Peak experiences as rare, exciting, oceanic, deeply moving, exhilarating, elevating experiences that generate an advanced form of perceiving reality, and are even mystic and magical in their effect upon the experimenter, Abraham Maslow.
Flow is a state of mind that we have all experienced more than once, during which we become so involved in an activity that the world seems to fade away and nothing else seems to matter anymore. There are six components involved in this process:
Flow leads to peak performance, pleasurable feelings, and emotional rewards. Basic learning becomes meaningful and engaging learning. Flow is creative, productive, joyful, and energising.
So, what do you need?
You need to set realistic goals, specific tasks, clear rules and, more importantly, good reasons for embarking on this project.
Find a task or activity which is difficult and attractive enough to stimulate your interest, imagination, and creativity, but certainly achievable and realistic. There should be a balance between our capabilities and skills, and the challenge you set yourself. If the task is too complex or difficult, you run the risk of making mistakes, failing, and getting discouraged and frustrated. In this case, split the task into smaller, easier, and more manageable sub-tasks. In the opposite case, if a task is so simple and repetitive that it becomes dull and boring, you can add elements or restrictions to make it more complicated, interesting, and stimulating.
Avoid distractions, adjust your work environment to suit your needs and boost your productivity. It needs to be clean and tidy, you have to unclutter your workplace, put everything in the proper place. For instance, it is important to choose a chair which is ergonomically designed to provide you with enough comfort while you are sitting during a long workday.
Find your best hours, the ones for maximum productivity or creativity. If you are a morning person, your most productive or peak hours are in the morning. Many people feel sleepy or drowsy in the morning, so their best hours are likely to be later as the day progresses.
Give yourself enough time to complete the task. It is important to realize that your head will be easily distracted with a thousand thoughts, worries, and problems at the beginning of your work session, and certainly, you will not be as productive as you want to be. Therefore, it makes perfect sense to give yourself some extra time for the task at hand. In other words, it is better to err on the side of caution, than needing to stop in the middle of a task because you have a meeting or something else to do.
Concentration and focus on one thing at a time. When you want to enter a flow state, you need to be focused exclusively on the task at hand, concentrate on it fully; let it totally absorb you. Therefore, avoid interruptions (phone calls, text messages, social media, emails, unwelcome visits) that make you lose your concentration.
Create a ritual of flow, set a routine. I am talking about simple things that get you in the flow: listen to relaxing music, sit on your chair, use your favorite pen, have a coffee/chocolate/tea, start the day with guided meditation, breathing exercises, running or yoga, do some personal hygiene, etc.
Establish a daily and weekly working routine, create time chunks for specific tasks and set aside time to rest regularly. For example, it is far more efficient to answer all your emails in just one go than checking your email account every ten minutes or so. Set up folders in your email account and then filter mail automatically into these folders. By doing so, you can also reply to important emails first.
Try to have direct and immediate feedbacks on your performance, work or decision-making skills, so you can adjust and change your way of working to meet the requirements of the task, enhance your creativity and productivity, and improve the quality of the end result.
Enjoy the moment. Try to find the activity rewarding by itself, that is, enjoy doing it, finding your work significant and meaningful, and by doing so, you will not get so tired, hours will fly, the sense of self will disappear, and your performance will enhance, too.
Avoid caffeine and energetic drinks. They may help you in the short term, but not in the long run.
The use and abuse of stimulants can cause or exacerbate anxiety, nervousness, stress, and insomnia which are a devastating combination for your performance and productivity. Replace them with water and a active lifestyle. Certainly, you will increase your visits to the restroom, but drinking plenty of water helps you to think, stay focused, and be more alert.
Master your essential tools and skills. There is a number of basic tools and skills you need to master in any given task. For example, when I researched for my Ph.D. in Social Psychology, I needed to be able to read many articles quickly and effectively in English. Moreover, I needed advanced knowledge of statistical packages, such as SPSS and AMOS. Finally, it is required to write a scientific document with a Word processor with the results, conclusions, and the theoretical framework, as well as delivering a speech using PowerPoint slides.
The idea is plain and quite simple: If you know and master the right tools and skills, you can focus on the task at hand. If you don’t, you will waste time, energy, and concentration on being able to handle the tools and acquiring instrumental skills.