Getting into "flow" — similar to what athletes call “the zone” — not only feels great, but also has a great halo effect, too. One study showed that people who experience flow get positive after-effects of feeling more productive, creative, and happy for almost three days. But how do you get into the flow, and how do you know once you've achieved it?
How to Achieve Mental Flow
The most common sign that you've achieved a flow state is that you're losing awareness of yourself and losing track of time. This is tightly connected with being completely focused on whatever task you’re doing, and feeling completely in control of the requirements of that task, as well as its outcome.
But that feeling of control doesn’t mean that the task is easy. You have to “earn” that feeling of flow. If the task is too easy, then it doesn’t require concentration. In contrast, when the task is too hard, your focus can be disrupted because you don’t feel in control. You have to find the sweet spot.
But even then, you can break down a difficult task into smaller parts that are easier, but still require focus to master. As an example, an art student might give up on doing a whole portrait quickly and just focus on getting the eyes of the subject right.
How Can You Increase Your Chances of Getting Into Flow?
Whether it’s a mental or a physical task, you can do three things to improve the chances of getting into flow.
1. Get the clutter out of your brain. This means putting tasks in order and making sure your responsibilities are all under control for the moment.
2. Stop interruptions. Don't let little things — like checking emails and texts — interrupt you.
3. Get calm. Hunger, thirst, and random noises can all make claims to our attention. Eat a snack, drink some water, and put on some music that might help you concentrate.
For many people, experiencing “flow” may be a rare occurrence. However, you can (and should) practice achieving flow, in small ways as well as big. The more you practice, the more you’re likely to get there.
Connect With the Spartan Up! Podcast for More Great Discussions Below!