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5 tips for entering Flow State

Last time, we learned about what Flow State is, the benefits associated with it, and some of the neuruo-chemical mechanisms behind the phenomenon. Today, in this instalment, we will think a bit more practically about how we can create situations where Flow State is facilitated.

Let's get this flowing.

As a recap - Flow State is a phenomenon where, under the right conditions, one is able to become fully immersed in what they are doing. The activity at hand consumes 100% of our attention, we are motivated towards it, and are energised by the pursuit.

If we're lucky enough to enter a Flow State we can expect a cascade of positive benefits, ranging from increased motivation, focus and energy levels, and increased ability to learn & retain information, and an increase in our level of creativity.

Sounds great, right?

So, how can we enter Flow State more regularly?

Entering Flow is not as easy as turn on/off a switch, but that being said, there are certain ways that we can promote it. I'll break these down into 5 key, easily-implementable points.

1. You should care about the task at hand

The first and probably most important aspect of Flow is that you must be doing something that you care about. Not to say that the task at hand requires some burning internal passion, but the task itself, or the outcomes associated with its completion, should be meaningful to you in some way.

Example: Completing a large end-of-year report that you know that you need to complete before a certain date.

2. Set clear goals associated with this task

The second point is that we should be clear with our intentions, and approach the task with purpose. A useful & effective way of doing this is to break down the larger goal or task into several different, achievable, yet still challenging smaller goals.

Example: Before starting, break the report down into the sub-sections, then break this down further into the important dot points that the individual sections and overall report will be comprised of. Then, from here, establish a clear outline on how much you will be complete within a certain timeframe - for example, "I will complete up-to section 3.2 of this report before lunchtime today."

3. The task at hand should not be too hard or too difficult

Activities that are the right amount of challenging are the most conducive for entering a Flow State. Tasks that grossly exceed our capabilities render us frustrated and demotivated. Tasks that are too easy also cause demotivation & reduce our care for the outcome. The ideal task is something that is basically at the end range of our capabilities, or even slightly beyond.

Example: It can be challenging to alter the difficulty of some tasks. For the example I have chosen - writing a report - the content within the report may be well within your repertoire to produce, so we need to look to other factors to adapt. In this example, the time for completion would become an important factor. Setting yourself strict time-based deadlines to complete the desired sections will serve to increase the difficulty and thus better promote a Flow state.

4. Eliminate Distractions

Distractions by nature are productivity-killers. We have spoken in the past about Deep Work - which in and of itself is a great way to enter Flow State. Research studies state that it can take up to 23 minutes to refocus after a distraction or interruption. In the digital age of push notifications, emails and work slack groups, our ability to truly focus and concentrate is under attack. We are now at the mercy of our technology. We should endeavour to create a peaceful environment, free from frequent distractions.

Example: So, for Flow State the recommendations would be the same as Deep Work. Pre-select an amount of time that you will work for, set a timer, turn your phone to airplane mode, exit all tabs except for the one that you are working on (or those that are necessary for the task), and have at it.

5. Identify your peak creativity and productivity times

As you continue to practice productive work with the intention of entering flow state, you will become in tune with your peak productivity, focus and creativity times along your workday timeline. Once you understand your productivity timeline, start to schedule the most cognitively-challenging tasks within these time brackets.

Example: For me, this is first thing in the morning (typically paired with a hefty Americano and an empty stomach), and later in the afternoon. As such, I typically try to knock out my most challenging tasks first thing in the morning.

There are several other ancillary factors that you can look to implement to further promote Flow States; but, I think that if you can first become in tune and somewhat militant about the primary 5 tips, then you will be well on your way to Flowing through your days.

And who wouldn't want that?

Image: @Tobias Carlsson (Unsplash)

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