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Brian Douglas on unlocking his optimal flow state

Brian Douglas on unlocking his optimal flow state

Brian Douglas is the Director of Developer Advocacy at GitHub and the brain behind Open Sauced, the project helping emerging software engineers become open source contributors.

In Part II of our session with Brian, we unpack his three rules of thumb for modern polyworking: flow states, low-friction environments, and clear mental frameworks.

Let's get into it.

1) Define Optimal Flow States

I get up at 5 AM because I know it’ll set the rest of my day up for success. Full stop. If I’m waking up at 7:30 and having my first cup of coffee in the morning rather than the afternoon, I know I’ll be dragging then crashing.

It’s about recognizing when you do your best work — like my optimal times for writing blog posts versus creating videos — but also knowing how to manage your energy in ways that work for your schedule, lifestyle, environment, brain, and body.

And if I do have an off day for whatever reason — I mean, life comes up all the time when you’re a parent — I’ve gotten the reps in after consistently shipping so much code and content.

Even if I’m off my game, I know what needs to happen.

So maybe I won’t be able to put out a video this week. Totally fine. We’ll still be able to get started with a blog post to get that out. I’ve also worked out a system now where:

  • My blog posts become scripts for my videos
  • My videos become scripts for my future conference talks
  • My conference talks become new scripts for my workshops
  • My workshops, hopefully, become the script for the book I’m writing

I put a ton of thought into the big-picture workflow when I switched over from writing code to being a full-time developer advocate. I knew I’d have to scale the experience and ensure I could ship consistently. It’s all about cleverly repurposing your content multiple times.

2) Set Up Low-Friction Environments

When you’re set up to succeed, it’s far easier to create content. For instance:

  • I’ve always got my recording setup for YouTube videos ready to go with my A cam and B cam, my lights, and my microphone already prepped.
  • I also have a corner of my room dedicated to podcasts. It’s soundproof and the mic and mixer are sitting there ready to go. No need to move anything around.

When you have to do the tedious work every time, it makes you never want to do it again.

3) Establish Clear Mental Frameworks

Putting frameworks in place — by being very aware of how long it’ll take me to get set up and truly started — has been crucial for getting everything done.

  • If I go to write a new app or create a new website, I’ll pull things people have already posted about and established as the cleanest way to build on the Internet or make your code run. Again, none of the tedious setup is required from me.
  • With all of my content — conference talks, getting my PR reviewed, doing a podcast — I have a framework called “SCQA,” which stands for situation, complication, question, and answer. I never have to think too long about what I’ll say next or how it’ll flow.

Having these frameworks across every type of work has streamlined how I apply my time and energy in a way that doesn’t leave me feeling stuck.