You know it when you’re in it.
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It’s when you’re writing in your journal without writer’s block, getting lost in a stimulating conversation or surfing a wave with no fear. Some refer to it as being “in the zone” or even "disappearing".
There are many ways to define “flow,” a term used to describe random indescribable bursts of energy, bouts of euphoria or just being completely engaged in an activity with pointed focus and enjoyment.
We spoke with Dr. Sven Hansen, founder of The Resilience Institute, whose company provides training for executives and professionals to ensure they're performing at their best. According to Hansen, flow can increase productivity up to five times and leaves employees feeling deeply satisfied.
“Flow is a state of excellence where we perform at our best. Our talents and skills meet meaningful challenge,” says Hansen. “Forty years of research demonstrates that each one of us can learn how to find flow in our lives.”
It may be nearly impossible to live in a constant state of flow, but you can certainly increase the amount of time you spend in a flow state of mind — heightening your overall success. Here are five ways to introduce and increase flow in your everyday life.
1. Focus Your Attention
Emails, texts, the internet, television and friends begging for your attention can knock you right off task. Suddenly, that project that was supposed to take you 20 minutes to complete has taken two hours. One great way to make sure you stay focused and create effortless flow is to shut off all the possible distracters.
According to Dr. Sven, “When you do something, do it with 100-percent focus.” When you really want to accomplish something, give yourself a break from the world. Turn off your phone, shut down the computer, walk away from the TV and let people know that you’re busy and you’ll get back to them later: You’ve got a masterpiece to create!
When you create this space for activities, you can achieve that feeling of timelessness, get delightfully lost in the activity and present much more progress than you dreamed possible.
2. Set Clear and Tangible Goals
Part of creating flow in your everyday life requires discipline. Create boundaries around what it is you want to accomplish.
Getting lost in several activities at once can turn into a waste of time and hurt the rest of your day’s to-do list. It would be a shame to eliminate the euphoric gift that flow has to offer just because you failed to set goals you can actually achieve. So if you would like to lose yourself in your work and make a living doing so, set clear and tangible goals.
For example: “I want to educate the world about the value of maintaining a healthy diet.” That means that you need a clear agenda on where to focus your attention, giving you the needed structure to stay within the boundaries of your duties. Then you can set aside a specific amount of time to complete each task.
Remember to keep checking in to see that your actions are matching up with your goals. This will keep the work in flow mode.
3. Check in With Yourself
Do you hate your job? With flow you can train your brain to fall in love with it or to push you in a different direction. All you need to do is simply check yourself.
“One sure sign that you are in flow is how you feel,” says Hansen. “Flow is the difference between a job you hate and a job you love.” Many of us spend almost every day with people we can’t stand, going to jobs we hate and wasting valuable energy that we will never get back. So maybe it’s time we begin to have an inner dialogue with ourselves.
Check in with yourself often, asking, “How does this activity make me feel?” Take notes so you can reference the times you felt energized, happy and inspired as well as the times you felt depleted, drained and frustrated. Your internal compass is an amazing guide for leading you to where you should focus your attention.
4. Create Flow in Everyday Tasks
Dr. Eric Maisel, author of more than 40 books, who specializes in life purpose, mental health and creativity coaching, says to “create flow in your everyday tasks by creating a ceremonial bridge — maybe a deep breath and a smart thought — that reminds you that you want to get quiet, go deep…”
Before each everyday task, if you slow down and simply take a deep breath in and out it can change how you see everything.
The act of cleaning the dishes quickly becomes a moment-by-moment fulfilling task. Make tiny goals like cleaning a dish or completing a spreadsheet, and the process of flow can take over. You are left with sparkling dishes and a deep sense of accomplishment.
5. Use Downtime for Creative Work
Discipline yourself to use your time wisely. The moments that tick away while watching mindless TV or scrolling through Facebook feeds are gone forever. These activities can steal flow from you in the moment and keep you from creating flow in the future.
“We all throw away 15 minutes here and 20 minutes there by checking our email for the millionth time, playing some computer game or surfing the internet,” says Maisel. “Don’t scorn those 15 minutes and 20 minutes and just cavalierly throw them away! Instead, create a list of small creative tasks… that can be tackled whenever those 15 or 20 minutes become available!”
Also, instead of numbing out, go deeper into your imagination. Pull out a paintbrush, turn on some music and dance, do something creative — anything that will get your inventive side working — and flow will soon follow.
Life is too short to waste away minutes, weeks and years tripping over your own feet through the monotony of your days. Consciously take hold of how you move (aka flow) through this world so that you live an inspired, meaningful life and leave an inspiring and meaningful legacy.
You will be pleasantly surprised how connecting with your inner flow can transform so much in your life.
What Do YOU Think?
Share a time when you experienced "flow". What sparked it? Did you feel more productive? Will you use any of the above tips to channel your inner flow?