Mr. Monkey Brain
I heard an interview with Steve Martin. When he’s “in the zone,” he does all his writing and creative work. When he’s not in the zone, he does the monkey brain stuff, like editing. The monkey brain, he said, can do the mundane, mimicking, non-creative work. No disrespect to copy editors, that’s just what he said.
My monkey brain usually gets its workout in the afternoon, when I find myself fixing little bugs, cleaning out my inbox and doing paperwork. On a good day I can muster a two hour “zone” in the morning, maybe another hour in the late afternoon. Somedays it’s six hours, other days it’s zero.
The trick for me is to recognize the difference, and to take full advantage of the zone when I’m in it. That’s where the daily onslaught of emails, IM’s, and phone calls start to work against me. It’s a tough call, since I’m both a developer and an administrator, as well as a business owner and a parent. Developer guy needs to stay focused, while administrator guy needs to be on call, business owner guy needs to be attentive, and parent guy needs to be available. Fortunately, most of the adminstrator, business, and parenting functions can be handled by Mr. Monkey Brain. Don’t get me wrong, Mr. Monkey Brain handles some extremely important functions. They are just not as mentally draining as when I’m using his creative counterpart.
Now that I’ve alienated everyone except a few happily employed, childless developers with no sysadmin duties, I’ll make a suggestion for myself. Next time I start slipping into the zone, and I notice a bouncing icon in my dock or my phone starts to ring, I won’t immediately interrupt myself. Instead I’ll quit Mail, Adium, shut off my ringer, and finish what I’m doing. Unless, of course, it’s my wife calling.