Yesterday I was playing a game of racquetball and I was completely focused. My timing was perfect, I anticipated the ball, my shots were perfect. I realized I was in a state of flow. The concept of flow was defined by Mihály Csikszentmihalyi in his book, Flow: the Psychology of Optimal Experience. A flow experience is when you are totally absorbed and focused on an activity.
When you are in flow, time flies by and you are totally immersed in the process. You are not aware of anything else around you. It is a powerful and fulfilling experience. Athletes call this being in the zone. Runners may call it runner’s high. A flow activity requires active participation such as writing, cleaning your home, working on a hobby, reading, or even engaging in a great conversation. Passive activities such as watching a sporting event or TV will not give you a flow experience. You will know when you have a flow experience because you will be totally in the moment with no thoughts of the past or future. Have you ever experienced flow when you write?
Why do you want to achieve flow when you write?
~It will enable you to have control over your concentration.
~You will focus your attention at will rather than attending to all of the incoming information that comes to you.
~You will develop your best skills.
~You can achieve your goals with more ease.
~The more you are in a flow state the happier and more productive you will feel.
~The more you understand about the flow process the better you will be able to avoid procrastination.
So how do you get into flow?
- You need to have clearly defined goals. This will help direct your attention to a purposeful outcome.
- You need to have balance between your skills and challenges. You don’t want a task that is too easy or you will be bored. On the other hand, if the task is too hard you may feel frustrated.
- Avoid multitasking. It is impossible to get immersed in an activity if you are not totally focused on it.
- Set aside a time to do non-productive tasks. Activities such as reading your e-mail, tweeting and making phone calls should be done at a defined time. These tasks can easily distract you from your activity.
- Limit environmental distractions. Before you start to work, clean your desk, make sure you have the equipment you need, adjust the temperature and make sure the noise level is optimal for you to work.
- What is your goal? Make sure you have broken the goal into achievable parts. If you are writing a book your goal may to write a chapter. You may want to modify your goals if you see they are too hard or not challenging enough.
- Adjust your goals as your skills increase. If you want to continue to experience flow you must adjust your goals to your increased skill level so you will always have an optimal challenge.
- Avoid engaging in mindless tasks such as TV. Mindless activities are usually passive and decrease flow experiences.
Have you experienced flow? How did it feel? How do you get your body ready to get into flow or in a zone for optimal productivity?