How to Find a Flow (And Stay in It)
We all want to be happy. It’s within human nature to constantly seek little moments within a day to get our dose of happiness and we do so subconsciously. That first sip of coffee in the morning, the first sip of wine or scotch after a long day’s work, listening to that song you know all the lyrics to. Those little moments. It’s within those little moments we all find the flow.
Flow: a feeling of high consciousness and ultimate focus.
That’s the same flow we experience when we’re completely absorbed in a task. The flow Aaron Rodgers was in when he hit Jared Cook down the sideline to put the Packers in Field Goal range and send the Cowboys packing in the 2016 Divisional Playoff Game or the flow Kobe was in when he went for 81 points vs the Raptors. There’s a similarity between those two scenarios. In those instances, both Aaron Rodgers and Kobe Bryant felt strong, alert, in control, and ultimately creative. They were in a flow.
However, there’s a harsh truth to face. The flow isn’t something we can switch on and off or call upon when we need to finish an important task. But we’ve all experienced it at some point while doing something we love and when you feel it, you know it. So, I want to share some ways that can help us both find and maintain the flow.
The main point about finding the flow isn’t so much about being happy because you won’t be happy all the time. You won’t be passionate all the time. But it is, however, about giving yourself a chance to be those things. To be happy and passionate. The focus and the creativity will come with it. In order to get yourself started, find Excitement.
People are their best selves when they’re excited. We work our hardest when we’re excited about a project. Tell a kid that you’ll take them to Disney World if they clean their room and not only will they clean their room, they’ll clean your room, wash the car and pay your mortgage for you. It’s excitement, it brings out the best in us.
The other half of it is that you need to work for that excitement. Because it won’t come naturally. A mental exercise you can try is to think about something that makes you both happy and motivates you. Think about it for 3 minutes without losing focus. Then, transition that over to your work. Will it work immediately? No. Will you feel the same level of excitement as you would if it were something you’re passionate about? Again, no. But over time as you continue to do it, you’ll find yourself less and less distracted or phased by the obstacles hindering your ability to stay in the flow.
Invest In Yourself
One of the most valuable things I’ve learned throughout the years is to invest more in myself and by doing so it’s helped me stay in the flow at work a lot more. This could be either investing time or money but either way it allows me to feel good about myself and in turn better prepared and better focused for the day.
Just like athletes invest in their bodies or musicians invest in their equipment, one thing we should all be doing is investing time in our minds. For example, sleep is very valuable. But most people have the tendency to go to sleep late and wake up a few minutes after their alarm has rung and rush to work, typically drinking their coffee or eating their breakfast on the go. Now while this may seem somewhat efficient, it’s totally backwards. Your brain needs time to start its day progressively, not instantly.
Here’s something you can do to invest more time in yourself:
– Go to sleep an hour earlier
– Wake up an hour to half an hour earlier than usual
– Take 30 minutes after you’ve gotten ready for the day to either read or meditate while you have your coffee and breakfast.
Doing this slows down your pace, gives you more time to breathe and allows your brain and mind to settle in instead of having to shuffle and work instantly. In turn, you’ll feel better prepared and get into a flow before you even start your work day.
You need to Focus in order to get into the flow. But the most crucial part of this is what you’re focusing on. One of the biggest myths about productivity is that Multitasking is effective. In reality, you lose so much time and brain power when you multitask because of how much you’re jumping to and from tasks, remembering where you left off and constantly thinking about everything you need to get done.
The purpose of being in a flow is not about how many tasks you can finish in a short amount of time. It’s about doing one thing at a time and doing those things really, really well. Before you head into a task, weigh its importance against its priority. All things are important but not all are priorities. So, align your tasks from the highest priority-down and tackle them one at a time.
Your environment is just as important in maintaining a flow.
Starting with your physical environment. Make sure your immediate work area is a representation of how you want to work. If it’s messy and unorganized, your focus will be too. Keeping your immediate workspace clean and free from unnecessary distractions is best for optimal focus. Turn your phone silent, lower its brightness and stash it away. If it’s a high priority task, set up a time-block on your calendar and let your co-workers and managers know you’ll be unavailable during that time period. If you work from home, try not to work in front of the TV.
The same goes for the work environment within your team. Having a constant routine and transparent communication helps everyone stay on the same page. Inevitably, setbacks will happen and schedules may need to change here and there but any breaks or disruption within a routine can ruin the flow for everyone. If there’s a clear understanding of who is doing what, a time-frame for completion and a common goal, the flow will come with it.
Getting into the flow can seem fleeting but once you start to look at it strategically, you’ll be able to reproduce the state of ultimate focus and happiness every day, whatever the task at hand.