Have you ever become so absorbed in your work that you lost track of time?
While being engrossed by a task like that is uncommon for most individuals, it is a state of being known as Flow.
It’s one of the keys to happiness at work and it has the added bonus of not only reducing stress but also increasing productivity.
We had to put our son in a boarding school in class XII science stream for a change due to his game addiction.
He was forced to stay in a hostel atmosphere to which he could not adjust as a child, and he had to leave the hostel three times due to panic attacks.
After spending two months at home with his mother, he was persuaded to spend only one day at that residential school a hostel right before summer vacation began in order to have the terrifying experience.
He was persuaded that he just needed to stay for one day only to see if he would have another panic attack because the next day his school will close for one and a half months for the yearly summer break.
He accepted and spend the night in that hostel with the assurance from us that he would be taken out the next day when summer vacation began.
When we arrived at his boarding school after lunch the next day, we found our kid to be overly lively and pleased.
Surprisingly, he had not had that panic attack the night before.
On the contrary, he told us that he didn’t get any sleep until 3 a.m. because he needed to catch up on all of his missing lecture notes.
We found him happy and enthusiastic despite the fact that he could only sleep for two hours and then attend classes until 12 noon.
Which state was he in the night before when he finished his missed out note?
He was in a state of flow!
Flow is a popular notion right now, and it’s something that most of us have experienced at some point.
You may have felt a sensation of fluidity between your body and mind at some point, where you are completely absorbed by and profoundly focused on something, to the point of distraction.
Time appears to have slowed down.
Your senses have been sharpened.
As action and awareness sync to produce an effortless momentum, you are at one with the work at hand.
This sensation is sometimes referred to as “being in the zone.”
This is known as the flow state, and it may be achieved by anyone who is involved in physical activity, a creative endeavour, or even a basic day-to-day work.
It’s a concept suggested by positive psychologist Mihály Cskszentmihályi, a Hungarian-American and you’ll see it mentioned on blogs and in magazines these days.
“The best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, peaceful times,” says Csikszentmihalyi. “The best moments in our lives frequently occur when a person’s body or mind is strained to its limits in a voluntary endeavour to do something tough and good.”
In order to achieve flow state, engagement and concentration are essential.
The human mind, according to Csikszentmihalyi, can process up to 120 bits of information every second.
When you’re in Flow, you’re entirely focused on the task at hand; you’ve forgotten about yourself, others, and the world around you.
Check whether you ever attained in flow state if you ever :
- become oblivious to the passage of time;
- feel content and in command; and
- develop your ability to be both creative and productive.
The flow state is a very powerful mental state in which you are extremely productive while simultaneously feeling fantastic.
You don’t have to push yourself to put in long hours.
Rather, it appears to happen on its own.
You appear to be ‘flowing’ through your task.
The truth is that, unlike my son’s dormitory days, getting into flow state is not something that happens ‘by chance.’
You can intentionally put yourself in a flow condition.
To get there, all you have to do is figure out what sets you off.
Here are some of the reasons why some people (and possibly you) should want to get into the flow state as often as possible:
Concentration is intense.
Being able to concentrate on the task at hand without being distracted results in higher production of higher-quality work.
A feeling of clarity.
Your body and mind will know what has to be done without you having to think about it when you’re in a state of flow.
There aren’t any obstacles.
When we establish a flow state, the thoughts and sensations that normally cloud our minds, such as tension, worry, and self-doubt, take a back seat.
Feelings of joy.
It’s common to describe being in a deep flow state as an inherently good experience.
This power isn’t driven by superficiality; it’s driven by the pleasure that comes from being in the moment and doing something you love.
Being in a flow state can provide more than just a short high — it can provide a general sense of well-being as well as a permanent sense of happiness.
So, how can you attain this mystical level of consciousness?
Is there anything you need to chant or meditate on?
You don’t have to (although meditation can improve your ability to concentrate).
Flow isn’t mystical at all; it’s quite practical, and creating it isn’t difficult.
It will take some practice, but you will improve.
The following are the important steps to obtaining and reaping the benefits of Flow:
I) Do the job that you like most
You won’t be able to lose yourself in an activity if you detest it.
If your employment consists of things you despise, you should look for another job.
Alternatively, look for projects that you enjoy doing at your current position.
In any case, be sure the task you select is something you can get excited about.
II) Pick a significant work
There’s simple and insignificant work that you enjoy, and then there’s work that you enjoy that will have a long-term influence on your career and life.
Choose the latter option because it will make greater use of your time and Flow.
III) Make it challenging, but not too difficult.
You will be able to do work without much thinking or effort if it is too simple.
A task should be difficult enough to require your undivided attention.
If it’s too challenging, however, you’ll find it difficult to lose yourself in it.
Because you’ll be focusing the majority of your attention on figuring out how to accomplish it – either that, or you’ll become disheartened.
Finding tasks with the right amount of difficulty may take some trial and error.
IV) Find your quietest, most productive time.
This is actually a combination of two steps.
To begin, you’ll need to find a calm period; otherwise, you’ll never be able to concentrate.
Mornings are for me before the din of everyday life becomes a monotonous roar.
That may be first thing in the morning when you’ve just woken up, or first thing in the workday, when most people haven’t come or are still getting their coffee and settling in.
You may also try during the lunch hour when people are more relaxed.
Many people like to work in the evenings.
If you’re lucky, you might be able to do it at any time of day if you can locate a peaceful place to work.
Whatever time you choose, it should be a moment when you are at your most energetic.
After lunch, some people become weary, therefore it’s not a good time to do Flow.
Choose a moment when you are energised and able to concentrate.
V) Remove all potential sources of distraction.
You’ll want to remove all other distractions in addition to choosing a peaceful time and place to work.
That means turning off distracting music (unless you find music that helps you focus), phones, email and IM notifications, Twitter and Growl, and anything else that might be distracting.
VI)Practice concentrating on a single task for as long as feasible.
This is something that takes time to master.
You must begin your selected task and maintain your concentrate on it for as long as possible.
Many people will struggle at first if they are accustomed to switching between tasks on a regular basis.
However, keep trying and returning your attention to your task.
You’ll improve over time.
And if you can keep your concentrate on that activity without being distracted, and if your task is well chosen (something you enjoy, something essential, and something tough), you should be able to enter Flow.
VII) Have fun with it.
In my experience, losing yourself in inFlow is a wonderful thing.
It’s wonderful to be able to put your heart and soul into something useful, to make significant progress on a project or essential assignment, to accomplish something you love.
Take some time to appreciate this sensation (perhaps after it has passed – it’s difficult to appreciate it when in Flow).
VIII) Continue to practise.
This, too, requires practice.
Finding a quiet, peak time for oneself, removing distractions, and selecting the perfect work will all require some experience.
And, in particular, maintaining a long-term focus on a task.
However, strive to learn from each failure.
Every time you succeed, you should reflect on what went well. What did you accomplish well?
And the more you practise, the more proficient you will become.
IX) Reap the benefits
You’ll be happy with your work overall, in addition to the pleasure of entering into Flow.
You’ll complete vital tasks.
Instead of continually starting and stopping, you’ll accomplish tasks more regularly.
Everything is extremely fulfilling and rewarding.
Take the time to appreciate it and to put it into practice on a daily basis.
You don’t have to wait for lightning to strike — or for your flow state to change.
Instead, sliding into flow can become a habit, similar to brushing your teeth, putting out the garbage, or starting the next Netflix show.
Everyone enters their flow state in their own unique way.
You might be a natural at solving problems with data on Excel sheets, and you work best when you’re left to your own devices.
You could be at your best when giving and receiving feedback, or you could be an expert at leading a team of salespeople.
You’re setting the environment for your best self to show up more often when you make your flow state more accessible and predictable.
You could even discover that you can pass on these advantages to others.
Many people have experienced flow state without even realising it, just like my kid did when he was at the hostel. One of the most telling signs that you’re in a flow state is that you’ve lost track of time. Consider this: how many times have you gone through the day without noticing it? Perhaps you were so engaged in your painting that you didn’t hear your phone ring, or you were so focused on a PowerPoint presentation that you missed the sunset.
You’re probably aware that flow states frequently include a positive feedback loop. The more invested you are in a work, the more positive feedback you will receive, which will motivate you to continue.
“The best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times… The best moments usually occur if a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.”
– Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi