Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Breaking flow at the end of the work day

It's getting towards the end of the work day, you're cranking, feeling great and everything is just clicking into place. You notice the clock in the bottom corner of your screen and realise that you could maintain this state for a few more hours, but that will get you home late. You don't want to stop but you know you have to go. What do you do?

This is a situation that I find myself in a few times a week. My family commitments mean that I really need to leave on time unless there's a work related emergency. The problem is that I don't always want to leave. This isn't because I don't want to go home, but because I'm in a state of flow and find it hard to switch off. I tend to end up working until the last second and then running for my train. On the first half of the journey home I'm mentally coding and getting stressed out because I can't actually code. This stress is caused in part by not having a transition period between activities.

Transition periods are quiet times between activities which help you go from one activity to the next without added stress. These transitions are often combined with a ritual.

For example, when I get into work the first thing I do is get a coffee and read a few blog posts for about 10 minutes. If this transition ritual is interrupted my stress immediately goes through the roof.

I do have a transition ritual for the end of the day, but when I'm in a state of flow I don't do it. Yes I could force myself to wind down but this also creates stress.

I feel like I'm between a rock and a hard place, so I'm wondering how others deal with this situation. How do you break flow without causing too much stress?

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