Do you remember reading as a teen — when you would go through entire novels within the span of a few dusky hours during summer break? You couldn’t say for sure where the time went, the only thing that was certain was that it had been well spent. In actuality, such moments of pure immersion in an activity are instances of being in a flow state. A flow state is defined as an experience: it is the “sense of fluidity between your body and mind, where you are totally absorbed by and deeply focused on something, beyond the point of distraction.” Today, as we grapple with greater responsibilities and an endless list of tasks that need to be done right now, you might be thinking that this state is unobtainable.
Most of us are still working from home, with Zoom meetings dotted throughout the day, punctuated by various household errands — states of flow are exactly what we need so that we can get things done well, but is it possible to intentionally bring them on? Absolutely! Get out your notepad and prepare to conquer your productivity goals like a champ: here are 5 steps to guide you into achieving your best flow state.
Schedule and protect your time
With personal and professional boundaries blurred by our hybrid working situations, it might be difficult for you to find moments within your day where you are focusing on a single task, and as a result you might be feeling too anxious to achieve a flow state. Even too many meetings can distract us from the task at hand. This is where mindful scheduling, with the aim of protecting your time, comes in. Focus on what is under your control and communicate with your team that you will block off a day for yourself, dedicating it to getting your work done. For example, you can implement “Meetingless Wednesdays.” This practice can be super helpful in planning intentional flow states for yourself throughout your day — when you say to yourself that you are doing task x right now, that you’ll get to task y in an hour, you will feel a sense of calm. You owe it to yourself to have moments within your workday where you only think about completing one task at a time.
Set yourself time limits
You’ve probably procrastinated in your lifetime. You might even be procrastinating right now. Think of the few moments before a deadline — it’s in that time crunch that you might’ve felt hyper-focused, because you had to be. What if we told you that it’s possible to attain that sweet procrastination-induced focus — without jeopardizing the quality of your work or risking missing a deadline — at will? Have you heard of the Pomodoro Method? Named for the tomato-shaped timer, this method has you breaking down your work into intervals that are typically 25 minutes long and are separated by 5-minute-long breaks. This technique has you managing your time in a way that not only will improve focus, but also motivate you. Pick a task, set time constraints, and give yourself tiny rewards during your breaks. When you do this, you will see yourself not only completing tasks, but actually looking forward to them. Because at the end of the day, when we give ourselves a small window of time to complete a task, “we’re forced to leverage deep concentration to finish the task,” says writer Fadeke Adegbuyi. “In our race against the clock, we utilize every strategy at our disposal to improve our efficiency.”
Remove your distractions
While we might not have complete control over our surroundings — for example the traffic sounds outside our window — there is a great feeling of empowerment when it comes to taking charge in reducing distractions that we can control. And believe us, this is easier than it sounds. Think of your flow state as existing within a bubble that’s easily popped by Slack pings. To protect this fragile state, mute notifications from messaging apps, emails, and even phone calls. Getting a free browser extension such as StayFocused will keep you from resisting that urge to log onto any site that could be a time suck.
Get in the zone through mindfulness
Before beginning your task, take a deep breath in. Focus on how much you enjoy the task or project you’re about to embark on — you can even say this aloud. Exhale fully. Though our brains are mighty, they’re also very literal, and this simple step, which sees you saying that you love the activity you’re about to do, will make this actually true for your mind. This, by extension, will facilitate immersion into your work. If you want to take your mindful flow state to the next level, check out our virtual experience, Mindful Leadership Workshop (sign up or login to view). This workshop doesn’t take for granted that mindfulness and meditation go hand-in-hand with supporting quality flow states. Through this workshop, you will work with an instructor to learn how mindfulness practices can be implemented in every aspect of your life.
Flow state with a buddy
In a study conducted by researchers at St. Bonaventure University, students were asked to participate in activities that would induce a state of flow, a group participated as a team, and another group participated individually. The study found that the students who participated in the activity as a team felt greater enjoyment than those who participated individually. This means that if you want to get the most out of your flow state, replicate the above steps with a “flow buddy.” Get a taste of what a collective breakthrough feels like with the Breakthrough Mindset Workshop, which will help you learn how to manage your emotions during difficult activities and attain personal and professional fulfillment in a group setting.
Don’t forget that a flow state is simply just that: a state. As the Pixar gem Soul communicated, “The zone is enjoyable. But when that joy becomes an obsession, one becomes disconnected from life.” Keep this in mind as you work toward conquering your days as best you can. Finding your flow leads to lasting happiness and fulfillment, because you will find yourself if not outright enjoying, then at least appreciating, what you invest your whole self into. Head over to our platform to find out how you can start flowing today.