Tuesday, January 12, 2010

sometimes you just have to start..

I was sitting at lunch this afternoon thinking about the project I was working on this morning. There wasn't anything particularly interesting or abnormal about the project (it's just a series of design options for a sales conference a good friend hired me to create) but the circumstances. For the first time in a while, I hit the zone. At least, I've always called it the zone. As soon as I started to dig into the problem I felt my brain turn on and the 'design program' kicked in. I dove in to my project and found myself zoning out for an hour at a time.

I've experienced this on various occasions. Mostly while riding my bike. It's sort of like an oasis in the desert. You long for those moments where you stop existing in the moment and can disassociate and let the rest of your body take over. I guess it's a coping mechanism. When people ask about how one could ever do an Ironman, that's the reason. If you had to be acutely aware of every moment of the race, you couldn't do it. Time is too slow in those moments you need to figure out how to let the rest of your body take over and do the work for you.

Mihaly Csikzentmihalyi (say that three times fast) called it 'flow theory'. He's a professor and former chairman of the Department of Psychology at the University of Chicago. He's devoted his career to investigating flow. He's described flow as
"being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you're using your skills to the utmost."
Flow tends to be driven by concentration. Depression impedes concentration... I've been mildly depressed for a while now. As a result, the times I've really felt that design flow creep in have been few and far between. Whatever the cause, seasonal affective disorder, lack of exercise, I became pretty aware of the fact that I've needed to change something. It's why I've been introducing running the past couple of weeks (and eventually triathlon) and it's the reason that I've started to blog again. I'm methodically experimenting on the things that make me feel better so that I can more effectively live my professional life in front of the computer in my zone.

I need to get back to work but I hope to continue to expand on this. I started to talk to a friend about why I started running the other night and didn't really get to expound on it all that much. This is the beginning of that reason.

Song of the day (which has been playing in the background as I wrote this)



postlude

here's an interesting article I found while doing a little research on Csikszentmihalyi. It's more about programming but a lot of it can be applied to design as well.

1 comment:

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