts can be anything from unblocking yourself from working on a document in that you were not making significant progress, taking a different approach to a problem where there was no apparent solution, or identifying a flaw in your plan that you didn’t think about it before.
All of this seems magical, but it has its challenges; how do you ensure those thoughts generated in the anti-flow state stick so you can pick them up on your next working session? What strategies do you use? Rands, in the book, mentions the process of making memorable sentences that he can remember. In my case, I just save them as a new document draft with the “title” that better describes that idea. Find what works for you and use it to your advantage as a resource to enrich your creative process and value creation.
PS: One of the things I’m enjoying the most about making the switch to work in a company that operates in an async first structure is that it leaves room for plenty of “anti-flow” moments. I’ve discovered that my productivity has increased dramatically with short bursts of work inspired by ideas that generated where my mind had the chance to take a break and produce valuable connections.
As an engineering leader, block your time to get into “anti-flow” states, followed by flow sessions. Do not pack your calendar with unnecessary meetings. And remember, being busy is not the same as being productive.