We all have days or a time of day when we sat down, felt motivated, and got a ton of stuff done with no obstacles or issues. We have also had days where no matter what we do, we can’t seem to get anything done. Every little thing distracts us from the task at hand. Until recently, I thought this was just “luck of the draw” – you know, good days and bad days. You can’t control it, you just have to roll with it. Thankfully, I’ve learned you do have some control over your days with regard to productivity and procrastination.
Earlier this month, while I was having an “off” day, getting distracted at every turn, one of my distractions led me down a YouTube rabbit hole and one of the videos I watched happened to mention something called a flow state. You may have heard this term before, but I had not. It was like someone turned on the light in my head. I was immediately filled with hope, thinking, someone gave this feeling a label, meaning it is officially a “thing”, meaning I should be able to recreate it.
A flow state can be defined many ways, Asana describes it as “that hard-to-describe feeling of being so in the zone that everything else falls away. When you’re in the flow, you’re totally immersed in whatever you’re doing to the point that you often lose track of time or ignore outside distractions. During flow state, you unlock a sense of effortless attention to the task at hand – as a result, being in the flow can be an energizing experience.”
The article goes on to list 8 contributing factors to a flow state, as coined by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and if you can engage some or most of these characteristics, you can bring on a flow state any time you want. The 8 factors are:
Clarity of goals and immediate feedback
Intense, focused concentration on a specific task
Balance between skills and challenge
Sense of personal control and agency over the task
Loss of reflective self-consciousness
Time distortion or altered sense of time
Consolidation of action and awareness
Autotelic experience (flow state is intrinsically rewarding)
Here’s how to set up your work day to inspire a flow state:
Choose clear goals. Know where you’re going and make sure you give yourself little “wins” (feedback) along the way.
Make it challenging. I always find I’m more motivated when I’m learning something new or finding an answer to a problem.
Limit distractions. Turn off your phone. Silence email notifications. Put a sign on your door. Avoid multi-tasking.
Figure out your personal success factors such as music, temperature, time of day, beverage…
Figure out what kind of work you like to do. Doing work you like to do is likely to induce a flow state and you can tack on a couple tasks that you hate to do at the end while you’re still feeling good.
For many people, a flow state is more easily achieved in the morning. The problem is, this is when many people are checking email, sitting in meetings, or catching up on items from the day before. For me, the morning is spent homeschooling my kids. This means that I have to actively bring on a flow state later in the day in order to maximize my productivity.
I heard a little nugget the other day, “the morning is for making, and the afternoon is for managing.” If you are able to redesign your day so the morning is saved for special work and projects, and the afternoon “slump” time is used for menial tasks such as email, you’re more likely to benefit from the flow state.
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