Finding your flow…
When I was younger, I remember sitting in the living room with my Beatles Big Note Guitar Book trying to keep up with my dad as we strummed and sang. He always made playing the guitar look so easy, and I was eager to learn.
Every so often during these sessions, Dad seemed like he would get lost in his own world and just start jamming away without me, long after I had stopped playing. Despite my plea for him to turn the page and move on, Dad would stay in this “zone” for what seemed to me like forever.
You couldn’t talk to him. You couldn’t stop him. He just kept playing.
I eventually learned there was no interrupting Dad while he was in the “zone”. I accepted that I just had to let him finish, and I smile now as I think back on those “oh no, there he goes again” moments.
Have you ever been so engrossed in something, so lost in your zone, you suddenly realize so much more time has gone by than you thought? This is called finding your flow, and as frustrating as it may be for a daughter waiting to start the next guitar song, finding your flow has a major upside. It increases your creativity, your productivity, your sense of joy, and just generally feels awesome.
Reaching a flow state
Flow doesn’t only happen for musicians. From learning to cook a new dish, to playing a sport, painting the kitchen, writing a paper, or even doing a 1000 piece puzzle – flow can be found everywhere!
For me, my flow can happen when I’m in the midst of a challenging workout that I enjoy (yes, I’ve learned to enjoy my workouts). It doesn’t happen every time, but I’m focused enough, I will often not even realize how much time has passed and before I know it I’m done and feeling great. I also find my flow sometimes when I am super focused on a project at home or at work that it could be hours before I eventually look up and wonder how in the world I could have forgotten lunch!
Whether at work or play, reaching that ultimate peak performance state is what flow is all about. We feel a sense of joy and fulfillment while a task is being completed almost at a subconscious level, and when we reach a goal, the self-satisfaction is it’s own powerful reward.
What if we could harness this flow and make it work for us?
Research has shown that we don’t have to settle for letting flow happen to us, we can do things to actually make it happen. Here are three easy steps we can take to get proactive and achieve a state of flow and enjoy the increased productivity and satisfaction that comes along with it.
Set clear goals
Goals give us a sense of direction and tell us where we want to go, but without a clear understanding of what it will take to reach them, we often end up meandering through life going from day to day and task to task. The more concrete the goal, the higher likelihood we complete the steps necessary to make it happen. Flow is achieved by enduring the process it takes to get there (yes, I said enduring – not all tasks are fun, but you can still find flow!). So don’t go through life without goals. Goals help flow happen.
You are very likely aware of how you work best, so be proactive about removing things that will interrupt your productivity. Eliminate potential distraction-triggers (i.e. email and text notifications, chatty co-workers, etc.) that might be lurking around you. It will save you time and increase your productivity. Make your to-do list and try your best to follow it with minimal deviation. Eliminating distractions helps flow happen.
When we learn new things and stretch our skill levels we keep our mind fresh and alert, growing in the process as we challenge ourselves to persevere. The greater the challenge, the higher the self-satisfaction gained from a job well done. The result? Increased motivation and higher performance, along with a can-do attitude toward the next challenge that comes your way. Challenging yourself helps flow happen.
Is every day a “flow” day?
As a single working mom, I have many days when I am constantly being pulled in various directions, making flow nearly impossible. Hey, life happens! The trick to finding more flow for me has come when I wake up and face each day and each goal with intention. I know I am better off when I am deliberate about setting myself up for flow – as often as possible. Like my dad and his guitar, when that flow happens, it can be a wonderful thing. Go ahead and try it! Finding your flow just may become your key to a more purpose-filled, productive and happy life!