Mindfulness: The No. 1 secret of a superstar programmer

Programming is a rewarding career, but you must keep up with new, advanced systems to avoid becoming a relic. So, you’re always under pressure. Whether you’re coding or developing something, your teammates and managers want it quick and perfect. If that’s not all, you’re expected to be prompt and responsive via phone, email, and beyond. All this has led to a coding culture that is anxiety-ridden, emotionally burnt-out, and prone to unhealthy habits. The downside is, you fail to attain your full potential at work, resulting in more stress. To escape this vicious cycle, there’s only one solution – mindfulness. Find out the secrets to becoming a mindful programmer below.

Understanding the meaning of mindfulness


Mindfulness may be defined as the intentional practice of rooting your awareness in the present. You avoid getting swept up in your thoughts and pass on complex feelings and thoughts without dwelling on them, judging their benefits, and indulging them.

Mindfulness is rooted in breath control, enabling you to notice your exhalations and inhalations whenever your mind begins to wander.

Now, you might consider mindfulness sessions a waste of time. But what’s the harm in giving it a shot? Go in without any frustrations and expectations, and discover the advantages of being in the present for yourself.

How mindfulness aids the programmer

Mindfulness is a holistic practice, which means embracing the self-care paradigms in your daily routine will impact your whole life, including your programming career.

Go with the flow: A programmer who enters the zone (we saw this in the movie “The Social Network”) finds it really hard to get into but extremely easy to fall out of. But achieving this flow state is worth the effort because that is when you do your finest, most focused work.

You are totally absorbed in the current challenge and lose track of time and space. The feeling of satisfaction you get when you finally regain your senses is a beautiful experience. When you’re completely in the present, you’ll find it easier to enter this state and produce more in fewer hours.

Mindfulness promotes a longer attention span, the feeling of stimulation by a challenge, and receptiveness to immediate feedback. So, mindfulness is all about working smarter instead of harder.

React less: The more rooted you are in the present, the less reactive you will be. You will find it easier to assess a specific situation and devise a suitable response to the problem rather than having knee-jerk reactions that lead to greater tension.

Feel less distracted: Focusing on a task is difficult when you’re surrounded by distractions. Even if you’re not in any flow state, external distractions can kill off your productivity. Now, given how humans are naturally susceptible to distractions, being present helps keep these thoughts at bay.

Become more stable: When a programmer practices mindfulness, he or she keeps a close watch on their thoughts without any expectations or attachment for the outcome. With careful practice, you can ignore the experiences, actions, and thoughts that enter your mind. By allowing yourself to ponder a particular challenge or request, you can improve your code quality.

Realize the problem more accurately: A lot of programmers spend a large chunk of their precious time thinking of issues from the past and the future. However, they find it difficult to deal with problems that exist in the present as they feel pressured.

Practicing mindfulness will ease your will to wander somewhere else in your head so you can sort out issues that are non-existent or unimportant. Not only will it bring you back to the present but you can finally concentrate on all that matters.

How can a programmer practice mindfulness?


The first thing you need to understand about mindfulness is that it is a practice. And like any new practice, it takes time to get used to the process and build up your endurance.

So, don’t get frustrated if you fail to overcome your hurdles on the first attempt. Start small, preferably sessions lasting no more than two minutes. This will improve the chances of following the practice over time.

Before you begin programming

Prior to starting your programming session, it is necessary to locate a nice, quiet spot where you won’t be disturbed for the next few years. Select a chair or sit on the floor, wherever you feel comfortable.

Set the time for two to three minutes and relax your jaws so your lips barely touch. Inhale completely until you feel your belly and lungs expand with oxygen. You don’t need to do anything else; simply exhale. Keep on repeating the steps until the timer starts dinging.

It is possible that your mind might start wandering once you begin the breathing exercises. That is perfectly acceptable. In fact, it’s good to let it wander so you can pay attention to the thoughts that crowd your mind, let them go, and slowly focus on your breathing patterns.

There is nothing wrong with saying a prayer either. Prayer has proven to work for eons for anyone in any activity.

At the time of programming


Did you know that sitting in one place for hours on end can be detrimental to your mental and physical health? Well, that does not bode well for programmers who spend a good portion of their day sitting in one place without any interruptions.

Now, you need to figure out at which stage you’re facing trouble focusing on work, or when you’re falling out of the flow state. That’s the perfect time to practice a bit of mindful movement.

If space is available, take a yoga mat and do some quiet stretching. Or, you can simply stroll down the hall. If nothing else, just stand in the same spot and move your arms. While you’re moving, start the breathing and thought-watching practices mentioned above. Allot two-minute breaks and you can add time to your sessions after a while.

If you have time to play some basketball during your lunch break or engage in some other physical activity then do it. Then you can come back to work and your body and mind can tackle the second half of your day strongly.

After your work

Your day could go either way — either productively or unproductively. No matter what happens, learn to let go and restart anew when you sit down to program later on.

Allow your present-self to move on with the remainder of the day. Set your timer and start with a thoughtful inhalation. Just breathe and watch. This will allow you to work only when it’s time and let it go once you’ve wrapped up.

Being the most productive programmer

Mindfulness might sound like some new age mumbo-jumbo, but the truth is, it works. Especially for programmers who spend their waking hours stressing about their job, it’s a respite to rid your mind of any concerns and focus on the now.

Featured image: Pixabay

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