How can we be productive when we are working under pressure?
As a software developer, you may have suffered from time to time the stress and pressure caused by the rush to get the job done.
Deliveries with tight deadlines and unforeseen events that cause large deviations in planning. Reported production bugs that need to be fixed in a short time and with few resources.
It is in these situations when we must have clear thinking and a relaxed attitude to be efficient and productive. And yet the opposite usually happens, losing productivity just when it is most needed.
Working under pressure
You can respond in various ways to a pressure situation at work.
You can ignore this pressure and take no corrective action. Behaving like it's not about you.
Or you can get carried away by this pressure and then your potential will dramatically decrease.
Or you can observe and accept this pressure as it is expressed in each moment and continue to work to your full potential.
None of these answers will ensure your success. However, the latter is more likely to do so and puts you in a very guilt-free and advantageous position.
But how do you manage to accept this pressure so that it does not affect you and be able to continue working at your best? You need to take refuge in a stillness space. Bring your mind to that space and from there continue working, isolating yourself from external pressure.
With the zhan zhuang technique you can build this space of stillness.
Zhan zhuang technique
The zhan zhuang technique considers various static standing postures maintained for a long time with the body relaxed. The goal is to allow energy to flow freely throughout the body and to keep the mind calm.
The pose that I have practiced for the past few months is pose number two.
The feet are parallel and shoulder width apart.
The knees are slightly bent to open the energy point below the navel and at the back of the back, pushing the hips forward.
The spine should be vertically aligned.
The head remains supported and slightly tilted downwards.
The arms are held forward and open as if holding a large ball, keeping the hands at shoulder height.
There are many more technical details but these are the basics so you can visualize it.
The technique basically consists of maintaining this posture for a minimum of 30 minutes, breathing with the belly, focusing your attention on the tan-tien and relaxing all the muscles and tendons to the maximum. The practice must be continued over time. If it is daily, the better.
At the beginning the body will complain in parts that you had not even known about before. As you continue with practice, your joints, tendons, and muscles will become stronger. The pain will decrease.
Then it will be the mind's turn. You don't want to stay focused on your breath for that long and will try to ramble. But not for long either because you will have to stand up ...
Persevere in your practice and step by step the mind will focus and you will be able to feel the energy in your body. Perseverance is achieved by persevering, maintaining daily practice.
If you maintain your practice for a few months you will achieve something of incalculable value. You will have created a space of peace, mental stillness and bodily relaxation to which your consciousness can return and take refuge when in your day to day you encounter difficulties.
There are also many physical benefits that are appreciated when practicing zhan zhuang.
Space of stillness
When you are faced with a pressure situation in your life, calm your breathing, relax your body as when practicing zhan zhuang and bring your consciousness to the space of stillness.
Suddenly you notice that your mind calms down and your consciousness expands. Your body relaxes and lines up.
You can feel the energy flowing through your body relaxed. You can feel anxiety in areas of your body and how the energy stagnates. Keep relaxing.
Now you can continue working to your full potential.
With the daily practice of zhan zhuang you will experience more and more that space of stillness and silence. It is not that you think about that space, but that you live it. From that experience, you will give this space more and more a greater value.
The return of your mind to that space when you need it in your day to day is instantaneous. You don't need anything external to yourself.
But be careful not to get attached to this space of stillness and want to stay in it at all costs always. Don't avoid conflicts and confrontations in your life. Live them, fight them if you decide to enter the battle, enjoy them and seek refuge in your quiet space when you need it.
A wing-tsun practitioner knows that he cannot anticipate his response to any attack from his adversary. He must adapt to every hit. His response should flow as physical contact occurs, maintaining his body structure and perimeter security zone.
The same goes for verbal conflicts and confrontations. Fight the battle by staying stable and relaxed, like when you practice zhan zhuang or wing tsun. Don't give your opponent an advantage by making your instability visible.
Body stiffness influences your thinking, making it rigid as well. Identify which thought patterns give you nothing but stiffness. Break them, don't get attached to them. Observe if when you have mental rigidity your body is rigid. Relax it and see how your thinking changes.
Earth and Air
Zhan zhuang brings you another great benefit: it gives you earth element, solidity. By standing still for so long your lower muscles are strengthened. You feel for a long time the weight of your body on your feet and how energy circulates from the Earth to your feet and in reverse.
Stillness brings solidity and the earth element is reinforced. The expression "with your feet on the ground" has its reason.
If you are a software developer, your most powerful element is possibly air. This element brings good qualities to our profession. Wonderful and creative ideas come to mind. But these ideas must be "grounded", demonstrating their viability and practicality.
We need to balance the air with the earth.
When we are absorbed in coding a feature in our product, the air element is the one who governs this activity. Then you continue coding the unit and integration tests. Now it is the earth element that comes into action. Now is the time to show if your coded idea is appropriate. You have to be honest and throw away your idea if it doesn't pass the tests. And this will cost you if you identify with this idea. Eliminate your personal importance. This will allow you to go lighter.
I am not saying that air is a negative and earth a positive. You need a balance between the two. If you have a lot of earth and little air, you will not get new ideas to solve the problems. You will anchor yourself to what you know and you will not want to change or move.
Perseverance and focus
Zhan zhuang forces you to train perseverance. A minimum of 30 minutes for each session if you are starting up to several hours if you are an advanced practitioner. And to this we must add the accumulated effect of daily practice over months and years.
Perseverance and stillness collide with today's frenetic and ever-changing pace. It's good practice to balance this unnatural rhythm.
You are coding a complicated part of the product and you can't find the solution. You have the urge to move on to another easier part. Now is when your training in persevering gives you enough energy and power to keep coding that tricky part.
You have already experienced this urge to not stay in what you are doing many times during the zhan zhuang sessions. How many times does your mind tell you: "leave it, quit and run to do something else". And yet you persevere and stand still, breathing easy, enduring physical pain magnified by your mind and knowing that everything is impermanent.
Observe the air on a windy day constantly changing direction and intensity. This is our mind if we don't train it. Continually changing focus without delving into anything, staying at the surface.
With the practice of zhan zhuang you will find that you do not have so much need for distractions to escape. You will appreciate keeping your focus on what you are coding.
You will be aware of the energy expenditure caused by context changes. You will consciously decide when the context change is necessary and when not. Decide when an external factor wants to take you out of your focus. Allow the option to say "no" as a possibility and use it.
Zhan zhuang lets you see that you can't do things just to get rid of them. You must put your energy and focus in every moment, in everything you do.
The reason is very simple. If you do not stay present continuously during each zhan zhuang session then you will not be able to endure 30, 60 or more minutes. They will become endless. Just for the mere fact of thinking about ending the session and not wanting to be in the present moment.
Build this habit and you can apply it in other situations of your day to day.
With the practice of zhan zhuang you spend many hours observing your mind and body. It is your conscience that is watching. You train to position yourself as an observer and you will do it more and more automatically in your daily life.
You will observe your own thoughts. You will begin to not believe all your thoughts as if they possess the absolute truth. You will learn to assign degrees of truth to each thought and you will act based on possibilities.
You will see how some events in your life happen by themselves seeing yourself from the outside as one more actor of the event.
In other events you will continue to let yourself be dragged and you will lose that observer vision. But later your consciousness will see how the mind has reacted and what caused that reaction. It is continuous training and learning.
By positioning yourself as an observer, you will be able to see the event from different perspectives.
Positioning myself as an observer has helped me to see the expectations that others have of me.
Observe in each situation that you see yourself involved what expectations others have of you. What they hope you must solve.
Change your perspective and see now what responsibility you have for that situation.
Analyze whether or not there is a match between those expectations and your responsibility. Accept the fact that there is no such encounter.
Go back to your space of stillness and keep working offering your best version.
Accept the fact that the expectations of others are not met and come to ask you for explanations.
Be impeccable in everything you do and you won't feel guilty about anything.
These are the benefits that I have observed so far from practicing zhan zhuang that are related to productivity working under pressure. I have focused on describing the mental benefits. Of course there are other physical benefits. However, for our profession I have found it more convenient to write about the mental benefits. Mental benefits influence physical benefits and vice versa.
If you start practicing zhan zhuang, you may notice these benefits or different ones. That will depend on your personal experience.
It is not enough just to intellectualize concepts expressed by another person. You have to live the experience. I've only signed up to invite you to go to a new place.