Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is perhaps best known for saying that a state of consciousness that makes an experience genuinely satisfying can be called a “flow state.”
I often see people complaining about not having focus and not being able to concentrate on one thing. While some say they are pros at multi-tasking, it can be hard for a person to focus on one thing at a time. Their minds want to think about more than one thing.
Multitasking is a valuable skill in itself but it can also eat up productivity by scattering one’s focus. In fact, recent studies show that multitasking is literally killing our brains.
Ideally, in a flow state you would concentrate attention on completion of a single task instead of multiple ones. It takes several important steps to achieve this state, but should one attain it, it’s well worth the effort.
1. Do What You Love
The most important thing in the process of achieving a ‘Flow State’ is to love what you do.
Entrepreneurs often discover there are other aspects to the business they didn’t consider. These may include paper work, accounting, on-boarding, or marketing. It can be a real struggle for some individuals to tackle these aspects of the job with anything like zeal.
Those are the times when one has to remember why they got into their work in the first place, outside of making money, and just do the job. The more tiresome aspects of building a business can be successfully navigated by keeping in mind an end goal, whether it be financial independence or growing a seed company into a billion-dollar startup. None of the “nose to the grindstone” stuff usually happens without keeping your eyes on a long-term goal.
Ideally, ‘you should be doing what you love, and find it simply amazing. It can also be an effective marketing tactic to show and share that love with others. Never discount the power of enthusia.
2. Embrace Positivity
Positive people spread positivity, and it’s safe to say everyone likes a positive person, be they employees, customers, or next door neighbors. Learning to embrace positive thinking helps a person approach life from a perspective of hope. It’s a proactive mentality, rather than a reactive one.
To achieve a flow state, a positive mentality is necessary because it removes the objections as to why a certain job can’t get done, and because of that, it helps to maintain focus.
There’s a fine balance between risk-taking and avoiding negative, ‘risk averse’ thought processes, but in general, having a positive mental approach to life will result in greater momentary happiness and long term success as more is achieved.
3. Challenge Yourself
Flow state requires that a person be challenged by their endeavors – not so much that it creates anxiety, but not so little that the job becomes tedious.
Through overcoming challenges, we grow as people, friends, entrepreneurs, etc. If that growth, and the flow state, is threatened by the degree of challenge being inadequate or excessive, the solution is to either seek new challenges or learn new skills that will help us rise to the challenge, until flow state can be re-attained.
4. Have Clear Goals
Having clear goals and milestones in life is the best favor anyone can do for themselves. Without goal setting, you may just be a running on a hamster wheel.
Attaining flow state, where a concentrated, happy focus allows one to power through a specific task, usually requires an end to be achieved. Without this, there is nothing to focus all that attention on, which will likely leave one sharpening pencils and rearranging the desk rather than getting anything worthwhile accomplished.
5. Be Mindful
To be mindful, try focusing on one specific task or thought. It’s challenging. Maintaining mindfulness and focus is related to achieving a flow state because if your attention is distracted, productivity inevitably goes down. Staying in the present moment, truly doing what you are doing, can make the difference between a wasted day and a powerhouse one.
6. Remove All The Distractions
Another factor contributing to the success or failure of flow state is physical distraction. Creating a favorable environment to achieve flow state isn’t difficult. Here are some simple tips:
- Put your cell phone on silent.
- Tell your colleagues/family not to disturb you.
- Put on music which blocks out office chatter.
- Listen to instrumental music only or simply put the earplugs in.
- Go minimalist with your work area and clear away clutter.
In your entrepreneurial journey, life can get all manner of messy, but this strategy of removing the distractions can help you reach your goals faster.
7. Use the Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro Technique is a valuable work hack which helps people manage their time better. It allocates a certain time to work, but also recognizes the necessity of short, refresher breaks for greater brain activity. This results in higher productivity and less fatigue. Many people are adopting this technique to manage their tasks and projects. Do your diligence, though. Some discover that it is too rigid for them and it begins to feel like unnecessary, self-imposed additional pressure.
8. Create Your Own Pre-Work Drills
Pre-work drills, or cues, are a routine you set for your own convenience, for capturing focus and concentration. There are times when doing just about anything else is preferable to the task that needs doing. Having a protocol, or a drill, helps prepare one for these moments.
It can be anything from having cup of coffee and browsing Facebook to listening to a motivational podcast on your commute. The key is to set some kind of fun or satisfying drill before starting, such that your “I’m going to work” mentality is regular, positive, and helpful. If these cues include something you love doing, there is the added advantage of going in with a fresher mind before starting.
9. Practice. Practice
The last and the most important factor in attaining flow state is practice. Without practice and implementation of all of the above factors, full immersion in the flow state may be nearly impossible to attain.
One cannot simply achieve the flow state without taking steps. Gaining a sound flow state depends upon each individual’s willingness and drive to pursue it. It requires hard work, but according to may advocates, once the various habits of entering a flow state are established, you may see a dramatic rise in productivity.