The Flow Theory
“Flow is being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz.”– Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, Hungarian psychologist
You probably know this: You’re focused on one task, you’ve blocked out everything around you, you’re dedicated to just that one task, and you feel like you’re in a tunnel with only one eye on that one task. This is the flow state, one of the most popular states in productivity.
Hungarian psychologist Csikszentmihalyi describes the flow state as an “optimal experience,” meaning that in this state, a person manages to focus 100% of their attention on achieving their goals. In the flow state, body and mind are in harmony and, you work purely intuitively without allowing rational thought. You are pushed to your limits in this state, solving difficult tasks. You completely block out the past and the future and your mind is only in the here and now. When you are in this state, there are no disruptions or threats to stop you from achieving your goals. In this moment you feel a sense of happiness that you always want to repeat.
How does flow come about?
The best way to achieve flow is to recognize the purpose of your task. The technical term is autotelic (auto = self, telic = purpose). Autotelic experiences give your life new possibilities. By recognizing and acting on your passions, you will realize that you reach the flow state more often – both in your job and in your personal life. If you’re doing a job that you don’t enjoy very much, you’ll almost never be able to access the feeling of flow because you won’t be able to dedicate yourself 100% to the task at hand, but will have thoughts like “When is it going to be over?” or “Why do I even have to do this?” in your head.
To experience this state, it is necessary that your skills in a particular task match the challenges involved. In sports, there is the Yerkes-Dotson law. It states that the optimal performance of athletes is at medium tension. If the athlete is too tense, he or she will perform less efficiently. If the tension is too low, the athlete becomes reckless because he is underchallenged. Likewise with flow: if you are overwhelmed with a task, your motivation will drop and you may put it down. Conversely, if you are underchallenged, you will quickly become bored.
You can only put your conscious attention on one thing at a time. If that’s all that has your attention, you’re in flow. In this state you have an idea of what comes next.
You get immediate feedback as you work on the task, so you can jump from one task to the next. At the same time, you’re completely engrossed in your task and tune out everything around you.
5 things to get into flow right now
1. Be in flow when you feel your best
Since focus plays a key role to experience this state, make sure you have enough energy. Everyone’s biorhythms are different. Some people prefer to work in the morning, others are more productive at a different time. Most of the time, however, it’s in the morning or right after lunch, because you’re refreshed and have energy to work.
2. Listen to music
Music can help maintain this state of productivity. It should not be songs that you don’t know yet, where there is singing. Otherwise, the music will get your full attention. Music genres such as techno, or jazz music, which can run in the background and do not draw attention to themselves, are exciting here.
3. Always be aware of your goal
If you lose sight of your goal, your brain will automatically tell you that the task is no longer worth working on. That’s why it’s important to keep your goal in mind and keep reminding yourself why you are dedicating yourself to the task at hand.
4. Drink water
A very simple way to induce the flow state more often is to drink water. Your brain is 75% water, so it can work better if you drink enough too. By covering your water balance you manage to keep your body at a higher performance level and you have more energy available throughout the day.
5. Use the Deep Work Method
“Deep Work is an excellent activity to get into a flow state. It is practiced less and less these days due to distractions, and at the same time it is becoming more and more valuable to business.”- Cap Newport, Professor Georgetown University
Deep work helps to get into the flow state faster. The methodology recommends creating routines and rituals to help you get into the so called “Deep Zone”. This can be setting a place and time for Deep work. The goal is to be able to maintain the flow state longer over time.
Therefore, start with 60-90 minutes of Deep Work and then gradually increase it. During this time, block out all potential distractions, especially devices such as smartphones or tablets. Outside of Deep Flow, quiet moments are important. Maybe you have a place where you can switch off and relax.
Now it’s time to apply the methods and tips. We hope this blog helped you to increase your productivity and pushes the amount of your flow-states in the future. If you want to find out, how to improve your productivity, click here.
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