We talked last week about cultivating the state of Flow: where you become so engrossed in an activity – a challenge – that you lose track of time. Have you thought about what takes you into that state? Some mentioned they find flow while swimming, while cooking and while making Christmas cards. What is your ‘sweet spot’ activity, and how can you enable more opportunity and possibility?
Mihaly defines what he calls ‘the Flow Channel’ as an ascending balance between the tension of facing a challenge and matching with your skills. This is the path to the Sweet Spot!
It may seem happenstance to find yourself in Flow – the perfect storm of conditions. However, you can create the opportunity and possibility by building in steps and rituals. Rituals signal your subconscious memory of Flow. Here are my suggestions:
PROTECT YOUR SPACE
Most of us need to be un-interrupted to truly immerse in the concentration of Flow.
- Recognize this as sacred time and space. Your own clarity on the importance of protecting your space is vital.
- If you’re in a shared workspace, let colleagues know you’re ‘off-line’ for a period of time. Close your door if you can, and put up a “Gone Fishin’, back at 4” sign.
- Shut down email, turn off your phone and put it out of sight, close unneeded browsers and other apps. All of that can wait til later! Open just what documents and references you’re going to need for Flow.
- Look after your physical needs: go to the bathroom, have a snack! Ensure your snack is small and sustaining. Research has shown that our ability to focus tends to improve when our blood sugar is on the rise. I enjoy apple slices and almonds as I settle in for Flow, and they are the only distraction (read: reward) I allow throughout the process!
What might distract you and pull you off task?
- Physically prepare your space. Some prefer everything tidied and squared away, with no visual clutter. Others prefer the visual stimulation of related objects/texts/images, or they may simply work better with the ‘usual clutter’ of their workspace. Know what works best for you, and intentionally set it up.
- Clear your mental clutter. Prepare your mind by reviewing your day’s schedule and your to-do list. Prioritize what needs to be done before you set yourself into your Flow activity. Look after the things that need immediate attention, and set the rest aside.
- Decide on the process for Flow. It could be something like researching first, brainstorming, experimenting & lateral thinking, honing and organizing your thoughts & tasks, and then immersion in the creative process.
PREPARE YOUR BRAIN
You’re creating space for your brain to go into a state of concentration. Here are a few last, simple steps.
- Drink water. Coffee & tea don’t count, as they’re dehydrating. Even mild dehydration makes it more difficult for your brain to focus as it’ll become distracted with your physical needs.
- White noise, or music may help as well. They can muffle any external sound distractions. Just ensure you’ve selected the right music for you – whether calm and soothing, or bright and stimulating. This depends on what helps you most with Flow – per the comments on visual clutter or tidiness.
- Get up and stretch for a few minutes: roll your shoulders, swing your legs, do a few twists, stretch your chest, hang in a forward fold, then reset.
- Take a comfortable seat, shoulders back, eyes closed, and listen to this brief meditation to help you move toward a state of Flow.
- Actively draw a deep breath in, pause, and then an equally full breath out, and pause. Do this 5 or more times, to bring your focus to the moment, calm your nervous system and signal the rest of your body that you’re ready!
Try any and all of these suggested rituals to help you enable the state of Flow! And let me know of other steps and techniques that work for you!