The Pursuit of "Flow" Is Overrated - Deepstash
Beat Procrastination

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Flow is elusive

Flow is elusive

When we have to do something we don't want to do, like responding to never-ending emails or filing our taxes, finding flow can be impossible.

Most people can't afford to wait for flow - learn other methods to do what needs to get done, no matter what.

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What is “flow,” and why is it so hard to find?

Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi coined the term “flow” in the 1970s. He defines it as “a state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience is so enjoyable that people will continue to do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it.”

Csikszentmihalyi wrote that during flow, “concentration is so intense that there is no attention left over to think about anything irrelevant or to worry about problems. Self-consciousness disappears, and the sense of time becomes distorted.”

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The dark side of striving for flow

Flow is great when you can get it. But the price of relying too much on flow is that when you can’t find it, you’re more likely to succumb to the vicious cycle of distraction—a horrible loop of frustration and perpetual time scarcity.

  • If you feel anxious, restless, or poorly qualified for a task, for example, those internal triggers may drive you to pick up your smartphone to scroll through Instagram or check the news in order to forget that feeling for a while.
  • Likewise, a task that is not inherently engaging and enjoyable can elicit the internal triggers that lead us off track.

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Reimagining the task

Most people don’t know how to focus on things they dislike doing for very long. They constantly drift from one thing to another as soon as a task gets too hard, boring, or uncomfortable.

There’s a way to stay focused on a task without waiting for the elusive state of flow. It’s called “play!” Play can simply be a tool that helps to sustain our attention long enough to complete the task at hand.

Instead of trying in vain to find flow, we can do two things to turn any task into play:

  • Add constraints.
  • Find the mystery.

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