Some tips to help you really go with the flow
Anyone who has ever experienced flow may think they arrived at this state by chance. However, it is possible to facilitate the state of flow. The following tips can be of assistance:
1. Discover meaning in the task
Many people find it quite motivating to pursue a meaningful activity. Sometimes, it is difficult to discern the purpose of a single task straightaway. It is therefore advisable to reflect on the task’s deeper significance.
For example, you may find yourself working on an Excel spreadsheet that at first glance seems dull, but the underlying purpose may be that you are using that data to lay the foundation for your project’s success. If you are able to keep sight of this overarching goal, perhaps the rows and columns filled with numbers will not appear nearly as dry as you once thought.
2. The right work environment
Another important factor in high-concentration work is your work environment. Whether you choose to work alone at a desk that strictly adheres to the principles of Feng-Shui or in a bustling open-plan office is a matter of personal preference, differing from person to person.
If your freedom to set up your workspace as you see fit is limited, calmly discuss the situation with your superiors. Perhaps there is a solution. Sometimes small changes like adding plants or using noise-canceling headphones can work wonders.
3. Set aside blocks of time for work
It is easier to avoid distractions when you specify periods of time that will be dedicated to single-minded concentration on a sole task.
For example, set an (ideally analog) timer for 30 minutes. During this time, private messages, e-mails, and social networks are a complete no-go! If a coworker or call interrupts you during this time, start the work period timer over from the beginning.
After each period of work, reward yourself with a short break to stretch your legs and briefly relax a bit.
4. Break up large tasks into smaller steps
If while working on an important project, you focus exclusively on the big picture, you are quite likely to eventually feel overwhelmed by the task. Mountain climbers do not scale summits in one fell swoop, but rather set intermediate goals and include time for breaks.
According to Csíkszentmihályi, project work provides very suitable conditions for experiencing flow because the work can be broken up into smaller steps.
5. Seek frequent feedback
Receiving regular feedback from coworkers or your boss helps you to avoid feeling overwhelmed or under-stimulated. Ideally, short meetings will be scheduled for that express purpose. Feedback meetings do not require an endless philosophical discussion of every topic under the sun. Even a stand-up meeting of 15 minutes suffices to discuss the essentials.
Recurring feedback has the advantage of ensuring that you, your team members, and your boss are all on the same page. Furthermore, you can address problems with a difficult client or issues that arise during an important process at an early stage. This allows you to avoid carrying around your concerns for weeks.
Flow cannot be forced, but it can be facilitated
Because experiencing flow is not something that can be entirely controlled, it does not make sense to doggedly strive to force the experience. However, there are some things you can do to help you reach the state of flow, even when they do not always seem to work straightaway and require a bit of practice.
With our tips you will work more efficiently, with greater concentration, and with less stress. And that is already something – with or without flow.