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Sometimes in the evening I am in the flow state or I am just highly motivated to do my work. Unfortunately after some hours of work, I become so tired that I am no longer productive and I just want to sleep.

Are there any methods out there that make reinforcement of this state in the morning simpler?

Do you know any books or articles covering the subject?

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Twins! I love this question because this describes my life all too often. –  Andy Dent Jul 3 '11 at 7:01
    
I think that for me, evenings tend to have less distractions in general. I like to work late into the night where most of my friends are not online, etc. It might seem like I'm more motivated and focused, but I think I'm actually just less distracted. –  milesmeow Dec 31 '11 at 6:42
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8 Answers 8

up vote 30 down vote accepted

Just leave all of your work area untouched in the evening and write down the ideas you were working on. When you come back you will be able to pick it up exactly how you left it off and instantly be productive. It is very important to write down what you were working on (sort of like a quick todo list) because it clears your conscious brain before sleep while it gives your subconscious something to work on while you sleep. Also, in the morning, a quick glance through the list and you are back where you left off in the evening.

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Unfortunately I don't recall where I read this so I can't point you to an exact article. –  Mihai Oprea Jun 24 '11 at 8:04
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You must have forgot to write it down? ;-) –  Chris W. Rea Jun 25 '11 at 0:20
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An interesting and counterintuitive way to do this is to leave something unfinished from the night before. This can be a compile error, a unit test not functioning (as was suggested before) or a paragraph of a bigger text half written and half in bullet form. This ensures you don't spend much time remembering what you have to do next since it blows in your face at the beginning of the day.

At least for me, without this strategy I would start my day doing random searches about what I was doing, and end up reading too much information before doing actual work.

It is also a good idea to have a good backlog so that you have one one single place where last night's TODOs are written.

You can also extend this practice to the common day breaks like lunch, coffee, etc.

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You should plan the first steps for tomorrow at evening. Also get prepared for the work at morning by eating a good breakfast, cold bath, and, may be, some little jogging.
You will be energy-full, and will have a plan according to you can continue your work.

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I agree with a lot of the answers above but would like to offer some extensions to the ideas of context and anchoring.

I think of my mind in a flow state as being like a Smalltalk image - it's a rich binary world and I want the best way to dump and restore it. Textual lists and having things open on the screen are one way but I also try to engage multiple senses. Sometimes, I scribble quick, rough diagrams on paper and either trace them with fingers or redraw as I'm rebooting. These are not accurate drawings but mental keys to suggest a more detailed structure.

One of my more successful things is an audio recording of my thoughts, particularly about what I was going to do next. This is often faster than typing and you can do it whilst brushing teeth etc or often make last-minute recordings of things you thought of just before you drop off to sleep. I use Evernote for this, recording on my iPhone so it's synched up to all my work computers - that way I don't have to worry about things if I have to dash in to my day job and was working at home.

If I'm cycling to work I can listen to my Evernote mind-dump from the night before, mull it over and be in a good state when I get there. If I'm working at home, I do the same thing whilst I'm walking the dog.

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Good answer - great food for thought! –  Kristina Lopez Oct 6 '12 at 1:21
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When you are in your peak state you could try and create an anchor which you can then use the next morning to retrigger your peak state.

Basically when you are in the flow, play some kind of music, touch yourself in some way, smell something... just about anything. If you are in a strong enough state and you are able to get your subconscious to associate this stimulus with the positive state, then whenever you need to get into that state you just pull out the stimulus.

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Make sure you know exactly what the next step in your project is. Make it as easy as possible to get straight into it - for example, picking out the tools or references that you will need. If you are worried about getting back to work, then start on whatever part of the project interests you most (on the other hand, if you know you have the willpower, it is often best to start on the worst bit to just get through it).

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One trick that I use that's specific to programming is to write new unit tests at the end of the day that will fail. These are easy to write so I can do it when I'm tired, and making those tests pass is a good starting point for the next day.

I think you can adapt this to the general case by using a TODO list. Update your list at the end of the day with two or three easy tasks that will help you get started in the morning. The easy tasks should be just a starting point for some larger task on your list, so at the end of the day you might just break a larger task down into sub-tasks.

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I use that too. Stop working with failing unit tests. –  Felipe Almeida Jul 3 '11 at 17:00
    
I like this one, it explains why an entire mindset would kick in instantly when I start to debug previous day code and see the error messages. –  Mihai Oprea Jan 23 '12 at 20:58
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Do not skip normal morning habits just to get to work again, it's important that you get out of your sleep environment and take a good breakfast to reinforce your energy. As getting to work based on the energy of last evening's dinner isn't going to be very productive, even though you caught a lot of sleep...

Put water nearby your work place for when you become thirsty and attempt to continue working on your tasks, hibernating your work state as outlined by Mikai Oprea is a good thing to make this easier to do.

Also, if you aren't under a GTD system already it might be handy to start with GTD so you know what your next actions are, and a time management system like The Pomodoro Technique might make it more fun to start as you know you will get your pauses after each 25 minutes, and a bigger pause somewhere in between. Of course you can adapt this to be more productive, or plan out the big pause around midday...

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