You are probably familiar with the term ‘getting into your flow’ but maybe you are challenged as to what it means, what benefits it brings and how you can achieve it.
I’m a great believer in Positive Psychology which simply means applying psychology to improve our lives as opposed to using psychology to address and fix problems. Several years ago, I came across the writings of one of the Father’s of Positive Psychology, Dr Martin Seligman. To date I’ve read nearly all of his books, not once but several times as each time I read one, I pick up some more valuable information I can use in my personal and working life or I can tell people about the learnings so they can enhance their lives.
One area of happiness he talks about is the importance of identifying when we are in our ‘flow’. This is when we are engaged in what we are doing and everything clicks into place. We feel energised, excited and in tune with ourselves and everyone and everything around us. Nothing is an effort for us, in fact everything flows for us. This concept or state was termed as ‘flow’ by Mike Csikszentmihalyi, pronounced as ‘cheek sent me high’, his life’s objective was to scientifically discover the key to human beings at their best. He interviewed thousands of people asking them to explain their highest gratifications. The results showed that gratification can come from a mental activity like studying something of interest to physical and social activities such as dancing, entertaining etc. He found that things such as luxuries and personal possessions don’t play a big part in how happy someone is. In fact, Dr. Csikszentmihalyi found that humans are at their happiest when in ‘flow’.
One of my ‘flow’ times is when I’m working with a group in a training situation, MC-ing or singing at an event. I know I’m in my ‘flow’ when I can feel the group completely engaged with what I’m saying or singing. Everything I’m doing falls into place without me having to think or spend a lot of energy analysing what is going on – it just flows. I feel happy, content and challenged in a good way.
So how can you find your ‘flow’ moments? Make a note of when you feel in sync with yourself and when you lose yourself in the moment. Keep adding to this list so you have a number of things / activities / thoughts you do that gets you to your ‘flow’ state.
Then start working on re-creating these situations / thoughts / activities so you can get back into your ‘flow’.
To get into your ‘flow’ when working on an activity:
First, get yourself into a relaxed state of mind where your mind is free of inner talk.
Second, make sure you know what time of day is your most productive when creativity comes naturally to you. My time is generally late morning or early afternoon ‘though I’ve found from performing at events over the years, I can also be productive and creative at night too.
Third, remove all distractions – close your email, turn your phone onto silent, clear your space of clutter. You don’t want your mind to start wandering and thinking about how you need to tidy up your office, your desk drawers, your bookshelves etc.
Fourth, set a timer for say 20 – 25 mins to work, then time a 5 mins break. Don’t work on anything else but what you are working on in that present moment.
I go through the above steps when I need to get through a lot of research or development work and what I find is that when I get into my ‘flow’ in these moments, I get a lot of work done and I’m incredibly creative. Sometimes I come up with better ideas when I’m in this space than the ideas I had thought of and planned out at the start of the process.
Go on, give getting into your ‘flow’ a go and see how effective you can be without much effort.
Until next time.