‘Flow’ is the almost magical state of extreme creativity and productivity. Most often associated with artists and developers, but I believe applies to a lesser extent to all of us.
What follows is an extract from How anyone can enter flow state for maximum focus. I wanted to get these tips for enabling ‘flow’ down in one place that I can refer back to.
If you want more detail on what ‘flow’ is from a neurological perspective or much more detail and colour on the subject generally then please read the article above. It’s good. The most important point for me is that the more people work in a flow state, the more productive and happy they are.
These tips work for individuals and managers.
- Find work that is in the ‘flow channel’ – flow only comes after a struggle with a difficult task, so the work should be stretching enough that it’s genuinely challenging, but not so difficult that it creates fear that ultimately blocks creativity. This is a matter of balance – some boring work is inevitable in all day to day roles, but too much creates disengagement.
- Create the right environment – all necessary tools and information should be at hand, to minimise distractions and excuses for not focusing on the task in question.
- Remove distractions – Slack, emails, team meetings, colleagues wanting a quick chat and a cluttered desk all detract from focus, making it harder to enter flow state. Again, this is a matter of balance, but eliminating necessary distractions and giving people long periods of uninterrupted time will help. Permitting people to say ‘don’t interrupt me now’ is a good trick, maybe just by wearing headphones.
- Break difficult tasks into smaller chunks; my dad used to love the following joke: Q. “How do you eat an elephant?” A. “One steak at a time”. Now that’s chunking! It’s an old productivity hack, but very relevant here because it helps break through the struggle.