How to enter the state of flow
Have you ever lost yourself in your work, so much you lost track of time?
written by Maria Beatrice Busi
When you can align your skills to a challenge and get so focused on working on that challenge or task that you stop noticing time and go into hyper productive mode, that is the state of flow.
In this state you are deeply immersed in your activity, immune from all the possible distractions, and time just flies.
You may have noticed it when you play a video game or do some writing.
When you are in a state of flow, you become more productive, can complete challenges, have a clear focus and almost but not quite become superhuman (the last one may be slightly exaggerated). Nonetheless, there are clear benefits.
Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi (I'm glad I wrote this and I don't have to say his name), has deconstructed this phenomenon and shared what he found.
Mihaly says that people who often get into a state of flow have a certain curiosity about them, high level of persistence and don't just think about themselves all the time.
In addition to achieving the flow state on a regular basis it actually increases your levels of happiness. That is by learning how to enter the state of flow you increase your productivity, be more creative and as a result become happier all at the same time.
Here some of the benefits:
You are entirely focused and concentrated because you are completely involved in what you are doing;
You feel a sense of ecstasy because you are outside of everyday reality;
You feel happy, and you know that you have everything under your control;
You know what needs to be done, get it done and will be able to get immediate feedback on how well you are doing;
You lose track of time;
You become creative and productive because you know that the activity is achievable for you.
So how do you get into a state of flow?
You are probably thinking about meditation or magical voodoo chants... But, no, you don’t. Getting into the flow is very practical, and without mystery.
To get into a state of flow you want to put in all your efforts and immerse yourself into what you are doing. Although, you do want to make sure you understand your limits in terms of challenge of work, ensuring you stick to what pushes your skill level and isn't so hard that you cannot complete your work.
Your challenges should not be too hard or too easy but should push you to self improvement.
Here are 5 practical tips on how you can get into the state of flow
Find a challenge
Choose something that you enjoy doing. It can be anything, but be sure that whatever task you choose is something you can be passionate about.
If your job is made up of stuff you hate, you might want to consider finding another job. Or consider seeking projects you love to do within your current job. There is work you love that’s easy and unimportant, and then there is work you love that will make a long-term impact on your career and life. Choose the latter, as it will be a much better use of your time. It is essential to find a challenge that you think is stimulating and hard, but not too hard, to achieve it. If a task is too easy, you will be able to complete it without much thought or effort.
Find your quiet time
First, you have to find a time that is quiet, or you will never be able to focus. It might be early in the morning, when you just wake up; early in the workday, when most people haven’t arrived yet or are still getting their coffee; or during the lunch hour, when the other people are usually out of the office. For some the evening is the best time; for other people, any time of the day is perfect, because they can focus and find quiet. Whatever time you choose, it should also be a peak energy time for you, so find the time when you have lots of energy and can concentrate.
It is important to devote all of your concentration to the work you are doing. Multitasking and other distractions will disrupt the flow state. Find a place that will allow you to work on a project without being interrupted or distracted. It could be helpful to turn off your phone, television or other devices that might pull you away from your task.
You could also clear your desk, even if that means sweeping papers into a folder to be sorted through later because a clear desk helps immensely.
Think to the present
It is essential to focus on the process and not the end state.
Having a goal is very important, but the state of flow requires enjoying the journey and not just fixating on the end product, because actually, the most crucial moment is all the process.
Allow yourself to live in the present moment without worrying too much about the outcome of your efforts.
Pretend for the moment that past and future do not exist, think just at the present. Take awareness of your sense perceptions.
Enjoyment before everything. Work on what you enjoy or is of benefit to you.
This isn’t about money, success or fame.
A lot of people can enter the state of flow thanks to the love of their work, and then the extraordinary results arrive consequently.
Losing yourself in Flow is a fantastic thing. It feels great to be able to put yourself into something worthwhile, to make significant progress on a project or important task, to do something you’re passionate about.
So it is critical to take the time to appreciate this feeling.
These are the steps you need to do to achieve the state of flow. It has to be able to flow inside of you without any obstacle.
Avoid the below to maintain your state of flow:
A high anxiety level or stress;
The lack of self-control;
A high concern for externals;
The lack of concentration and motivation.
Now that you know more about the state of flow, try it next time you are working on something.
Put on some music that helps you with focus, put your phone on silent and stay off social media. Happy flowing!