Maxwell Stephens

Achieving The 'Flow' State

Overview

Ever noticed time disappear when you look back at the clock after being ‘zoned in’ to an activity? Well, possibly to your surprise, this actually has a name. This feeling of being so engaged that time passes is called “flow”. 

Flow is an optimal state of mind where you are functioning at full capacity. Ultimately your focus overshadows other variables such as tiredness and boredom as you are really able to get to work.

The obvious benefit of a Flow state of mind is productivity, but flow also provides great benefits to your health. It has been found to be a huge contributor to healthy aging and emotional regulation, whilst also being linked to increasing levels of self-actualization and happiness.

When considering productivity, people in a flow state are often more productive yet exert less energy whilst also creating higher quality work, this is due to greater attentional focus. 

The positive impact of flow also means it increases motivation, boosts creativity and overall makes your work feel much more fulfilling, lasting far beyond a short lasting mindset.

Characteristics Of Flow

Balance between the challenge and your skills: 

  • Difficulty of the task at hand has huge importance. A task too challenging will likely cause discouragement, a task too easy will likely cause a loss of interest and focus. We can find the perfect balance where the task makes us feel competent but demands enough to gain all of our focus.

Clear goals & Immediate feedback:

  • The work you’re doing should feel like it has importance, whether that’s helping you strive towards achieving goals or a one off task that needs to be completed. The progress and feedback of these goals should be crystal clear, allowing you to adjust , tweak and overall improve work to stay on track.

Action Awareness Merging:

  • You are totally absorbed in the activity at hand while you are in a state of flow. You become nearly completely engrossed in what you’re doing to the point where it feels effortless and even natural.

Complete Concentration:

  • Your full focus is on whatever you’re working on. There are no irrelevant thoughts or distractions from the work itself on your mind. It’s simple to momentarily ignore physical requirements like hunger, thirst, and comfort when you’re in the zone.

A Sense of control over the task:

  • Without actively trying to exercise control, you get the impression that you have control over the situation and its result. This, according to Cskszentmihalyi, is more about feeling invincible and capable of anything.

Loss of self-consciousness:

  • You can act more naturally since you’re too engrossed in the activity to worry about how you’re coming off to others. This feeling frequently persists after the flow experience itself since being in a flow state has been demonstrated to balance cortisol and stress levels.

Timelessness:

  • You are so absorbed in the current moment that you have a distorted sense of time. It may seem as though time is moving more quickly, slowly, or not at all.

Rewarding Experience:

  • The activity is genuinely fulfilling, so you keep doing it without thinking about the results or hoping for a later benefit because it’s fun. Someone who enjoys football, for instance, may experience flow while competing, practicing, or simply having fun

How To Achieve

1) Set a clear goal:

  • Designate precise deadlines for each activity you undertake. Connecting your work to larger team or organisation goals also helps. Knowing what you want to accomplish helps you feel more in charge and makes it simpler to put yourself in the correct frame of mind.

2) Make it Challenging:

  • There are methods to make anything a little more challenging if you’re working on something ordinary that you find tough to concentrate on. Try setting a time limit and seeing how much you can accomplish in that period of time, or race against time to see if you can beat it.

3) Reduce Distractions:

  • Schedule times on your calendar for complete focus-free work. Put your phone away, turned off or in “Do Not Disturb” mode so that all notifications are muted during this period. Close all tabs on your laptop besides the ones you will need, including any social network ones. Also please, please, please avoid multitasking