Ways to Protect Flow

Things individuals can do to protect Flow:

  1. Keep your phone on silent all day long.
  2. Disable all notifications on your computer. Distractions from a phone / computer can disrupt Flow dozens of times every day.
  3. Respond to text messages, phone calls, and e-mails when you get stuck. Distractions actually help you when you get stuck.
  4. Find music that helps you focus. For me personally, I like instrumental or electronic stuff that doesn’t have lyrics.
  5. Buy a nice, comfortable set of earplugs or noise canceling headphones to minimize distracting noise. Or, go and work in a place that has lots of noise if that works better for you.
  6. Control portion size in meals. If you eat too much, you’ll get sleepy and that makes Flow harder to get into.

Things businesses can do to protect Flow:

1) If possible, give people private offices.
2) Don’t just drop in on people if they are in their office. Shoot them an e-mail and schedule a time to meet up. The end of the day or the beginning of the day is best.
3) Optimize your meetings:

  1. Don’t include people in meetings who don’t absolutely have to be there. They just bloat the meeting size, dilute the amount of time that each person gets to talk, and you waste their time.
  2. If any person goes without speaking for 10 minutes, that is clue that you have a problem. Either you are not engaging this person, this conversation does not apply to them, or they shouldn’t be in this meeting at all. If someone goes an entire meeting and they speak only once or twice, something is probably wrong. Most likely, they could have gotten everything out of the meeting from a notes summary or a screencast recording.
  3. This is because meetings are not asynchronous. They require everyone to drop what they’re doing and have their butt in a chair at the same time, together. This is a productivity killer. Rather than allowing people to get the work done that they are doing, and then read meeting notes or watch a screencast when they have some bandwidth, it forces them to drop everything and come and be in the meeting.
  4. The more you talk in a meeting, the more you enjoy it. This means that you want all the people in your meeting to talk. Regularly.
  5. Unfortunately, this axiom has a strong drawback. When you combine it with the fact that the people with the authority to call meetings are typically the same ones who do the most talking in them, and you have a situation where the people who really enjoy the meetings are the ones with the ability to call more meetings, while the people who aren’t enjoying the meeting don’t have much authority to push for less meetings. This means that you tend to have more meetings than the majority of people wish.
  6. Introverts tend to enjoy meetings less than extroverts. If you really enjoy meetings, it might be because of your personality type. You may have people on your team that feel like meetings are the worst part of their day. If your team is having a lot of meetings, be sure to ask the individual team members in private if they like having that many meetings.
  7. Just because you’re having a meeting, it doesn’t mean that everyone needs to be there for the whole thing. If you need someone to share something at a meeting, just have them come and present for 5-10 minutes, and then let them leave and get back to work.
  8. If you need to have planning meetings, let them be between the technical leadership and the business leadership, and don’t waste the time and energy of the grunt workers.
  • http://www.parkscomputing.com/ Paul M. Parks

    Hi, Aaron,

    I just discovered your site via the article “A Criticism of Scrum,” which I absolutely love and have shared to LinkedIn.

    I also adore this article, but regarding silence in meetings, I have to say that it’s very common for me to attend a meeting and stay very quiet, sometimes absolutely silent, but still get a lot out of it. As a technical and project lead, not only do I get invited to meetings, but I’ll occasionally ask to be included in certain meetings so that I can stay in the loop on what’s being discussed. Perhaps that could be accomplished via email, but those summaries are never complete and don’t capture the non-verbal aspects of communication. I guess it’s the Clarence Thomas approach.

    Otherwise, yes, I agree: think twice before calling a meeting, and if you do call it, think twice about who you invite. Perhaps what we need to focus on isn’t whether an attendee is talking, but whether the attendee is engaged. Granted, that’s a little more difficult, especially on a conference call, when the attendee isn’t speaking.

    Best regards,

    PMP

    • http://www.ponderyourpath.com Aaron Gray

      Hey Paul,

      Thanks for the kind words of encouragement! Glad you enjoyed the Scrum article. That was a fun one to write.

      Good thoughts about how being in a meeting can give a richer, fuller understanding of what’s being discussed. I like how you coined it “the Clarence Thomas approach”. 😉

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