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Stefan Dorresteijn
Stefan Dorresteijn

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Finding Flow

If you're anything like me, you have a hard time getting up in the morning when nothing is forcing you to do so. You might enjoy a few hours of walking around town, grabbing lunch with friends or finding other ways to enjoy yourself. Then later in the day, you open your laptop and decide it's time to get to work. Is that the most productive lifestyle? Unlikely, but it's not rare.

I never believed in the standard 9–5. It seemed to me there are different kinds of people; those who wake up early and find themselves to be productive in the earlier hours, and those who sleep in and work evenings. When I was (even) younger, I thought my productivity found me, magically, in the later hours of the day. I would feel demotivated and unproductive all day, but would start working at 9 PM, only to stop working when the sun was coming up; my 9–5 was certainly different from most. Going to bed at 5 AM, of course, led to waking up at 2 PM.
Maybe it's true that some people have an easier time waking up in the morning and some people thrive in the evening, but it's hard to deny the existence of flow, and our power over it. My routine of waking up late, slacking off all day and then finally getting to work created a positive feedback loop. I fell into the routine and maintained it by telling myself that was just how I functioned best. Blinded by feeling special, I never considered that I could simply be wrong. I was wrong. I was very wrong.

By waking up late, but always starting work around the same time, I had programmed myself to start feeling motivated and productive at that exact time. Flow kicked in not long after, so I couldn't go to bed early. I realized this had become a problem but every attempt I made at changing it seemed to fail. Waking up early was hard, I wasn't productive in the mornings and I would need to take frequent naps, even if I had slept 8 hours that night. After a day or two, I'd give up by working until 5 AM and telling myself it wouldn't be healthy not to get 8 hours of sleep when my alarm rang 3 hours later.

The solution is simple, but not easy. Building a routine simply takes more than a few days. It might take weeks in fact, for you to be completely comfortable with your new lifestyle, but you do have that control. Flow doesn't come to you magically, it's trained. Stephen King doesn't get lucky and isn't magically a productive author. He writes every single day and has done so long enough for his creativity, his flow, to become a habit.

The difficult decision is not to call yourself different, a suffering artist who is so unique, he can only do his amazing work when everyone else is getting a good night's sleep. To wake up early, build a routine based on your body's natural requirements and take control of your productivity is the difficult decision. Often in life, we make decisions that seem hard but are in fact easy and those easy decisions can make our lives more difficult. When it comes to finding flow, we can be a bit harder on ourselves. We can take a little more responsibility. We'll be better for it.

Top comments (4)

codingmindfully profile image
Daragh Byrne • Edited

Good read. I wrote a fairly detailed article about finding flow states for programmers - you can read it on my blog here

erclairebaer profile image
Claire McCrea

I really enjoyed your article! Thanks for sharing!

codingmindfully profile image
Daragh Byrne

I’m glad! Thanks for reading!

maestromac profile image
Mac Siri

That was a nice read. Thanks for sharing!