Being in a state of flow is something many of us strive to achieve. It’s a key element in becoming more productive. But what is flow?
Flow is the mental state of operation in which a person in an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity.
Whatever we are doing seems easier and more enjoyable if we can achieve a state of flow while doing it. It’s more likely that we will achieve this state if we are doing something we enjoy, however I have found that it is possible to achieve a state of flow with tasks that I don’t usually enjoy — like ironing, for example.
I’m really not a fan of ironing.
Here are some of the ways that I have found that facilitate a state of flow:
Being in the moment and just doing whatever it is that you are doing is incredibly powerful and is one of the easiest ways to access a state of flow. The present moment is all there really is anyway, so remind yourself of that regularly and bring that awareness to whatever you find yourself doing in any moment. When I think that I don’t like ironing, I am projecting past experiences and labels on to that activity. When I just pick up the iron and press it against the clothes on the ironing board and do what I need to do, I can be present and access that state of flow. I have actually done this on numerous occasions with ironing and found that I have actually really enjoyed the experience in the end!
Leave Yourself Enough Time
Following on from my last point, leaving yourself enough time means you won’t feel rushed or anxious while you are doing whatever it is you are doing. You will be able to concentrate fully and do the best you can do. Leaving yourself enough time to do everything in your life as much as possible, is a good practice to get into. It will enable you to be present and concentrate on whatever is in front of you and access that state of flow more regularly.
Do Similar Items Together
Rather than jumping from task to task, see where you can batch similar items together and set time aside to do them in one go. Sometimes we need to respond to different things at different times, but where possible see what tasks you can do together and schedule times to do them. It saves you running in circles and responding to everything that comes your way and will give you more focus and ultimately flow to what you are doing.
Practice Activities That Facilitate Flow
Intentionally setting out to create a state of flow helps enhance the chances of entering into it. There are certain activities that I know enable me to get into this state (blogging, running, painting) and doing these regularly help me to intentionally create that state of flow. Expect it and practice activities that enable you to access this state. The more used to entering this state you become, the easier it is to enter it again.
Meditation is a great way to directly access a state of flow and bring that mindset to your day to day life. There are lots of different methods and schools of thought which you can look into for yourself, but put simply, meditation is sitting quietly. If you haven’t meditated before, find 5 or 10 minutes a day and sit quietly. Don’t try and stop your thoughts, let them pass through your mind and observe them. Just this simple activity alone, will make a huge difference to your day to day life. It is an opportunity to disconnect from everything that is happening around you and will help you to flow through your day to day life.
Distractions inhibit flow. Wherever possible, see where you can remove distractions in order to concentrate fully on what you are doing. I am big fan of technology but sometimes we need to turn it off in order to get things done. Learn to be in charge of it, rather than the other way around. If you need to focus, switch off your phone, or alerts where possible and give yourself the opportunity to concentrate fully on what is in front of you. You could even set aside specific times to catch up on social media, and then achieve a state of flow with that.
Find A Challenge
Giving yourself a challenge or something new to learn is a great way to get yourself into a state of flow. When you are fully engaged in an activity time seems irrelevant. Your mind rises to the challenge and focuses on the matter in hand. Regularly push yourself out of your comfort zone and try something new, whether it’s fitting a new light bulb or learning a new hobby. This helps you to keep an active mind and be fully engaged in the activity at hand.
(Image courtesy of the_tahoe_guy under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 generic license.)
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