Last week I shared the importance of flow in our lives and how it contributes to our happiness. Check out that article here. Now that you know flow is a secret sauce to happiness and well-being, you might wonder how to get flow.
Here are the steps to follow if you want to get into the flow state.
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Step 1: Find something that challenges you.
Flow state happens more often when you are challenging yourself in an activity you find enjoyable. What meaningful task can you choose that will stretch you and call upon your maximum potential? If you are struggling to find a challenging and significant undertaking, ask yourself the following questions:
- What is an activity for me to do right now that would help me grow?
- What would produce the most significant difference in my life?
- What would move the needle most for me to live a well-balanced and purposeful life?
Pick a worthy activity that will stretch you and force you to engage with the task entirely. Choose a task that will require your full attention.
Step 2: Set clear and specific goals for an allotted time.
To get into a flow state, it’s essential to be specific about what you are trying to accomplish and in what timeframe.
You must set a time limit for yourself and then choose what you will accomplish during that time. Establishing boundaries forces you to concentrate intensely so that you don’t waste time.
For example, let’s say you want to write a play. You might break writing the play up into several steps and spend an allotted amount of time on each step.
Here’s what this would look like:
Give yourself an hour (or whatever amount of time you think is reasonable) to finish the first step. During that hour, focus on achieving your goal. Give all your attention to finishing that first step and avoid letting anything distract you.
Do one thing and only one thing during this period of intense concentration and avoid all distractions.
One method you might use, which I use all the time (I’m using it right now as I write this), is the Pomodoro technique. My productivity dramatically improves when I use this technique. I also enter the flow state more easily when I use this technique. When I set the Pomodoro technique, I put my phone away and only focus on the task at hand. I don’t allow myself to do anything else besides my one area of focus for the entire allotted time.
How to Get Flow with the Pomodoro technique
The Pomodoro method works as follows:
● Set a timer for 25 minutes and work intensely (no distractions!) during that time.
● Take a 5-minute break after 25 minutes to allow your brain to rest. You have five minutes to do whatever you want.
● Then repeat the 25-minute session, followed by a 5-minute break.
● After four 25-minute sessions, take a 15-minute break.
● Rinse and repeat.
If you want to read more about the Pomodoro method, check out this helpful book.
Step 3: Remove all distractions.
Eliminating distractions is a biggie and will make a massive difference in your life.
Try these steps to eliminate distractions:
● If you’re hungry, eat something before you work, so you don’t think about how hungry you are.
● Set your phone to silent or airplane mode.
● Close your email, and all chat programs.
● Close all unnecessary browser tabs, especially those that are distracting, such as social media. When I have a lot of browsers open, my mind becomes as cluttered as my browser.
● Close the door. If you cannot close your door, consider putting on headphones and listening to non-distracting background music.
If you do all these steps and still get distracted, you may need to take even more extreme measures.
When you need to take extreme measures to get rid of distractions, here are a couple of ideas:
Use site blocking software if social media is a problem for you. These applications won’t allow you to visit social media sites once you activate the app. Leechblock is a free browser extension that you can try.
Experiment with using focus-enhancing music. Brain.fm has various music created to help you block out background noise and allow you to focus more. Or you can search for playlists created for concentrating. But don’t get distracted searching for playlists. 😄
Step 4: No more multitasking.
Flow state only happens when you’re working on a single task. If you want to enter a flow state, you must eliminate all multitasking.
Try not to believe the lie that you are more productive when multitasking because it’s not true. It may even have negative consequences for your brain health. Each time you switch tasks, it requires more energy from your brain – energy you could have devoted to accomplishing something magnificent.
To be in flow, you must become so immersed in one thing that all other things fade away. This can’t happen if you’re simultaneously trying to write a play, talking to coworkers on Zoom, responding to emails, and texting your friend about after-work plans.
Step 5: Improve your concentration.
If you want to enter a flow state, you absolutely must concentrate fully. If your concentration is wandering, you’ll find it challenging to focus 100% of yourself to what’s in front of you.
So how can you guarantee that your concentration is at peak capacity? One of the primary ways is to ensure that you get enough sleep.
High-performers know that sleep is essential to peak performance, and they make sure that they get enough sleep each night. They go to bed at a reasonable hour and make good sleeping habits a priority.
Another way to improve concentration is to exercise. I will often take a walk before a concentrated work session because it helps me clear my mind. It not only helps my brain, but it also helps my body.
Step 6: Check-in with your emotions and do a brain dump.
At times, your emotional state will govern whether you can enter a flow state. Keep a close watch on your emotions as you seek to get in the flow.
If something is upsetting or worrying you or if you are angry about something, you will find it challenging to get into flow.
You might find it helpful to calm your mind by meditating. Or if you have thoughts or emotions that are making it difficult to concentrate, you might find it beneficial to do a brain dump. You can write out all the thoughts you have on a piece of paper. I find this helpful because it helps me untangle all the racing thoughts and improves my concentration.
Now that I’ve talked about the importance of flow and how to get flow, I will help you create a flow ritual in the following blog post.
Do you need a little extra help? Download the workbook which guides you through the process.
Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor, therapist, Registered Dietitian, or financial advisor. The information presented is purely for informational purposes. Check with a doctor or other professional before making any nutritional, fitness, lifestyle, or financial changes. The author and blog disclaim liability for any damage, mishap, or injury that may occur from engaging in any suggestions or ideas from this site. For a full disclaimer, read this.