Reading Length: 5 minutes
You ever have sudden ideas and thoughts in the shower, during meetings or while doing chores? Or have you ever worked on something and you were “in the zone” to the point you completely lost track of time? You may have been in the flow state at that time. The flow state can be an incredible and powerful feeling as you reach peak productivity. Its benefits can make us believe that it’s a rare occurrence. However, getting into the flow state is not from luck but from being intentional about it.
What is the Flow State?
According to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, author of “Flow,” the 8 characteristics of flow are:
- 1) Complete concentration on the task;
- 2) Clarity of goals and reward in mind and immediate feedback;
- 3) Transformation of time (speeding up/slowing down);
- 4) The experience is intrinsically rewarding;
- 5) Effortlessness and ease;
- 6) There is a balance between challenge and skills;
- 7) Actions and awareness are merged, losing self-conscious rumination;
- 8) There is a feeling of control over the task.
How to Get Into the Flow State:
1. Don’t wait for the flow state.
We don’t need to count on luck and hope that flow state will just magically appear. We can be more intentional in getting into the flow state. Remind yourself of your purpose in every situation you are in. According to Diane Allen, a musician, we can start by asking ourselves these three questions:
- 1) Where am I?
- 2) What am I doing on the outside and inside?
- 3) Why is it so meaningful?
My personal answers to those questions would be:
- 1) Where am I? In my living room, next to an open window and in front of my laptop.
- 2) What am I doing on the outside and inside? On the outside, I am writing a blog post or editing a new YouTube video. On the inside, I am hyper-focused with little regard to my surroundings, body and time at the moment.
- 3) Why is it so meaningful? I can share and spread valuable content to hopefully help enhance productivity, contentment and habits for others.
2. Make sure the challenge is not too hard and not too easy.
You need to make sure that the task you are doing is not too challenging and not too easy. If it’s too challenging, it can be easy to become frustrated and stressed. If it’s too easy, it can be easy to get bored. So try to find a balance between the two. You can refer to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s model of flow above for guidance. According to Jari Roomer, blogger on Medium.com:
3. Strategically manage your attention.
Our energy and focus are limited in supply so we need to constantly monitor and manage it in order to achieve peak focus. It starts with being intentional with our time and eliminating distractions. In the book “Deep Work” by Cal Newport, he suggests to:
- Schedule every minute of your day. Add routines and habits.
- Schedule no more than four hours of “deep work.” These are your most valuable tasks.
- Schedule 15-30 minute time blocks for “shallow work” These are no value tasks such as checking emails and messages.
- Keep in mind the 80/20 Rule for all your activities. Ask yourself: “Would the last 30 days have been better if I used it?”
- Eliminate all distractions such as social media and emails.
- Create a strict end of day ritual to disconnect from your work. An example is saying out loud “shut down complete” after you finish your work.
4. Use music to your advantage.
Listening to music with lyrics can assist in doing mundane everyday tasks since it relieves of boredom. In fact, a 1972 study from Applied Ergonomics showed that people worked more effectively in repetitive tasks with background music.
A 2012 study from The Journal of Consumer Researcher showed that the best type of music for productivity is ambient music without lyrics at the volume of no more than 70 decibels. This is similar to the volume of a vacuum cleaner. However, the best option is to alternate between certain periods of no music and music.
I personally love to listen to a combination between jazz, classical and ambient music during my focus sessions. You can click on the following for my playlist: Jazz and ambient music or classical music .
5. Take care of your creative health.
We need to take care of our health before we can get into the flow state. We can’t get in the zone if our health is being neglected. I used to pride myself in being a workaholic but a burn out was a cruel wake up call for me to start taking care of my health. In the book, “The Power of Rest: Why Sleep Alone is Not Enough,” Dr. Matthew Edlund mentions the four types of rest as:
- Mental rest – Meditation, reading fiction and things unrelated to your work, appreciating your surroundings, and letting your mind wander, rather than looking at your phone.
- Social rest – Hanging out with friends, playing a team sport, talking on the phone, or giving and receiving long hugs.
- Spiritual rest – Appreciating nature, going to a place of worship, or just taking time to think about the big questions in life.
- Physical rest – Relaxing the muscles, taking a bath, sleeping late, doing yoga, walking and exercising.
- Don’t wait for the flow state. Ask yourself these three questions: 1) Where am I? 2) What am I doing on the outside and inside? 3) Why is it so meaningful?
- Make sure the challenge is not too hard and not too easy. Refer to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s model of flow above for guidance.
- Strategically manage your attention. Schedule every minute of your day, schedule time for both “shallow work” and “deep work,” keep in mind 80/20 rule, eliminate all distractions, and create a end of day ritual.
- Use music to your advantage. Listen to music with lyrics for mundane tasks. Listen to ambient or classical music for high quality work.
- Take care of your creative health. Reserve time for mental, social, spiritual, and physical rest.
By being more intentional, I find myself at a state of bliss for being able to get into the flow state everyday. Hopefully these tips help you in achieving the flow state when it comes to your most valuable work. The key is to keep practicing and trying until you get there. Best of luck!
Check out this video I made on “Flow State.” Please like and subscribe!
The Science Backed Ways Music Affects Your Brain and Productivity by Chad Grills
In The Flow: How To Master Your Brain’s Peak Productivity by Michael Metclaff
Losing yourself in flow state | Diane Allen | TEDxNaperville
How To Reach Flow State (Using 10 Flow State ‘Triggers’) by Jari Roomer