Flow is a mental state where you’re in “The Zone.” Time flies by, everything just works and you’re totally focused on the task at hand and apply yourself fully. You can see basketball players attain it sometimes where they just can’t miss a shot. But, you can also observe and experience it programming. It’s those amazing sessions where in several hours or a day you churn out something that typically takes weeks.
These 100x productivity periods are highly coveted. Not just because of how much you get done, but also because it is one of the best feelings in the world when you totally realize your potential. To get into flow you need an obstacle free environment–no distractions, all available resources at hand. Everything must be streamlined.
In software development, Agile methods provide the best breeding ground for getting into flow. Your tasks are broken down into small enough chunks that you can comprehend them, the automated tests, continuous integration and deployment smooth the process of verifying code. Pair programming is arguably another fantastic technique to get into flow. The driver is just programming, while the navigator deals with all the stuff that typically would distract the driver if they were programming alone. For example, looking up documentation, checking the status of the latest test run and scouring StackOverflow for that helpful snippet. The most important part might be that you can’t just go HackerNews binging in the middle of a pair programming session. When you have two people working together, one keeps the other honest as far as focus goes. I recommend that you explicitly experiment and find the best way for you to achieve flow. It is well worth it.