Have you ever been so immersed in what you were doing that you lost the sense of time? Have you ever had a precious moment of inspiration where everything you touched turned to gold? In a word: Have you ever been in a state of flow?
Flow, or being in the zone, is defined by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the psychologist who popularized the term, as an “optimal state of consciousness where we feel and perform at our best.” It’s a state of full focus on, full immersion in and full enjoyment of an activity.
Athletes often experience it when they’re in a competition. They’re pushed to their limits in an activity they’ve mastered and little to nothing can divert their focus. They perform at the peak of their abilities. It’s incredible to watch, and it’s even more incredible to be in this state.
Wouldn’t it be great if you could be in flow on a daily basis? Well, with a bit of practice, that might be entirely possible. Here are our tips on how to give yourself the best chances of entering a flow state.
What Are the Steps in Finding Your Flow
The flow state might seem like a random occurrence, but actually there is a how-to you can follow that will put you in the best position to reach it. The how-to goes as follows:
- Pick an activity you feel confident in and care about.
- Don’t let the activity be too easy, but also not too difficult – it should be right on the edge of your ability so you feel challenged, but not overwhelmed by it. (check the picture bellow for more guidelines)
- Remove distractions from any internal (e.g. stress) or external (e.g. phone) sources.
- Place yourself in an environment that focuses you, e.g. with empowering music or soothing silence, with enough room for the activity, etc.
- Do the activity at the time of the day where you have the most energy.
- Define a clear outcome or goal for the activity.
- Focus on the journey, not the destination 👈 actually, keep that one in mind at all times
- If you’re bold, include a risk in case of not reaching your goal. This will empower and focus you even further and heighten your chances of reaching a state of flow.
So how does this look in practice? Let me give you an example from my own life.
- Writing is the activity where I most often seek out and experience flow. I feel relatively confident in it and I care about it a lot.
- To challenge myself, I like to write about topics I’m unfamiliar with or try out different styles and mediums.
- When writing, I always place my phone somewhere where I can’t see it. To remove internal distractions, I like to do 15 minutes of free writing before I start on the actual writing. It clears my head and gives me a space for all my worries and anxieties, so they don’t disturb everything else I do.
- My ideal writing environment includes not wearing my pyjamas, putting on my focus Spotify playlist, and a large glass of water.
- My best time for writing is in the mornings after I have finished my morning routine of free writing, meditation and exercise.
- My writing goals are usually connected to a deadline. I like to clearly define what I need to have achieved at a certain point of time.
- Writing for me is an exploration. I never know exactly what the outcome will be. Usually, it’s only in the act of writing that I understand my chaotic thoughts. I love the process of uncovering what’s going on in my head.
- I always give my writing a deadline, no matter if it’s for this blog or if it’s a personal project. And I share those deadlines with friends and on social media to create a fake sense of commitment. It might not be a risk in the strictest of senses, but it helps nonetheless.
When I’m in a state of flow, the result is most often that I #doepicshit. I simply cannot help it. This is my secret to finding flow.
Key Takeaways from Finding Flow
Finding flow is connected with doing an activity you care about. So pick one or start caring about one and then set yourself up for success by following the how-to above. Regularly practicing to enter a flow state is definitely worth the effort. Why?
1) The more you practice it, the easier it gets.
2) You grow immensely from it and end up achieving some pretty cool things.
3) You improve your focus with incredible results. For more about focus check out our article on How to Improve Your Focus.
4) It’s a lot of fun!