In part one of our interview with Christian Grobmeier, the author of The Zen Programmer, he told us what led him to going zen and how simply learning to say 'no' changed his life. To Grobmeier, practicing zen means not having expectations and remembering that simply breathing, eating and sleeping should take priority. In part two of our interview, Grobmeier tells us how the art of zen can give you a better work-life balance while also boosting your productivity.
If you ever had a really complex problem which requires you a lot of thinking you may know how much worse pressure can become. In a way, we are like horses: too much pressure makes our minds want to run away. It's hard to focus when you expect the call of your Boss in any second. We often cannot run away, we need to stay. But the mind wants to find ways to reduce the pressure and let us think on different things, like going out for a walk or the ultimate loss of our jobs and families.
When you practice Zen and meditate, you get back control. It lets you understand that a missed deadline doesn't mean you are going to be tarred and feathered. At work you forget how you look and who you are. But meditation is like looking in a mirror. You may remember that your life is only about you. It sounds egoistic, but it is not: if you die, you die, and you die alone. Nobody can help you. If you imagine an apple, only you can see it. You can describe it, but nobody else than you is able to see the apple from your mind.
Work and projects are pushing you into boundaries, but meditation will lift these boundaries again. It helps to keep a distance between you, the human, from you, the hardworking employee.
This is necessary. Employees are nothing else than parts of a company. But the human facet of an employee needs to urinate, eat and sleep. It's important to accept these facts which cannot be changed.
When you see yourself as a human being, then the future and past will become irrelevant. What counts is now. You are breathing now. If there is no future you need to take care of, you are going to lose all fright before it. The deadline is missed - now is the time to fix the situation. Living in the future would mean, to be afraid what the customer says tomorrow. But this is irrelevant. You don't know what the customer would say, and you may have a chance to at least make everything a bit better...if you stick in the moment.
Fear and self-pity will take a lot of energy and productivity from us each day. If you are worried that you have too much work, your work will simply need more time to complete. If you are worried about next week, you cannot relax enough on the weekend and you will perform worse at work.
Zen doesn't have the goal to make people more productive or help you with your work-life balance actually. It's a side effect, at which I welcome. But what it really caused in me was a different angle to look at my work and my life - and finally a chance to change my life in a way it fits to me and not vice-versa.
Tomorrow, Grobmeier gives us an inside look at his schedule, in comparison to his life before going zen when he was working 75 hours a week.