In psychology, “flow” is simply:
The mental state of operation in which a person in an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity. — From Wikipedia
We experience flow as a result from concentration. Once your mind zones in on one specific thing (because remember: your mind cannot multitask), you enter a trance where you do not think before you do something, you just do.
And that’s what flow is – doing without thinking.
Generally, whenever you do something you truly love and are passionate about, it’s easier to achieve a sense of flow. You aren’t fighting with mind to “get into it,” you just are, naturally.
Photo by Leo Chimaera
Even when your mind is in a state of flow, it’s fairly easy to snap out of it and lose productivity. The tiniest distraction can set you off course and cost you precious time.
In the next 5 minutes, I want to share with you 5 tricks that will help you achieve flow, and stay in it. I use each of these myself, so I will show you how I’ve incorporated them with my own pictures.
1. Wake Up Early
Being able to wake up early and love doing it is a rarity in today’s society. I feel that if you don’t wake up excited to start your day, then you might as well just go back to sleep.
The only problem, is that I can’t figure out what my favorite thing about waking up at 6:20am everyday is:
- I have all day to do anything I want
- I’m extra productive in the morning hours
- The sunrise is just…beautiful
- Gives me a good time to reflect on yesterday/plan for today
The way you decide to start your day is an important foundation for how the rest of your day will play out. Wake up early, eat a great breakfast, read a book or work out. It’s the little things that will make a huge difference in your mind.
2. Create A Great Environment For Yourself
If you spend multiple hours a day in a single room, what’s worse than spending all that time in a room you hate?
The least you can do to make your time more enjoyable is to cater your environment to your own needs and likings.
I work from home, and spend many hours a day in my room (which is basically an office with a bed), so I am constantly changing things around to ensure I love where I work.
Buy a plant and set it on your desk. Hang a painting on your wall, or decorate for the holidays. These all can go a long way to helping you stay relaxed and in that sense of flow.
I own 5 whiteboards. 2 large ones on my wall, 1 by my desk and 2 above my bed. Whiteboards are great for conveying ideas and organizing your thoughts.
I use my own whiteboards to:
- Mind map articles/ideas
- Write down any quick thoughts
- Keep track of my todo list
I placed them in areas of my office where they are easy to get to, and where I’ll always be looking. If you ever have to clear your mind quickly, whiteboards are the easiest way to get it all out.
Fun Fact of the Day:
The reason I keep whiteboards above my bed is so when I have an idea while trying to sleep, I can easily reach up and jot it down without waking myself up too much. This is how I got the idea for Life Notion.
Think of a notebook as a portable whiteboard. You can bring it everywhere. Write ideas down, mind map, all the same stuff.
Why not just use the Notes app on your iPhone? I’ll tell you why.
Dr. Virginia Berninger, who studies writing development and disabilities, conducted a study that measured children’s abilities to write the alphabet, sentences and essays using a pen and keyboard.
She found that:
“Children consistently did better writing with a pen when they wrote essays. They wrote more and they wrote faster.”
The reason for this? A quote from Lifehacker sums it up:
The difference, Berniger notes, may lie in the fact that with writing, you use your hand to form the letters (and connect them), thereby more actively engaging the brain in the process. Typing, on the other hand, involves just selecting letters by pressing identical-looking keys.
You’ll be doing yourself a favor by writing your thoughts with a pen and paper. It’s a way to exercise your brain and become more engaged to what you write (and that’s what flow is all about).
5. Handicap Your Phone
We are engulfed by information. People are using phones more than ever to constantly consume content and effectively get less work done.
Ever been in the middle of something important, only for your phone to rudely interrupt you with a notification?
Your phone is the biggest distraction in your work space, and you’ve got to learn how to control it. Especially if you have a smart phone.
Here’s what I did to remove my phone as a distraction from my life:
- Turn off all sounds, so when I get an alert – I won’t hear it (unless it’s a call, but who uses phones to call nowadays!?)
- Turn off all popup notifications. I have an iPhone, so all my notifications are stored on one screen I can check back on later.
- Only download apps you NEED. I never keep more than one page full of apps. I keep apps that are important and can positively impact my life.
- Don’t check it all the time. This can be tough, but know this: your phone will still be available to you after you’re done completing an important task.
How Do You Stay in Flow?
My 5 minutes are up, and I hope you’ve taken away some value from my own tips and pictures. Now, I’m turning this over to you: how do you achieve a sense of flow? And when you’re in it, how have you ensured you stay in it? Please leave a comment below.