Time Management / Productivity Skills

How To Achieve Flow


1. What is flow?

Flow is simply a 'state of deep focus.'


(Flow is) a mental state of operation in which the person is fully immersed in what he or she is doing, Flow is characterized by a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity. It is unrelated to the older phrase 'to go with the flow' which means 'to conform'.

- Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi


2. Things that help us achieve flow:


- Setting clear goals for the activity (a runner sets out to finish the circuit)

- Concentrating and focusing on a limited field of attention (e.g. just finish the circuit)

- Experiencing a loss of the feeling of self-consciousness, the merging of action and awareness.

- Having a distorted sense of time - when we are so immersed in the activity.

- Getting direct, immediate feedback (so that behavior can be adjusted as needed).

- Balancing between ability level and challenge (the activity is neither too easy nor too difficult).

- A sense of personal control over the situation or activity.

- The activity is intrinsically rewarding, so there is an effortlessness of action.


Not all of these components are needed at any given time for flow to be experienced.


And most importantly, a non-disturbing and supporting environment. Some people get the most work done in an empty conference room (chairs, desk, whiteboard, lighting, etc)


3. The Eight Mind/Body skills necessary for reaching the achievement zone ('flow')

Learning from how successful sportspeople work.


1. Action Focus: Knowing how to successfully reach your long-term goals by focusing on the task you need to accomplish, rather than on the desired result, and by setting achievable goals as a stepping-stone to ultimate success.


2. Creative Thinking: Using your imagination to achieve your goals and solve problems.


3. Productive Analysis: Helps you stay confident, identify weaknesses and find ways to improve.


4. Keeping Cool: Helps you deal with anxiety and prevent panic. Top athletes recognize that they will be nervous before big competitions. They practice skills such as deep breathing and muscle relaxation so they can calm down when the pressure's on.


5. Concentration: Enjoy the present. Elite athletes learn to focus their concentration so that they pay attention only to the things that will help them succeed. As a result, their performance flows smoothly.


6. Emotional Power: Strong emotions are a natural part of sports and business. The best performers use their emotions constructively. They learn to deal with the inevitable negative emotions such as disappointment, frustration and sadness. It's important to be able to refocus after getting upset if you wish to be successful.


7. Energizing: Doing your best on a consistent basis takes lots of energy. The skill of Energizing enables you to keep going when you feel like quitting. You need Energizing if you frequently feel tired and worn out.


8. Consistency: Sport psychologists have found that the best athletes prepare very carefully for every performance. They often have a set routine that they follow exactly.


(Source: Shane Murphy, 'The Achievement Zone – An Eight Step Guide to Peak')


How to get into flow, the short version

1. Choose a task you're passionate about.

2. Choose a task that's challenging, but not too challenging.

3. Eliminate distractions.

4. Immerse yourself. Just start, and focus completely. Forget about everything else, and let the world melt away.


- Leo Babauta


Kick-start the Attention process by doing a 'dash.' Since it can take ten to thirty minutes to get into the zone, setting aside ten to thirty minutes for a quick burst of focused work can make it much easier to get into the zone quickly.

- Josh Kaufman, The Personal MBA


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