Have you ever become so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter? Time just flies by as you are completely focused on the task at hand.
This is called being in a flow state, which is also known as being in the zone or being in an optimal state of consciousness, where we feel our best and perform our best. Flow refers to those moments of total absorption and so focused on the task at hand that everything else seems to disappear. The feeling of time goes away, that 3 hours can feel like 20mins.
Myhaly Csikszentmihalyi (if you are curious how to pronounce his name, I looked it up, Me High Cheeks send me high) was the first to identify and research flow. He is also known as the godfather of flow psychology.
“The best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times . . . The best moments usually occur if a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile”
Csikszentmihalyi conducted one of the largest global studies around optimal performance – researching when a person felt their best and performed at their best. He found that those who scored very high in having a meaningful life and high overall wellbeing– had the most flow in their life. He discovered that people find genuine satisfaction in life when they are in flow.
The advantages of being in a flow state are your:
- Productivity doubles
- Creativity increases
- Learning is enhanced with the release of dopamine
- Risk-taking abilities increase
- Negative thinking decreases or your inner critic is silenced
- Data acquisition and pattern recognition increases
All this to say, you enter an altered state of consciousness that radically impacts your performance and sense of well being.
5 Tips to increase your ability to get into a flow state:
One thing to remember is flow comes through focus. Meaning flow is triggered by being in the present moment – being in the right here, right now.
- Remove External Distractions – You will never be able to achieve flow state if you have distractions. Schedule some block time in your calendar to avoid interruptions. As I have mentioned before, turn off all notifications on your devices or put them away and set a timer for at least 30-60mins before checking it. If you have the option, close your door, or put in earplugs or headphones on. It can take up to 10-15mins before you start to get into flow, so be aware of your distractions coming in the way of that.
- Listen to Music – Listening to music can help you become highly focused. Recommended music is classical or trance music. I tend to put on alpha waves music from YouTube as I go along and find that it helps my mind from wandering.
- Remove Internal Distractions – This one is the toughest one to do. This is where a meditation practice helps. By meditating every day for at least 15mins, it can help you reduce the inner chatter in your mind. I am still working on this, but I can say, that my mind chatter has significantly reduced having practiced meditation each day for over a year now. The other way can be through journaling. This can help clear the mind of your worries and stresses by putting it down on paper that can be a distraction when you try to work.
- Perform during Your Biological Peak Time – You will struggle to get into flow state if you try at the end of the day when you are exhausted, and you have no energy in the tank. As I mentioned in a previous article, decision fatigue can also set in at the end of the day, making it a challenge to be in a flow state. Therefore, it is recommended to get into a flow state earlier in the day or after taking a solid break at your biological peak time. Even after a workout when you are feeling energized again can be a time to get into flow.
As I stated, flow comes through focus and being passionate about your task can bring that extra focus. Therefore, you need to engage in activities that are meaningful to you, that you find challenging. It needs to be challenging, or else your brain will get bored and disengage but not too challenging that it creates stress and frustration. Choose a meaningful yet challenging task and give it your full focus and energy.
These are just a few tips on getting into a flow state. If you want to learn more, I suggest the book I read last year called The Rise of Superman by Steven Kotler. I use these tips almost daily in the morning when starting to work and every time I sit down to write an article. What have you found that helps you get into a flow state? Would love to hear your experiences about getting into and being in flow.