Finding Flow: 5 Steps to Get in the Zone and Be More Productive
Flow is the mental state 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.
The moment you recognize being in flow, its blissful sensation begins to dissolve and the world, complete with its distractions, comes rushing back into our heads.
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To enter flow, you need appropriated self-control, environmental conditions, skills, task and rewards. Besides that, you must know what you’re doing, be able to see whether or not you’re doing it well, and be pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone.
The last point is especially important, it's mastery combined with challenge that brings flow. Too much challenge and we get overcome with anxiety. Not enough, and our brain loses focus and looks for other stimuli.
"In the flow-like state, we exercise control over the contents of our consciousness rather than allowing ourselves to be passively determined by external forces."
To get into a state of flow more often, we need to be able to increase our level of control over our consciousness:
Routine is good for productivity but doesn’t help you enter in the flow state. Instead, find an environment that challenges you on a daily basis and pushes you a bit outside of your comfort zone.
Ideally those are environments and activities where your actions have real consequences to you, challenge you out of your comfort zone and require more of your attention or you to react quickly to changes.
"Steve Jobs artificially created the environmental conditions that massively upped the amount of novelty, unpredictability, and complexity in the environment because people across departments and disciplines started running into each other and having conversations. As a result, flow, innovation, and creativity went up.”
Flow is dependent on finding that sweet spot between your skills and the challenge at hand. Having some mastery and knowing how to use it is necessary to reach flow state.
You can achieve this by not just going through the motions of an activity, but having a specific, analyzable and measurable goal for every practice session and optimizing things to challenge and increase your mastery every new session.
"If a subject excites us, if it stirs our deepest curiosity, or if we have to learn because the stakes are high, we pay much more attention."
Imbuing your task with a clear sense of purpose greatly facilitates flow. You can do that by creating a personal mission statement and tying your values and skills to how you can make a real change in the world.
Create your mission statement, find what are your passions, values and skills, as well as the value you create, who are you creating for and the expected outcome.
Having work and tasks that we feel real have meaning behind and enjoy doing for the sake of doing is ideal to achieve flow. Money. Awards. Praise. These can be byproducts of the flow work you do, but they cannot be the core motivation behind what you’re doing.
If you can find that kind of task, not only will you find yourself slipping into flow more often, but you’ll naturally shift towards doing work that is truly meaningful to you.
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