Psst! You can also listen to an audio version of this blog here:
Being in flow state is being “in the zone.” It’s that mental space where you feel like you’re creating* with extreme precision, fluidity, and ease. (*creating is less about art and more about transforming your ideas into reality, no matter the medium or process.) You’ve probably gotten here once or twice by accident.
The term was coined by a psychologist named Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in 1970 as he studied artists being intensely immersed in their processes. He’s written books and done a TED talk that you can watch here!
In flow state, you’re likely to stress less, be hyper focused, and have extreme mental clarity while you’re working. It is ideal for any creative session and is often the feeling that we crave when we work. The self confidence boost does wonders for any productive session.
Tips for Achieving Flow:
According to experts, being passionate about the task will help foster a flow state. In addition, the task shouldn’t be very difficult, just require your full attention. In this headspace article, they discuss how mediation, mindfulness and ritual/routine can help foster a flow state, too. (There’s gems here)
Here are some things I do to help me get into flow.
- Playlist. Music is key to my productivity. I need some mellow vibes that allow my brain to relax and creativity to flow. I love to create playlists that give me control over what plays while I’m working. (I also tend to do a lot of visual work, so I love having Steven Universe or Amazing World of Gumball silently on the television while I work, too. Music + Visual stimulation are my creative zone.) Play around with what fuels you and what you are doing.
- Eliminating every possible distraction. Flow state hints at the idea of uninterrupted thought. Distractions like your phone, television, and social media, interrupt your ideas and keep your mind from achieving the ideal flow state. Be as intentional about your workspace as you can. Pay attention to what environments your mind thrives in and what causes disruption in your thought processes. Everyone is different and every task requires its own recipe to achieve flow. Play around with it.
- Stop believing in the myth of multitasking. It’s not real. Our brains are not designed to manage two tasks at one time. However, our brains are very good at deceiving us and making us believe that it can do this. Psychologists have long found that during multitasking, your brain switches between two tasks, rather than manage them simultaneously. This costs time and can contribute to more error. In addition, it’s a never ending process of distraction that will certainly stop you from achieving the ideal flow.
- Create a work flow/routine. Have you heard of Pavlov’s dog? Here’s the story. In the late 1800s a physiologist named Ivan Pavlov discovered that he could condition his dogs to start salivating at the sound of a bell, if he associated the bell with their feeding time. This led to the discovery of conditioning. We can teach our brain to associate a song, a shower with a certain scent, or any activity with your productive sessions (work, art, exercise or otherwise), allowing your mind and body to prepare for the work and slide into flow more easily. Create a routine that leads you into your work and see the difference it makes.
Here are some other resources you can check out to learn more about flow state: