Have you ever been so involved in the working process of something brilliant that you simply stopped thinking about anything else? Sometimes we become extra passionate and productive. It feels like the time stands still and we can do anything easily and efficient. This feeling is exciting. Psychologists are familiar with such a phenomenon and call it “flow.” This concept has become quite popular among business bloggers and productivity coaches.
The term “flow” was first used by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a Hungarian-American psychologist. He described flow in his book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, which quickly became a bestseller! Although the flow state became a popular topic among psychologists and experts from various fields for its importance for productivity, this concept is not only about work. Productivity is just one of the side effects of the flow state. Flow is about enjoying your life and feeling happy.
What Is The Flow State
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who is known as the ‘father of positive psychology,’ started studying this state of mind in the 1970s. He conducted a psychological survey of tremendous scope, asking people about the times in their lives when they demonstrated extreme productivity and felt happy at the same time.
Csikszentmihalyi started his survey talking to surgeons, chess players, dancers, and experts from many other fields. After that, he surveyed assembly line workers, farmers, retired persons, and even gang members. The survey didn’t focus on citizens of a particular country — there were people from the US, Spain, and China. This approach allowed Csikszentmihalyi to collect information from people who lived in completely different types of environment and so could define the concept of flow differently.
However, even though there was a large ragtag group of people, their experiences turned out to have a lot in common. Regardless of your profession or lifestyle, the flow state has eight main characteristics:
1. Clear goals and a clear understanding of a reward;
2. Absolute concentration on what you’re doing;
3. The effect of time transformation (it feels like time is slowing down or speeding up);
4. The task feels simple, you don’t have to put a lot of effort into it to achieve good results;
5. The experience is rewarding itself;
6. Your skills and challenges are perfectly balanced;
7. You’re in control over your task;
8. Awareness and actions go hand in hand — you don’t get distracted by your own thoughts.
Why Is It So Important To Get In The Flow State?
Flow increases your productivity, however, this concept is not only about productivity. Julie Wellington, a creative writer at Masterra, describes flow as a “state that makes the present moment enjoyable. You feel self-confident, you want to learn more and to be even better at what you’re doing.” When you’re in the flow state, you learn faster because chemical reactions in your brain quickly move information from short-term memory to long-term memory.
Flow also increases your creativity, in fact, this state is especially important for musicians and artists. Flow also makes you more self-confident. Your fears don’t distract you from important goals. The working process goes naturally so you don’t think of what to do next — you just do what you need quickly and easily because you believe in yourself and enjoy the moment.
How To Enter The Flow State
Don’t Stay Hungry: First, if you have troubles focusing on work, make sure you’re not hungry. Hunger is one of the basic feelings which immediately affects our body and brain, distracting us from anything we do. It’s impossible to enter the flow state when you’re hungry because working won’t be the first priority for your brain. Don’t skip breakfast and make sure you consume enough calories during the day. However, it doesn’t mean that you have to eat all the time or buy fast food. If you want to have more energy, you certainly need to eat healthily.
Forget Myths About Work: Flow is good for your productivity and health, however, it also has another impact on you: It makes you enjoy your work and the current moment. When you’re in the flow state, you can focus effortlessly, you feel relaxed and don’t worry about whether or not you’re doing things right. According to Csikszentmihalyi, people are most likely to experience flow when they reach a balance between skills and challenges. However, even when people find this balance, many of them don’t enjoy work. The thing is that we are used to thinking of work as of an unpleasant experience. Many of us think of productivity as of something associated with discomfort and extra effort. If you want to feel your flow, you should forget about this common misconception. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying your work.
Don’t Multitask: Multitasking may sound like a good idea, however, not everyone can multitask without getting stressed out and exhausted. Multitasking triggers a psychological phenomenon called cognitive switching penalty. Simply put, your brain cannot switch between different tasks as fast as you want. It’s better to focus on one task, complete it, and then move to another task.
Have a Clear Purpose: A sense of purpose is one of the distinctive features of the flow mindset. Indeed, it’s hard to enjoy work and feel happy when doing it without understanding why you do it at all. There is a big difference between a career mindset or working for a pay-check and a purpose mindset. You should think of the general meaning of your work. Start by talking to yourself. Make a statement about how you want to live every day. What are your goals? Think of how your work can help you achieve important goals, and you’ll understand the main purpose of your activity.
Get Rid of Distractions: Distractions kill flow immediately. Of course, there are some unforeseen distractions which are impossible to avoid, however, most often, you can eliminate most distractions that slow you down. First, turn off your phone or leave it in another room. Create a special place where you can focus on work. Put on headphones with neutral music or work in complete silence. Open your calendar and schedule periods where you can work without interruptions.
Flow is a state of mind that can help you stay productive and feel more happy about the present moment. It may be hard to get in flow at first but you can make it easier by following our simple tips. The main thing is to keep in mind the purpose and meaning of your work and to eliminate stress. You should understand that productivity doesn’t mean worrying and forcing yourself to work faster or to do more. Just calm down, focus on your task, and enjoy the process.