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Why Do You Feel Happy When You're 'In the Zone'? Science Finally Has an Answer

Describing "flow"

Describing "flow"

Flow is a state of mind when we are so absorbed in an activity that we lose all track of time and effort.

Flow happens when we are doing an activity that embraces our skillset with several challenges we are able to overcome only by stretching ourselves. And we feel good when we conquer each challenge.

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Flow is the state of mind

... where we are so immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity that we lose sense of space and time.

It is thought to be t...

Why it’s hard to achieve flow in your workplace
  • The processes, policies, and busy work gets in the way.
  • Most jobs don’t have a clear goal.
  • Feedback can be inadequate.
  • The pace of work has increased, and it’s hard for people to spend time thinking deeply.
  • Your skills aren’t well matched to the challenges you are allowed to pursue.
  • There’s a lack of control over interruptions or when and how you work.
  • The job doesn’t push you out of your comfort zone.
Take more risks

... to push your mind beyond its comfort zone. Flow happens when we get a bit out of our comfort zone. Too much, and you get anxious; Too little and you get bored.

You need to know your physical or emotional limitations and consciously push past them.

The Flow State

Flow is characterized by complete concentration in the activity at hand, resulting in a loss in one’s sense of space and time. It’s a state of both high challenge and high skill—a place where we’re...

The Six Parts of A Flow State
  1. Intense concentration on the task at hand.
  2. A merging of action and awareness - “being and doing become one”.
  3. A loss of reflective self-consciousness.
  4. A sense of personal control over the situation.
  5. A distortion of the perception of time.
  6. Autotelic experience: the activity itself is intrinsically rewarding, rather than the expected outcome.
What Flow Is Not
  • It’s not easyFlow is not just a state where we love the work so much it just pours out. Flow is a state where hard work meets joy and meaning. 
  • It’s not for beginners. The act of learning how to do something won’t always allow us to get into the flow. Getting into the zone in a specific discipline is something that needs to be learned and practiced.
The State of Flow
The State of Flow

Being in flow means focusing your complete attention on the task in front of you. It is an underrated aspect of our happiness at work.
Flow requires simplicity: if a task is too...

Make Frustrating Tasks Easier

Work tasks are rarely chosen by you, so they rarely have optimal difficulty. To make them more likely to produce flow:

  1. Slow down on your work and let go of the expectations you have related to your tasks.
  2. Complex tasks can seem very overwhelming and frustrating. So break them up into more manageable sub-tasks.
  3. Lower your standards temporarily to get the faucet running. Perfectionism will not help you in this case.
Make Boring Tasks More Interesting

You tend to start daydreaming spontaneously when you don’t have something harder to do. To make boring tasks more engaging:

  1. Up your game. Even a slight increase in standards is often enough to make your focus sharper.
  2. Measure your performance, keep track of it as you go and make the stakes higher for whatever you’re doing.
  3. Do it differently. If you change up your explicit strategy, removing the ability to do it by rote, you can increase engagement.