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How To Get In To A State of Flow
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How To Get In To A State of Flow

Written by Sam | May 21, 2020

Getting in a state of flow is important for when you want and need to get work done. Getting in the state of flow is important because it allows you to be fully immersed in the task and everything just flows with very little resistance. We wrote an article earlier on giving tips on how to revise efficiently rather than pulling all-nighters and it partners with this article.

Definition of Flow:

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the positive psychologist credited with having popularized the concept of Flow, offers another definition for the mental state of being ‘in Flow’ in his interview with Wired magazine:

“…being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.”

How Do We Know It Is Flow?

The universal factors of flow, per Csikszentmihalyi’s studies (1990; Nakamura and Csikszentmihalyi, 2002), include:

  1. Challenge-skill balance;
  2. Action-awareness merging;
  3. Clear goals;
  4. Unambiguous feedback;
  5. Concentration on the task at hand;
  6. A sense of control;
  7. Loss of self-consciousness;
  8. Transformation of time; and
  9. Autotelic experience.

How Can We Break It Down Even More?

  1. Challenge-skill balance, don’t make it so hard you have any way of achieving it, you must be able to achieve it, but make it just outside your reach, it is a fine balance and this will take a little time to understand how to set these to motivate yourself but not make it too easy. The easiest way is to reduce the time to achieve something, e.g 1000 words an hour.
  2. Focused clearly on what you need to do. You are focused on your goals and there are no other distractions
  3. Goals that are SMART usually work. Make sure when setting goals, write them down, and make sure you can see them daily!
  4. Unambiguous feedback – Feedback where you know exactly what you need to do and not sitting on the fence, if you get feedback, make sure you know exactly what you need to do in order to make the project, assignment or item better.
  5. Don’t let people, phones, Netflix, or anyone distract you. Once you come out of the flow, it can take you 15-20 minutes to get back into it again!
  6. Control, not overwhelm or stress, having good goals, focus and feedback will give you control. If you don’t feel in control get a loss together of what you need to do in order to get in control and make them your goals.
  7. You lose track of time, ever driven somewhere, and forgot the journey? That’s FLOW! Have you ever written an assignment and written more words than you thought? FLOW! you lose track of time and surroundings!
  8. You can see the change over time, you can see more words on the paper than when you first started. A dissertation seems scary at the start but as you get your teeth stuck in and see more and more words, you notice the transformation over time!
  9. This just means there is an end goal or the project has a purpose. If it has a purpose and you know what you want to achieve and it is going to better you, why wouldn’t that motivate you?
Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow State Chart

How do We Get In To Flow?

To get there is dependant on what matters to you and what triggers you to enter into these states. For instance, I reach a state of flow when I play hockey, but to get there, I have to let my sub-conscious takeover and body flow with it rather than me thinking of every step! For You to get in the state of flow you can try these things:

  • No distractions – you must have a clear focus and high concentration
  • You must be comfortable
  • To Do lists
  • Your goals challenge you suitably
  • Set a time challenge
  • Create a reward for when you have completed the task
  • Focus on the here and now, so spend a minute breathing and focusing on that before heading in to your work
  • Bright room
  • Music with no words, or long playlists
  • Have a clear end goal
  • Give the project a purpose, what will you get out of it

Summary

Flow is a state where you have high levels of concentration, autonomy and clarity on your work. While you are in this state, you can achieve a lot more than if you were working normally through as assignment.

You can tell you are in a state of flow by a few key features, the main one to tell it by is the loss of self-consciousness, by this, it means time going by really quickly. Others include a sense of control and challenging goals, but not too challenging either! It’s a fine balance.

In order to reach a state of flow you need to find what triggers you in to reaching the state of flow. A lot of athletes use the state of flow in order to increase their performance. You can reach a state of flow by concentrating on a few key areas in order to get you in the right mental state! Some of the best ways I have found are:

  • Focusing on breathing and being present for a minute
  • To-Do List
  • Setting Good Challenges
  • Listening To Music

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