HackerNews Readings
40,000 HackerNews book recommendations identified using NLP and deep learning

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tikuonApr 24, 2019

You should read the book "Flow" by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, titled: Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience.

He claims that Flow is (more easily) achieved when Skill level and Challenge level are both very high.

rwieruchonMay 27, 2018

Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi [0]

It helped me understand certain things I experienced in life without consciously knowing about them.

- [0] https://www.robinwieruch.de/lessons-learned-deep-work-flow/

tom_ilsinszkionFeb 20, 2010

Another great book, for me, was 'What do you say after you say hello' by Eric Berne. Flow is also good, though.

pashamuronMay 7, 2020

Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is a really good book to that effect. And has some practical tips on how to learn to enjoy doing things you might not otherwise.

bumbyonJune 14, 2019

What you're describing is more aligned with the thesis of the book "Flow"...namely, that flow occurs when we are at the outer cusp of our capabilities. In other words, when the task is difficult enough to be challenging but not so difficult as to become frustrating.

fedenusyonMar 7, 2013

Flow Free: Bridges, with nicer graphics and a better soundtrack. I like it. Controls could be a bit smoother, but nice game overall. Great start.

resabonSep 10, 2019

Thanks for sharing. Man's search for meaning is on my reading list. Flow was a really good read. I will definitely checkout other books on you list! :)

vlasevonMay 17, 2013

If you really want to know what it takes to live a happy life, read the book Flow [1] by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. It's the best book I've ever read on happiness and reading it has positively changed my life like nothing else.

[1] http://www.amazon.com/Flow-Psychology-Experience-Mihaly-Csik...

codezeroonMay 25, 2016

It probably just stuck with me personally as a quote from Flow My Tears.

What do you usually associate the quotation with? :)

yobfountainonJune 21, 2012

Just in case it's not on your radar, there's a very compelling book called Flow by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi that delves deeply into the subject of 'being in the zone.' (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flow_%28psychology%29)

gexlaonNov 18, 2020

Tried to read Deep Work, which just seemed like a much simplified rehash of Flow, by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Then the replication crisis happened, which may have tagged some of the ideas in Flow as questionable. I don't think I would read anything more from Cal Newport.

rwieruchonJuly 31, 2017

I really loved the book in combination with the book Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. In Deep Work are several strategies explained to get into a state of flow by doing deep work. [0]

- [0] https://www.robinwieruch.de/lessons-learned-deep-work-flow/

rahimnathwanionJan 6, 2015

Check out the book 'Flow' for one potential answer, or this TED Talk if you have less time: http://www.ted.com/talks/mihaly_csikszentmihalyi_on_flow?lan...

hyp0onNov 19, 2014

One of the authors of Flow offered to answer questions, but their comment is greyed out as a dupe (and it isn't a dupe - something went wrong):


dudurochaonDec 9, 2011

The problem is the half-assed work/activities.

I think you have to be fully engaged in any activity you are making. If you want to relax, relax in a full paced way. Not worrying about the work you have to make.
If you must work, work in a fast-paced way, and make the job done.

The worst kind of works is the one multi-tasked. You dont get in a 'flow' state that is necessary for the most jobs people here in hacker news makes.

Two books are very good in the matter, The power of full engagement http://amzn.to/vdS1Tc and Flow http://amzn.to/t2bed6

tonystubblebineonDec 16, 2018

I bet a lot of people already know this, but it was a surprise to me this year. The book Flow originated from happiness research. I'd always assumed it was a book about productivity, but it's actually a book about what activities make a person happiness.

That says something important about productivity. You'll only be happy with productivity meets up with a level of challenge that puts you in a flow state. Productively doing easy tasks is boring.

nnxonMay 4, 2014

"People at the end of their life who claimed to be the happiest with their life were the ones who had spent the most time in this state of flow."

I can certainly believe this.

If you are not familiar with the concept of "flow state" (Samadhi in Hindu cultures [1]), I'd recommend reading the wonderful "Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art" by Stephen Nachmanovitch [2] over the more famous "Flow" by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

[1] http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samadhi

[2] http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/0874776317

nickpsecurityonApr 18, 2017

I suggest looking up Paul Morrison's stuff on Flow-based Programming. He's been using it in enterprise a long time.

Also, if looking for glue, check out Wikipedia's list of programming paradigms or types of programming languages. Quite a few including some styles you may have not heard of.

lemmingonAug 2, 2010

On a "what makes us tick" non-fiction bent:

1. Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (http://tinyurl.com/33kv6te) - fascinating look at the author's theory of Flow, the state of total absorption that accompanies total concentration - so called "optimal experience". Anyone who programs knows this feeling. Really excellent book.

2. Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert (http://tinyurl.com/38lvdzc) - not the self-help book it sounds like, but an interesting look at why we're so bad at working out what will make us happy.

3. The Tiger that isn't by Andrew Dilnot (http://tinyurl.com/38hntqx) - interesting guide to our instinctive interpretation of statistics and how the media manipulates it.

4. Bad Science by Ben Goldacre (http://tinyurl.com/3yk8woz) - at once amusing and horrifying look at various aspects of pseudoscience, especially as applied to healthcare.


1. Anything by Iain Banks, especially the sci-fi.

2. If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things by Jon McGregor (http://tinyurl.com/3496d34) - worth reading just for the language he uses.

3. American Gods by Neil Gaiman (http://tinyurl.com/3xyr65w) - great fantasy with a darkly humorous side.

sixhobbitsonMay 17, 2018

I recently finished Drive and loved it,and I'm also working with a small team where we recently implemented OKRs. Now working through "Punished by Rewards", and also really enjoyed Andy Grove's "High Output Management" (in spite of the title) and the original "Flow" book, in spite of its esoteric style.

Would love to hear what else you've read and enjoyed in this area.

dpflanonJan 3, 2016

According to this article, a creative person experiences heightened sensitivity to stimuli and exhibits paradoxical behavior. Then he/she chooses a medium for expression to channel the chaotic sensory and emotional experiences into one that is controlled more so by themselves, else how can we deem someone as creative until they create. Seems like we need to understand creativity a bit more, because as many users are commenting, some descriptions and questions from this article are vague and highly applicable the basic human experience (we're all creative! :))


I looked for some resources by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (MC) who was referenced for studying creativity.

Here is what appears to be chapters 2 and 5 of his book Creativity (hosted by CS7601: Computational Creativity, host by Georgia Tech):

1. Ch. 2. - "Where Is Creativity?": http://www.cc.gatech.edu/classes/AY2013/cs7601_spring/papers...

2. Ch. 5 - "The Flow of Creativity": http://www.cc.gatech.edu/classes/AY2013/cs7601_spring/papers...

3. Class Website: http://www.cc.gatech.edu/classes/AY2013/cs7601_spring/


Csikszentmihalyi also wrote Flow, which is about the psychology of optimal experience.

1. TED talk by MC: https://www.ted.com/talks/mihaly_csikszentmihalyi_on_flow?la...

2. Flow - coined by MC: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flow_(psychology)

aero142onNov 1, 2017

I recently added Flow Type to a Javascript project and it changed my opinion on this debate. I realized that I really don't care about static vs dynamic typing. What I care about is a hierarchy of the ways that my code can be more likely correct. Given the same level of verification, integration tests and are worse than unit tests are worse than runtime checks are worse than compile time checks. There may be cases where static typing makes code more performant, but I usually care a lot more about development speed and correctness. In this world, I just want a way of verifying my code as quickly as possible. Gradual typing lets me specify some validations of my code that will run at compile time. This is a huge win for me in both correctness and development speed.

I don't know if we will ever invent the perfect static type system, but I do know that having the ability to specify some types in a pretty good type system, is better than not being able to specify any types.

I'm convinced that a language with a progressive type system is strictly better than one without. Therefor, any debate that compares static vs dynamic, instead of static vs progressive is not interesting to me.

TorbjornLundeonAug 11, 2012

You might want to check out Flow by MetaLab. They have a really native iPhone client and quite desktop-y web interface.


pepetoonApr 28, 2013

Nice answer. I have things to say:
- there are situations that number of levels matter - dependecies is one reason. There must be others, why is 51 the highest in WOW? I am looking for a source that can point all the reasons.
- how many points do you award each task? Surely this matters, but what do i benchmark those to? Time it takes to complete? Mix of time, complexitity, scarcity, x y z? What are possible x y z, and in what proportions do i mix them?
- books are "Gamification by Design" by Gabe Zichermann (biggest proponent), "Reality is Broken" by Jane McGonigal, Also "Flow", "Drive" and a couple more. All of those seem too theoretical, and when i sit to create something, i cant put numbers to the theories.

xhrpostonDec 12, 2018

The Obstacle is the Way (somewhat encouraging)

The Art of Empathy (very interesting)

The Three Body Problem (good)

The Startup Way (decent)

The Politics of Bitcoin (short but interesting)

Why We Sleep (very much worth it)

The Last Arrow (mixed feelings)

The Prize (boring but informative)

Superhuman by Habit (OK, not much new)

The Circle of Profit (straight to the point)

Thinking in Systems (couldn't finish it)

Radical Candor (awesome)

Harry Potter #1 (too low of a reading level)

Man's Search for Meaning (classic)

Flow (Amazing!)

Scary Close (great)

troubleonOct 17, 2018

I've had a pretty similar experience. Get exercise, sleep, food and hydration under control, then (in my case) medication helps me make the most of that structure.

I actually just wrote a giant post [1] about what I've learned about managing ADHD so far. It focuses on the core stuff, but I want to follow it up with a breakdown of how books like Deep Work (e.g. Flow; Farsighted; Thinking, Fast and Slow; How Not to be Wrong) have made a difference for me.

[1] https://medium.com/@sashacollecutt/life-with-adhd-a61cae5a5b...

madaxe_againonNov 12, 2016

If you enjoyed this, Jean Baudrillard's Simulacra and Simulation is what he has drawn heavily upon. He talks extensively about the "hyperreal" mental reality we exist within.

If you enjoyed that, you might like Phil K Dick's existential works like Flow my tears, cantata 140, hell anything of his almost. Even "the defenders" is a full on frontal assault on reality.

Finally, if you want to go clean off the deep end, read his Exegesis and Valis.

muzanionMar 20, 2019

Books have been great, the more difficult the more nutritious. But the more nutritious they are, the harder they are to digest, so I don't recommend trying to read too many at a time.

Books themselves are also a great resource to find other great resources. Generally things that attract your attraction are the ones which give the best ROI. Books are a great place to find this, as you can trace a source and really consume it. Books like Tools of Titans are better off as a directory for discovery rather than read end to end.

Classics are worth reading when you find yourself pacing over an idea a few times. Discussing a lot of capitalism? Pick up The Wealth of Nations sometimes. Need help getting into the flow? Read the original book on Flow, by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

I do want something that highlights good new tools and trends. Product Hunt feels a little too sponsored. HN is great, with good critical feedback, but it's biased towards the older crowd.

Facebook has been the source for 80% of my discoveries, but it's got a terrible signal-noise ratio. Only about 5% of FB is actually useful. But it gives a lot of anecdotal information about the rest of the world around me. I'd love to quit FB if possible though. A big part of my frustration with it is that dangerous misinformation is so abundant and spreads more easily than actual information. I don't see myself using FB actively in the next 5 years.

Reddit is fun, but I picked up nothing useful from my time there.

Browsing foreign job ads is a good way to see what's going on in the rest of world, and where the trends are flowing. There's a tendency for people to cargo cult tech that's just popular in their area, but this is a good way of seeing patterns.

corysamaonJune 21, 2016

I am completely ignorant. So, it's going take a lot more than three books :) How about I blindly guess at my own answer and ask for alternatives?

1) Start with books like: How To Read A Book, Thinking Fast and Slow

2) Then, move on to books like: The Secret of Childhood, Instead of Education, Mindstorms

3) Then, you are ready for: Flow, The Children's Machine

Thanks for coming back to answer more questions.

If you've missed 'Hare Brain, Tortoise Mind', I do recommend it. IMHO, Gladwell's Blink was HBTM with most of the material replaced with funny stories.

sixhobbitsonSep 7, 2018

For a more alternative view (not sure if it still counts as alternative as it's pretty well accepted, but in my experience not that well adopted, but the "rewards and incentives are bad, monitoring is bad, trust and autonomy is good" line)

* Drive, by Daniel Pink

* Punished by Rewards, by Alfie Kohen

* Flow, by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

I wrote about some of these ideas here [0]

For a more traditional approach

* High Output Management, by Andy Grove

* The Manager's Path, by Camille Fournier

* The Thing about Hard Things, by Ben Horowitz

Not specifically about management, but in general, if you haven't read Jonathan Haidt's "The Righteous Mind", you should do that first. This is the book that has changed the way I think and understand people the most, and has indirectly helped me more with management than all of the management focussed books combined.

And I just finished "The Mythical Man Month" which is definitely still a must-read decades after it was first published (get the 20th anniversary edition as it has a nice summary at the end, including where the author thinks he was right and where he admits freely what he got wrong).

[0] https://www.codementor.io/garethdwyer/enter-the-zone-fight-i...

rwieruchonMay 26, 2017

Amazing article, thanks for sharing it. I am highly interested in this topic, even though I have no professional connection to it. Thanks for your deep dive into it!

It quickly reminded me of Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Deep Work by Cal Newport. It was no surprised to find these people again in your article. In one article of mine, I have reflected on this topic as well and concluded how important attention (for instance created through deep work) can lead to a satisfied life (because of flow). [0]

Can you recommend further reading material on this topic?

[0] https://www.robinwieruch.de/lessons-learned-deep-work-flow/

pkaleronSep 23, 2011

You should read Flow by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi. Flow is defined as completely focused motivation.

The research states that flow is achieved by balancing skill and challenge.

With respect to the original author, it sounds like he hasn't been far enough along in his career to be humbled by a hard problem.

pjc50onFeb 28, 2021

> Which existing languages seem to be closest to that "metre and rhyme" point in your opinion? Lisp, Forth, Perl, Rebol?

Perl can be close to this, and Larry Wall was fond of this aspect of the language, but it's also one of the most sigil-infested languages that isn't APL. APL itself stands proudly at the other end of the spectrum, for pure mathematicians.

Lisp has the problem that brackets aren't readily pronouncable and deeply-nested clauses aren't idiomatic English. Although I have noticed that programmers are far more likely to speak English with nested clauses than non-programmers.

Forth relies too heavily on the stack for my taste; ideally for me languages specify the variables they operate on by name, although an English-like language could clearly use "it" in the way that Perl uses "$_".

Rebol, like LOGO, is clearly Lisp with square brackets. Tcl is another candidate in this area that I have a soft spot for, but its reliance on string operations means it needs escape characters a lot.

Ironically I think the closest may be COBOL and its predecessor, Grace Hopper's FLOW-MATIC. These languages "correctly" end statements with a full stop "." rather than the unnatural semicolon ";" or the invisible newline. The problem is that COBOL pre-dates structured programming and object orientation by a long way. I don't think attempting to adapt them directly would be a good idea, but building something with some of the same principles might work.

joe_the_useronDec 24, 2019

Fascinating video,

The prefered learning process reminds me a lot of the book Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi - find the "sweat spot" between certainty and uncertainty, seeking contradictions to things you are learning. Etc. Indeed, a lot of the points are talked about a lot by various "human potential" psychology systems.

Other parts of the video give me the impression that belief-formation processes are well suited for interacting with the real world but not at all suited for processing the stream of information available online.

chriseidhofonApr 7, 2010

A book that really helped me is Flow by Csikszentmihalyi. You probably can recall a moment (for example, when programming) where you were in a state of flow, you were solving difficult problems (but not too difficult) and everything just went naturally.

His book is about this state, and about how to reach happiness in general. The key point is not only to depend on happiness as told by external people (e.g. parents, girlfriend, government, boss) but also create your own triggers. It might be making music, looking at a sunset, etc. In other words: be in control of your own happiness.

That being said, I think it's wise to see a professional. Ultimately, you'll have to do it by yourself, but they can help you get back on track and provide guidance and pointers. After all, it's their job.

Good luck!

jackson1442onAug 1, 2020

I use Flow on the iPad by Moleskine Studios, it's priced on a subscription (reasonably priced, albeit a little annoying) but a wonderful drawing app. I use an Apple Pencil with it.

I like the ability to easily export documents and send them to my students, as well as the freedom you get with a digital whiteboard––you can drag and manipulate individual pieces of your sketch as if they were magnets on the board in a traditional setting.

The Pencil definitely does not feel like using a regular pen, but it's rather similar to writing on a whiteboard and is rather comfortable to use (you get palm-blocking and everything). If you use the first-party Notes app, you also get automatic handwriting recognition and indexing in iPadOS 14.

Assuming they're currently accepting returns given the pandemic, Apple has a relatively reasonable return policy – 14 days for a full refund provided you repackage everything, so if you find you don't like it you can just return it.

scotch_drinkeronAug 20, 2012

This reminds me a lot of what I learned from the book, Flow. That author talks about what makes people happy and the common thread is intrinsic motivation to continually learn and grow. This current article isn't saying that anything is possible if you work hard. I like to think we all have an achievement continuum given to us by our genes that is unfortunately then artificially restricted when we say "I can't" or "I never had a good rememory". If you set your personal goals somewhere outside your physically possible achievement continuum, no amount of work will ever result in success. But identifying your continuum and then being aware enough to approach roadblocks as growth opportunities will result in great success. I think the chance of ever reaching the end of your physically capable achievement continuum is far more rare than those of us who spend large amounts of time artificially restricting that continuum by not even trying.

kamaalonJuly 24, 2012

>>It should be noted that what is needed for assembly line productivity is different than what is needed for complex cognitive tasks.

Not actually. Assembly line work might be less intellectually appealing to us, but for a lot of people it is a complex cognitive task. If you were to talk to a every day assembly worker of an iPhone, he would find assembling complex circuitry pretty intellectually challenging.

Things become less intellectually challenging as your brain gets seasoned to it. Even coding for that matter these days has become pretty less intellectually challenging. Growth of modern day IDE's have rendered many programmers into kind of code assembly workers, autocomplete/intellisense does most of thinking these days.

>> The more demanding the cognitive task, the more important sleep and relaxation are.

My dad is a cab driver and he used to drive trucks before. I can tell you this is not true. You can easily argue driving is a repetitive task once learned. But you have no clue how tiring it becomes. In general a hobby is enjoyable, but any thing taken up full time as a profession is tiring.

In the book Flow by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, he explains how once you get into Flow enough number of times, any job becomes boring and you have to keep moving higher up the ladder of difficult tasks to experience Flow again.

So its not that we programmers do jobs which are the center of the universe. What is true for others is generally true for us too.

vegancaponJune 22, 2021

I'm very similar, or was. I was diagnosed with ADHD aged 30. If I'm working on something I enjoy or find interesting, I'm all in on it, obsessed. If I find it slightly dull or tedious, I'll have to fight with myself to get it done, just turns into relentless scrolling through hacker news, or get distracted with other things.

The trick, I've found, is to either find ways to enjoy what you're working on if you don't enjoy it. For example, gamifying it or finding some other challenge in it. Or try to insist on specialising on what you do enjoy working on more.

Read the following as well (if, of course you haven't already):
- Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
- Deep Work by Cal Newport
- Hyperfocus by Chris Bailey

Oh, and don't beat yourself up for not feeling 100% productive or enthusiastic all the time. Most of this expectation is a tech culture thing and it's just silly. Most jobs don't expect this, most jobs people assume you're sat around talking and eating biscuits several hours a day. Our brains aren't designed to work in well defined, lengthy chunks of time, it's absurd we expect that.

As a few others haven't mentioned as well, it's worth getting screened for ADHD if you haven't already, the meds can really really help. They were a revelation for me anyway.

GooseyonJune 25, 2010

I have read Flow twice in the last few years and while I considered it an important work that has shaped my perspective of personal psychology immensely I never understood Flow on a logical level. For me the 'idea' of flow made sense, but I wasn't able to follow the cause-and-effect that made it work.

In other words I accepted the correctness of Flow at a faith-based level rather than at an logic-based level.

In these two sentences, Flow now 'clicks' for me at that logical level:
"So complete absorption leads to flow, that great feeling, because all your resources are dedicated to it: the task is precisely challenging enough to engage all of your resources, and nothing more. Since all of your resources are engaged in the task at hand, you no longer feel self-conscious because there’s no “bit” available to mull over your ego or self-image."

This post is not perfect and does contain a bit of speculative wandering, as others have pointed out, but for finally making the circuits of my brain comprehend Flow at a deeper level.. Thank You!

Don't stop writing.

throwawayhtgatjonMay 5, 2017

Thanks. Yeah, it's definitely been great, but challenging in some regards.

For the first two years I mostly spent time worrying about an older brother who unfortunately won't speak with me anymore. He was really pissed that my app took off and the side work he was doing didn't pan out.

I got over him, and spent most of my time reading books, which feels healthy at first, but then starts feeling counterproductive. Why read all this crap if you're not doing anything with what you're learning?

So, about a year or so ago, I finally got around to realizing that all the stuff I was reading could be distilled into a 2 things: Focus and hard work. The people who are successful do the work. Working hard is what originally put me in this position, and along the way, I lost myself and started thinking I got here because I'm smart. The biggest mistake I've made is wasting time, and it doesn't matter how smart you are when you do that.

Started reading books like "Flow" which gives me a lot of motivation and I've been on a solid hard-work streak for some time. Hoping I can build something else before it all comes crashing down around me.

Fun stuff...

tristanhoonMay 6, 2017

Interesting! For myself, I tend to already know what topics I care about, e.g Entrepreneurship, History of Computing, Stoicism, etc. These topics usually become quite apparent when I look at my goals in life. Can you explain more about how you decide on topics?

As for the "game changing" books, I definitely agree! It seems that most areas seem to have those "seminal" books that most of the other books in the genre reference non-stop. One example that jumps out at me is Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, which seems to be referenced by every book I can get my hands on.

The visualization of a tree is definitely interesting: I suppose the goal of it would to be able to find the roots.

q-baseonDec 22, 2016

Deep Work sure is a great book, but I would recommend people with interest in the material just to go directly to Flow by Mihály Csikszentmihalyi.

Read them one after the other, first Deep Work and then Flow. IF you are going to read both then I would recommend that order. Reading Flow first, then Deep Work doesn't have much to offer.

Those books actually re-fueled my love of programming.

scotch_drinkeronDec 1, 2013

This author confounds the principles in Flow which deal with how to individually optimize your experiences throughout your life including your work with what I call "The Joel Spolsky Flow" (not a dance move) which says that in order for developers to produce their best work, they need to have the opportunity to work uninterrupted for large portions of their day. These two concepts are orthogonal.

He also seems to think that a developer working in isolation won't have the judgement and ethical sensibility to understand what code is good for his employer/client. This is a massive fallacy in his own article that shows a certain bias. Any responsible developer can work either in flow or without and still produce code that is "good for business". Any irresponsible or immature developer can produce the exact opposite code regardless of flow.

As an aside, that book provided a fundamental shift in how I look at work. To boil its tenets down to "Flow makes you write sucky code" is to completely miss the point of the book in such a way as to appear disingenuous.

GHFigsonJune 16, 2009

I've found that thinking love/hate is not sufficiently granular for most problems and rarely suggestive of many solutions. It can be good for making very high level emotionally charged decisions like whether you want to even stay in school or not, but when it comes to implementing those decisions, you often need to be more specific about your feelings to figure out exactly what needs to change.

There is a chart in Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's classic Flow, that I've found enligtening. It shows the "flow channel", the desirable state where the activity seems friction-free, surrounded by anxiety on one side and boredom on the other. Most people don't think of activities this way, where the goal is a mean rather an an extreme.

I've found that every instance of procrastination or avoidance in my life stems from anxiety or boredom irrespective of things like desire, enjoyment, or willpower, while all of the things I do get done are things that I don't feel much anxiety or boredom about, likewise irrespective of desire, enjoyment or willpower. (Those factors only seem to come into play with planning what to do, not in actually doing them.)

So it follows that the way to get things done is to figure out whether the problem is anxiety or boredom and then do what you can to counterbalance it back towards the flow channel. If you're procrastinating on something because you find it boring, the way to become motivated is to make it more exciting. Add constraints, make it more challenging, tighten deadlines, expand scope, batch repetitive tasks, turn necessary goals into desirable ones, etc. If you're procrastinating on something because it makes you anxious, the way to become motivated is to make it less exciting. Remove constraints, reduce the challenge, loosen deadlines, break up tasks into small pieces, reduce the harm of mistakes, reduce risk, etc.

What that means specifically depends on what bores you or causes anxiety and how much control you have over circumstances, but I think there is always something you can do on a practical and tactical level to bring any activity towards that channel where you don't have to force yourself into doing it.

hinkleyonNov 12, 2019

I've gone from loving Flow state early in my career, to being cautious about it, to watching with suspicion and dread the behavior of my coworkers to see if they are making decisions based on opportunities to engage in it instead of rational thought. For some it seems like a form of thrill seeking.

When you are in flow state you are producing a lot of output but aren't asking any questions. That turns into big, solid chunks of the system with no oversight, no consensus, no introspection, no empathy. And when someone does ask questions - because who wouldn't? - we aren't questioning a small isolated part of the architecture, we're questioning a very big piece. One that the author feels very warm feelings about because they had An Experience while writing it.

Flow state is useful, possibly great for refactoring. It's occasionally a waking nightmare for new code, and not a great experience for everyone else the rest of the time.

randcrawonJuly 3, 2018

I recently read "Deep Work" too. I found it unenlightening but generally well written.

Newport's main failing was his laser focus on how to schedule your waking hours to spend more time doing deep work. At least half of the book addressed only this. Personally, I'd have preferred to hear more about what deep work is, what ends it serves, and how to do it better. But I guess we were supposed to read Csikszentmihalyi's "Flow" for that.

Mostly I came away from the book with deep insights into how Newport manages his daily routine for maximum productivity. Useful info perhaps, but not what I sought. However, as a self-help book, Deep Work shines. And seen in this light, its many 5 star reviews start to make more sense.

RockyMcNutsonSep 2, 2017

The Emperor's New Mind, by Roger Penrose

The Tao of Physics, by Fritjof Capra

Dancing Wu Li Masters, by Gary Zukav

The Naked Ape, by Desmond Morris

The Road to Serfdom, by Friedrich Hayek

The Worldly Philosophers, by Robert Heilbroner

The Story of Philosophy, by Will Durant

Grammatical Man, by Jeremy Campbell

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, by Robert M. Pirsig

Flow, by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

abdulqabizonJune 28, 2008

We all get distracted and specially when we are not really interested or enthusiastic about what we should be doing.

I read in Flow (the book), procrastination happens when either the task is too challenging (for one's skill) or too mundane.

I have noticed, when I am really interested into work, I never get distracted and have total control over things (IMs, Twitter, etc).

I have recently started doing some side projects (small ones), so whenever I am kindda loosing focus on main task, I switch to other tasks.. So eventually, I am getting distracted but the outcome is positive, learning and being in flow state.

As someone said, addiction can replaced by something else, for smoking can be replaced by chewing gums or chocolates, but if you stop it doing all of sudden, it's not gonna work out..

my 2 cents


MichaelGGonFeb 21, 2015

> "Just as zero degrees celsius is a special number in thermodynamics," wrote Fredrickson in Positivity, "the 3-to-1 positivity ratio may well be a magic number in human psychology."

Statements like this are why science types look down so much on the softer studies. And perhaps why Daniel Kahneman got a Nobel in economics, despite being one of the best and most breakthrough psychologists in recent times. (His pop sci treatment of his and Tversky's seminal "Heuristics and Biases" came out a couple years ago, "Thinking Fast and Slow". If Heuristics and Biases is too long/dry/boring, read the pop sci version, as it's the best model (that I've heard of) for how human brains actually think.)

This also impacts public policy and health. If psychologists are so unscientific and not rigorous, they'll get the wrong results at best. And at worst, the field will just be manipulated for political reasons. Also, it gives people and excuse to not take psychology seriously. Hell, some people still refer to Freud reverently. (Sadly, the author of "Flow", Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi seems to fall into this category and I'm sad to see he supported the nonsense in this article.)

There's great book called "How to Think Straight About Psychology" and I wish more psychologists would read it (it's a great general read, and the 9th edition is cheap). An interesting note on it is that a lot of the book is just basic critical thinking, rationality, basic science. The fact this needed to be pointed out specifically for psychology seems a bit unsettling. But perhaps that just reflects on people overall - if psychologists, who are supposed to be scientists, are so far off mark, how much worse the general public?

rwieruchonMar 6, 2017

Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Maybe not fundamentally changed the way I think about the world, but the way I think about myself and others regarding my and their fulfillment in life.

It inspired me on many levels, that I had to write down my personal notes and lessons learned. [0]

- [0] https://www.robinwieruch.de/lessons-learned-deep-work-flow/

rwieruchonDec 30, 2017

If you are looking for books about getting your attention back, I can only recommend Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi [0] and Deep Work by Cal Newport [1] I wrote an extensive blog post about both books (which happened to be on HN too), because they are kinda life changing.

- [0] https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/66354.Flow

- [1] https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25744928-deep-work

- [2] https://www.robinwieruch.de/lessons-learned-deep-work-flow/

emehrkayonMay 12, 2015

I have no idea what I read, maybe Flow, maybe Think and Grow Rich, that mentioned when you're in tune with a presenter/speaker, you'll often find yourself finishing their thoughts. I used to subscribe to that HEAVILY and constantly look for it. But over time, I find when I'm making a point and taking my time to ensure that what I am saying is clear and no extra parsing language is needed, I do not need, or want, a person audibly trying to be engaged. Especially when they're wrong. It actually isnt that big of a deal, we just all have our thing

troughwayonJuly 15, 2020

Sometimes I wish HN would have an almanac of topic themes that keep coming up. Flow/Deep Work seem to be a constantly recurrent theme, as is “imposter syndrome” and other pseudoscientific garbage that people discuss with high authority, quoting this and that author.

For the next poster that wants to toss their hat into the ring, please do a piece on the Quiet Eye. I’d love to hear your thoughts on it.

NewMonarchonNov 2, 2011

I much prefer Flow by Metalab (http://getflow.com). It's virtually the same product only much more fleshed out including a Mac app, an iOS app and more. I tried Asana several months ago but Flow is just miles ahead of where Asansa is today. Not to mention constant iteration in all of their apps (web, Mac, and iOS). Big A+ for the Metalab team.

jhwhiteonMar 22, 2016

This is a really cool article that goes really well with Daniel Pink's book Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us. Pink says that people need 3 things to truly feel motivated at work. Mastery, Autonomy, and Purpose.

That seems to be based on self-determination theory mentioned in the article that autonomy, relatedness, and competence are human's basic psychological needs.

The link (http://selfdeterminationtheory.org/SDT/documents/2004_DeciVa...) about self-determination takes you to a paper that references a researcher, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. He has done a lot of research on optimal experience and has written a great book about it called Flow.

DavidParmeleeonJune 9, 2017

I have a few suggestions at the intersection of psychology/neuroscience and UX.

I found Universal Principles of Design to be a good read that talks about human-computer interaction with some examples of psychology. Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is a psychology book that often gets quoted in interaction design theory. Another one I’ve read is Emotional Design.

While About Face and Designing for the Digital Age are more general interaction design books, these have an extensive discussion on user goals, which I've extended a bit in the ebook I'm writing.

While I haven’t read it yet, Dr. Susan Weinschenk wrote 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know about People. She’s a behavioral scientist who has worked in UX for over 30 years. Her site is at http://www.theteamw.com.

johnwheeleronJune 14, 2016

This article hits home. Five years ago, I created a SaaS app that did well, followed by one that did less so, and another that flopped (all eBay selling software).

New projects weren't having as much an impact and making me feel good, so I sat around reading books.

A turning point came when I read two: Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and On Writing by Stephen King. The first teaches we get optimal experience out of what we spend our attention on. It really got me psyched about chasing that feeling of being in the zone with my work. On Writing did that too. I saw another HN poster refer to King's "blue collar work ethic" -- totally true. He works hard because he loves to.

I recently started working again for pleasure, less encumbered by insecurities. I'm still working on it, still practicing. I created an open source framework for Amazon Echo development, and it's starting to get some traction. I think I was able to produce the work to get the traction because I've had a clearer mind.

muzanionMar 9, 2019

An intriguing idea brought up in the book Flow, is that perhaps animals feel things better than us.

One of the conditions of flow is that the individual focuses on that one thing and doesn't think about anything else.

Humans are constantly juggling several things in their heads at one time. When we brush our teeth, we think about how we're going to be late. When we play with our kids, we're also worrying about that problem at work or the unpaid bills.

But the lion does not need to do this. When the lion is hunting, they focus 100% on it. When it eats, it enjoys its meal, not having to worry about the next kill or food preservation. When it sees a sunrise, it can sit there and enjoy the sunrise, without pondering what it has to do in the next few hours.

zyfoonApr 15, 2011

What he describes seems to be the same as flow
...the mental state of operation in which a person in an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity.

For tips on how to create the zone that OP is talking about, read the wikipedia article [1]. The book Flow by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi [2] is also highly recommended.

1: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flow_(psychology)#Components_of...

2: http://www.amazon.com/Flow-Psychology-Experience-Mihaly-Csik...

gtirlonionApr 22, 2014

Disclaimer: I'm currently reading "Flow" by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (http://www.amazon.com/Flow-P-S-Mihaly-Csikszentmihalyi-ebook...)

Perhaps you need to think a bit about your life theme, what you should concentrate in and how it unifies your ideas. This subject comes later in the book and my advice for you is to read the book from the beginning as it would give you lots of food for thought and might help to give you focus in your life as well as to your ideas (and what you worry about).

Regarding what do to with the multiple ideas, relax, you can't embrace the world. Focus on the ones that have a deeper meaning to you.

koolhead17onDec 24, 2018

Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

Principle by Ray Dalio.

When Coffee and Kale Compete by Alan Klement.

Spark by Dr John J. Ratey, Eric Hagerman, John Ratey.

The One Thing by Gary Keller, Jay Papasan.

The Mythical Man Month by Frederick P. Brooks.

A Dozen Lessons for Entrepreneurs by Tren Griffin.

Software Project Survival Guide by Steve Mcconnell.

The Undoing Project by Michael Lewis.

I Wonder What I'm Thinking About? by Moose Allain.

Truth, Lies & Statistics by Lee Baker.

On shortness of life by Seneca.

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