Reclaim your flow state: 3 developer distractions to eliminate

Too many notifications and other workday distractions can knock a productive day right off the rails. Here are three of the most common developer distractions to look out for—and some tips for how to banish them from your daily routine.

Developers understand that getting into a flow state is essential to a productive day. Tap into a flow state and you’re flying through your code. But too many notifications and other workday distractions like ill-timed meetings and out-of-context questions from peers can knock your productive day right off the rails. Once you’ve silenced the notification, sat through the meeting, and answered the question, it can take you hours to reclaim that flow state—if you can do it at all. Even a brief interruption that demands task switching or context switching can cost you an average of 23 minutes—it takes that much time to get back in the groove.

Where possible, try to prevent these disruptions from happening in the first place. Here are three of the most common developer distractions to look out for—and some tips for how to banish them from your daily routine:

1. Too many meetings at the wrong times

Some meetings are unavoidable—even (gasp) valuable! Intentional meetings during the planning phases of a project make sure everyone is working toward the same vision, helping to avoid rework or time wasted on the wrong work. But since meetings also pull you away from your work for significant chunks of time, they can be distracting and disruptive.

Work with your manager or team members to arrange meetings carefully and, where possible, outside of intensive daily development cycles that require deep-focus work. You might have to experiment to find the right cadence and time of day for meetings, whether that means setting aside 10 minutes bright and early for a standup, or scheduling back-to-back meetings one or two days a week and then blocking out uninterrupted focus time for another one or two days. This way, you’re not scrambling to complete tasks in 30-minute blocks in between meetings. The best time for meetings might be determined by your time zone and your own circadian rhythms: when you’re most energized, alert, and focused on work. And when it comes to daily stand-ups, be sure to honor the agreed-upon timebox.

2. Too much time spent searching for answers

When you need to have a question answered, get some historical context, or reference existing components, you should be able to find the information you need quickly—so you can return to your work without going down a rabbit hole of emails or Slack messages. That’s why having a go-to resource for accessing shared, up-to-date information is key.

This kind of centralized knowledge base will let you get the answers you need and get back to work as quickly as possible. The right knowledge platform will also allow you to document the solutions you find for future reference—your own and other developers’. The next developer helped by this information might be your future self!

3. Notification fatigue

From Slack messages to monitoring alerts, notifications will take you out of your flow state in a literal flash as they appear on your screen.

Schedule focus hours where you can mute notifications of all kinds. This may mean resetting team expectations around constant availability and immediate replies. And it may include setting up prioritization in your monitoring and alerting tools to minimize noise and silencing all but the most vital alerts during focus time.

As developers, we’re right to be wary of distractions that can bring our beautiful flow state to a screeching hault. A little advance planning to minimize the impact of these daily disruptions will help you stay focused on doing your best work.

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