In the quest to be more productive, do better work and enjoy it even more, you want to learn more about using flow and how to make it happen.
The biggest problem for many of us in the past has been living in a culture of getting by – of not always being expected to give our absolute best to fulfill our potential. Achieving our best was not a habit. The knowledge is there now and we need to put it into action on purpose.
Firstly, what is flow exactly? According to The Art of Impossible author Steven Kotler, it’s an “altered state of consciousness, a state where every decision, every action, FLOWS seamlessly, perfectly, from the last.”
It is our peak state of focus, where what we are doing is the reward in itself. Time either slows greatly or flies by. Our sense of self vanishes, and our inner critic is quiet.
Kotler has been studying high achievers for 30 years. Here’s what he recommends on how to leverage your flow best:
1. Devote 15-20% of your time on flow activities
You may have heard about Google’s Twenty Percent Time policy that allows its engineers to spend 20% of their weeks working on passion projects. Kotler shares: “Over 50% of Google’s largest revenue-generating products have come out of Twenty Percent Time, including Adsense, Gmail, Google Maps, Google News, Google Earth, and Gmail Labs.” 3M has 15 percent time for its engineers for the same reasons and with equally stellar results.
2. Know how to leverage your brain and body
To do this effectively and enjoy the powerful long-term benefits of leveraging the flow state:
a) Get enough sleep: your brain needs to incubate on ideas.
b) Engage in regular exercise. Your brain and body need all the chemical benefits.
c) Schedule flow time when you do your best thinking. For me, this is earlier in the morning with coffee. You may do your best thinking later at night. Some believe that our brain has just two great hours in it per day when we are at our prime.
d) Say no to the people and things that prevent you from spending your best flow time on your highest leverage activities, or you run the very real risk of never coming close to fulfilling your potential.
3. Total focus: No multitasking. 90-120 minutes is ideal for your daily time block. Shut down all distractions. Tell people to leave you alone.
4. Find the intersection between Curiosity-Passion-Purpose
Curiosity is healthy and gets you started. Passion helps to sustain your motivation. Purpose puts your attention outside yourself. When you combine all of these, then you’re in a powerful place to stay the course and produce great work.
5. Set Clear Goals – come up with challenging, manageable bite-sized chunks for each day so the focus is on the present. Ideally you align your small clear goals with a massive hard goal (if you want to get up to something big).
6. Find people who can give you the right feedback
This requires some searching as the person needs:
a) to know your world enough –
b) but not be too close
c) to be able to challenges your assumptions
d) to ask you great questions.
7. The Challenge-Skills Balance – the MOST IMPORTANT for Flow!
Your tasks must slightly exceed your skill set – what you’re currently good at. Kotler came up with the concept that your new task must exceed your skills “by 4%,” but he has also found this needs to be much higher than 4% for aggressive A types. Either way there needs to some uncertainty about what you’re working on to keep you on enough of an edge to be highly engaged.
Lastly, you’re not going to be feeling on a roll every day. There are four stages to flow and all of them count:
a) Frustration is the first (totally normal) stage. The key is to decide to fight it.
b) Let your problem incubate – let it go for a few hours. Kotler recommends light activity is best such as bathing, saunas, stretching, showers, or walks but not TV and beer!
c) Flow – AVOID distractions, negative thinking, low energy, and lack of preparation. Add more flow triggers – novelty, unpredictability, or complexity!
d) Active Recovery – recharge the battery: nutrition, sunlight, sleep. Not TV. Mindfulness, light yoga, massage, Epsom salt bath, and ice baths.
Lastly, don’t let worthiness concerns creep in here where you unwittingly say to yourself: “This sounds good, but I don’t know if it’s for me. Maybe if I just do one of these things.”
Shut down that weak thinking as fast as you can. Of course, you have as much right to put this into action as anyone else. Honor all the details involved here (wise scheduling, taking care of yourself, and allowing your brain and body time to recuperate) and remember you are playing the long game seeking a series of strong achievements throughout your future not be a one-hit wonder.
Now there are no excuses.
Let me know what works for you!
Founder & President
Matt Anderson International
1177 Oak Ridge Drive, Glencoe, IL 60022, USA
Phone: +001 (312) 622-3121