Clawing back into the zone

For those of us who seem to work best “in the zone”, I don’t think we place enough emphasis on the effect our lifestyle choices can have on our work ethic.

I quit smoking two weeks ago, and I also stopped drinking caffeine before noon. Ever since, I’ve had trouble getting back into the “zone” where I used to thrive.

My work was starting to suffer.

Finally, late last week, I took a step I was dreading: IĀ just stopped trying to code. It felt like a defeat, like I’d given too much credence to my previous lifestyle choices and allowed them to determine when I could or couldn’t effectively work.

I had to stop trying to find the excitement to work, and let the excitement find me.

The caffeine decision was less about health more about productivity. Turns out that drinking a jolt of caffeine in the morning causes an early afternoon crash … who knew? Now I just drink caffeine in the early afternoon so the crash comes after I’ve stopped working šŸ˜œ

In some respects, I feel like I just needed to get out of my own head and let go of the “old way” of getting in the zone. I had to stop trying to find the excitement to work, and let the excitement find me.

The good news is that the excitement slowly started to creep back in over the weekend. Following my friend John Blackbourn’s lead, I started an Ideas repo on GitHub.

The concept is simple: document ideas you don’t have time to work on now, but want to write down out in the open so you can maybe work on them later. And if somebody else decides to come along and “take” an idea and run with it, that’s OK too!

Ultimately I wrote a few things down. Ideas for things like I’d like to learn, an old project I’d like to revive, a framework I’d like to explore. There’s only four ideas in there so far, but I feel like that’s a pretty good start.

I even took one of the ideas and pitched it to the Plugin-A-Palooza contest hosted the last few years by WordCamp Orange County. If that gets accepted, that might be just the fire I need to take it somewhere I always wanted to ā€“ delivery deadlines have a way of inspiring movement.

So here I am, two weeks out and still finding my way back “into the zone”. I don’t how well this is going to go, but I do feel like I’m on the right track.

It helps that I have a support network in family and friends, as well as in my WordPress family and with my awesome coworkers at Sandhills Development.

I’ll likely need some encouraging and understanding along the way, but I know that these recent choices are directly related to my health and wellness, so it’s worth the initial bumps along the way.

Featured photo by Doug Wilsen, and used with permission under CC.

Unconscious Constants

It’s funny the unconscious constants we have in our lives.

For some people, it’s that feeling you get from the morning workout, or that quiet break during the day to catch up on your feeds.

At my university job, I work in a student-run newsroom, an office that I myself worked in as a student contributor for several years and have now occupied as a staff member for a couple more.

I’ve been sitting at the same section of the newsroom for years now and from my vantage point I see an office lined with tables and probably 35 iMacs all setup in neat little rows. There is a veritable tidal wave of technology at every turn. In front me of I have my MacBook and, of course, my cellphone in my pocket.

But despite having all that information ready at the touch of my finger tips, I’ve come to rely on one constant: the analog clock that hangs on the wall to my left.

I know, it sounds ridiculous. Every direction I look I can probably find the time, but somewhere, subconsciously, I’ve developed the habit of looking left at that clock on the wall.

So when the clock was moved last week, it really threw me for a loop. I’d catch myself glancing in that direction three or four times a day. I’d already done it twice this morning and decided enough was enough. I’d gotten so distracted by my constant clock being gone that it was affecting my productivity.

I rooted through the supply closet and managed to unearth a long-discarded, half-broken clock. But popping a battery in that baby gave me the oh-so-familiar tick tock of my constant clock.

That clock is on the wall and I’m back to happily pecking away at my desk.

The lesson I’ve learned is that sometimes it’s all the little things put together that help you stay on your game. For me, it was an analog clock.

Photo used under CC. Photo by Lisa Yarost/Flickr.

Oh the places you’ll go … on the Internet

Photo by Flickr/James Cridland. Used with permission under Creative Commons License.

Sometimes I just reflect on what access and ease the Internet has brought to people’s everyday lives.

Tonight alone, I ordered books on Amazon, opted-out of pre-screened credit card offers for 5 years, window shopped for Mother’s Day and applied for a Tax ID number. All from the comfort of my computer chair.

I’ve heard the argument that the Internet has made my generation lazy (see: Generation Y), but I think it actually makes us more productive. If you think about it, we’re able to accomplish quite a bit more with a few taps on the keyboard or clicks on a mouse than was ever possible in the past. Heck, now people are walking, driving, biking, running, exercising even camping while they’re hooked into the Internet. That screams of productivity (not to mention lunacy).

There’s never been a doubt that the Internet affords us with many new and ever-changing luxuries. But I sometimes think it’s fun to marvel at what life might’ve been like 50 years earlier. Would have it been slower? More productive? Would we have had more face-to-face interaction and less static clutter?

What do you think? Let me know in the comments.