Flow is described as the optimal state of consciousness. The brain takes in more information per second and processes it more deeply. Now you're probably asking, how does this relate to my productivity? Today, the average business person spends less than 5% of their day in a 'flow state', if you could simply increase that to 10%-15% you could double your productivity and increase your output.
So how do you get yourself into your flow state? How do you make yourself more productive and and in the zone while working? Well according to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a leading psychologist who discovered the concept of flow, there are 7 key components to getting yourself into your flow state.
1. Clear Goals
2. Strong Concentration and Focused Attention
3. Distorted Sense of Time
4. Immediate Feedback
5. Balance Between Skill Level & Challenge
6. Personal Control over the Situation
Now let's get into why these 7 components are so essential to getting you into your flow, and we'll explain more about why it's important for you to get there.
Flow is a feeling of energized focus, full involvement and enjoyment in the process of the activity
How often do you find yourself struggling over what exactly it is that you're doing. Where you're going, and how to get there. Giving yourself clear and concise goals on where you need to go can eliminate barriers preventing you from getting there and any distractions along the way. Allowing you to enter your flow and working towards the end goal.
Strong Concentration & Focused Attention
Have you ever tried sitting down to do work in the middle of the mall with everyone yelling around you. Or trying to concentrate on a project while cooking dinner. You cannot enter a state of flow with distractions set up all around you. You must become completely involved with what you are doing and eliminate any obstacles preventing you from getting into your zone.
Distorted Sense of Time
Know the saying, "Time flies when you're having fun", well time also flies when you enter your flow state. When you're completely focused on the task at hand, and have eliminate any distractions you can allocate your time directly to what it is you are working on, time becomes secondary. Ever have that day at work that goes by quickly and before you know it, it's time to go home? You usually feel accomplished when you leave and feel like you've gotten a lot of work done, congratulations, you entered your flow state and didn't even know it.
When working in a team, waiting for feedback on your current task can take you out of focus, slowing down your process. The goal is to keep every team member engaged with consistently quick feedback so that you are able to re-enter your flow state and continue to work when you are most motivated. The longer it takes to receive feedback or engagement from a team-member, the harder it will be to re-enter the focus you were in. Engagement is crucial to the success of your team.
Balance Between Skill Level & Challenge
It's important to know that you have the skills to achieve success in the challenge that you're partaking in. If you feel marginalized, feel like you are not being challenged enough than it's difficult to enter your flow state as it becomes trivial and difficult to dedicate your full attention to something that doesn't challenge you or keep your motivation high. Likewise it can become difficult if you don't believe you have the skills to achieve a task, and are looking for input from team members that you have to wait to receive feedback from on a consistent basis. The trick is to find the middle ground, and know that you have the skills to achieve the task at hand.
Inducing flow is about the balance between the level of skill and the size of the challenge at hand
Personal Control over the Situation
To have control over the project you are working on becomes essential to fuel your motivation. When you are consistently waiting for input, feedback or reports from another team member it becomes difficult to enter your flow state. When you have control over the situation, the motivation comes from knowing what you produce will be looked at and reported will reflect directly upon yourself, and entering your flow state to become more productive becomes essential.
This can be seen as the end goal of entering your flow state. Losing your sense of self and your concerns and worries are pushed to the back and all you're focused on is getting the task at hand completed. This is when your productivity is at its highest state and you are completely focused on your goals. This is the goal of getting into your flow, and this is where the magic happens.