Finding Your Flow

Finding a state of flow is characterized by total serenity, belief in one’s self, inner clarity, complete focus and concentration, and loss of time. For creative professionals such as artist, authors, engineers, and entrepreneurs it is often sought out because “flow” leads to extraordinarily productive periods of work.

It’s described in a letter from Albert Einstein’s to his son after hearing about his newfound love for piano: “That is the way to learn the most, when you are doing something with such enjoyment that you don’t notice that the time passes. I am sometimes so wrapped up in my work that I forget about the noon meal…”

Here are 12 tips for achieving more flow in your life:

1.      Find what gets you in “flow”

You can do this by paying attention to how your physiology changes with certain activities like your breathing, posture, and energy level. Flow is a state of non-resistance and often causes you to forget hunger, thirst, and other worldly desires. Ask yourself: when am I executing rather than negotiating whether I should do something or not?

2.      Turn off distractions

Your phone, your email, your TV, and your doorbell are all hurting your chances of achieving a state of flow. Many creative professionals increase their odds of finding a state of flow by using website blockers to ensure they are not being easily distracted. Turning off all types of phone and computer notifications will help you find your flow.

3.      Manipulate the variables

Create a work environment that is conducive to finding your flow state. Having a non-cluttered space and listening to my favorite music helps me. Find what works for you. It may be diffusing essential oils or something as simple as having a coffee or water within arm’s reach.

4.      Schedule yourself appropriately

Set aside substantial chunks of time uninterrupted by meetings. I currently block two days a week, which allow for long stretches of writing, thinking and creating. I don’t meet with clients or potential clients on these days.

5.      Prime your mind

There’s a reason Michael Phelps followed the same precise routine before every race, not just to warm up physically, but also to center his mind for competition. Find a morning routine that works well for you and sets you up for success later that day.

6.      Focus on one thing at a time

Multitasking on various projects is a flow state killer. Focusing on one item at a time gives you the best chance of finding flow.

7.      Use goals and deadlines to your advantage

It’s hard to find a state of flow if you’re doing it in a purposeless manner. Define what needs to be accomplished within a timeframe and get to work.

8.      Use meditative methods

Many forms of meditation are about harnessing the focus of repetition, like your breath or a mantra. Similarly, many authors and entrepreneurs have claimed they are able to increase focus by looping one song.

9.      Give yourself some time

Flow may not happen automatically when you sit down at the piano, computer, or a canvas. That’s okay. Don’t give up in the first five minutes. It may take some time to break into a state of flow.

10.   Build more skill

Part of what helps us enter flow according to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is that we have the appropriate amount of ability, and confidence in that ability, to tackle a challenge. This means, the better we get at something, the more likely we’ll find flow.

11.   Pay attention to your brain searching for an easy way out

As a task grows more difficult, you may want to reach for your phone or mindlessly start surfing the internet. If you are fatigued, just take a break. But don’t be fooled by your mind, fight the urge to escape the work just because it’s challenging.

12.   Repeat, repeat, and repeat

The more you get into a flow state, the easier it will be to re-enter. As with any habit, it takes cultivation. Focus on what gives you the feeling of flow. And do more of that.

Finding a flow state is about finding what works best for you. How do you get into a state of flow?