Flow in your Work
Do you ever long to find more flow in your work, this feeling of continuous effortlessness when working on a given task? I do. I love the feeling of being hyper-focused when I am writing, but it doesn’t happen the minute I start typing. Flow follows a curve, and on certain days it can take quite a bit of time, and frustration, to reach this state of being fully in the present moment with what you are doing. But once you reach that state of undisturbed flow, everything feels just right and in sync. According to Jim Kwik in Limitless, “Reports have suggested that flow can make you as much as five times more productive.” So how does it work?
8 Characteristics of Flow
In Limitless, psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi defines flow as having:
- Absolute concentration
- Total focus on goals
- The sense that time is either speeding up or slowing down
- A feeling of reward from the experience
- A sense of effortlessness
- The experience is challenging, but not overly so
- Your actions almost seem to be happening on their own
- You feel comfort with what you are doing
The Four Stages of Flow
In Limitless, author Steven Kotler defines flow as unfolding in four stages:
- Struggle: Before reaching optimal flow, this is like the warming-up phase when you put things together, brainstorming or otherwise, in order to move forward in the right direction. This is where frustration can take place. Persistence is key.
- Relaxation: Now that you have a handle on how your work is going to unfold, or how you are going to piece everything together, getting into a relaxed state beforehand is important. Taking a brief walk or doing a breathing exercise can really help.
- Flow: You are now ready to dive and immerse yourself fully in your project knowing the outline and the main steps to take. You are confident and experience optimal flow. The work can still be challenging, but not excessively so.
- Consolidation: This is the wrap-up of what you have just accomplished. It’s like a cool-down phase. Review your work, and take a breather or a break if you plan on diving back into more work.
5 Ways to Find Flow
Jim Kwik highlights the fact that to reach this flow state in your work as much as possible, a few things have to be put in place:
- Eliminate distractions
- Give yourself enough time
- Do something you love
- Have clear goals
- Challenge yourself…a little
Jim Kwik explains that you want to avoid multitasking, stress, fear of failure, and lack of conviction.
- As stated in my previous post, 8 Ways to Keep your Mind Sharp, multitasking directly impacts your attention and concentration. You really cannot experience a true flow state if you are multitasking.
- Stress is going to take you out of the present moment, which will directly conflict with finding your flow. So even if it isn’t easy, do you best to keep stressors at bay.
- Fear of failure implies a fear of not reaching perfection, but perfection doesn’t have to be the goal. It is okay to tackle a project just a little outside your comfort zone, as alluded above, but it is important to do so without a fear of failure.
- Lack of conviction is a stressor too. You have to be confident and believe in the chosen task so you can find your flow. This goes back to the preparation work (brainstorming, mapping things out, etc.) you have to do before diving into optimal flow. If you have gone over everything successfully in the “Struggle” stage, lack of conviction will not be present.
To bring more flow into your work, you want to make sure you gather the right conditions, as listed above. To cultivate flow on a regular basis, it is important to keep possible stressors at bay. Flow is an awesome and very rewarding state of mind to experience, whatever your work and undertakings may be.
Until next time!
Kwik, Jim. Limitless. Hay House Inc, 2020, pp. 169–177.
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