On many occasions you start a project or set of work activities and find yourself stalled by an issue or bottleneck that emerges. The issue or bottleneck could be due to a resource issue, a skills issue, a lack of knowledge or not having a suitable process. The project could also be affected by your attitude, beliefs and mindset, with the lack of motivation being a defining factor. You then find yourself parking the project to work on another activity or to seek the missing requirements to complete the project.
Alternatively, on some occasions, you find that a project is working as planned or even better than expected. The tasks seem to be completed effortlessly and all elements are coming together as anticipated. You also find yourself so immersed and completely absorbed in the project that time goes by without notice. Furthermore, you experience a high level of motivation and exhilaration at the same time. This mental state of being is called “Flow“.
The Russian researcher Mihályi Csíkszentmihályi, through his work in positive psychology, coined the concept of flow as a result of interviews with people who described their mental state as if a water current was carrying them along while they were undertaking a particular project or work activities. The state of flow has also been metaphorically described by a number of terms including, being in the zone, being in the moment, being in tune or being on a roll.
Some of the key characteristics of being in a state of flow include:
- Intense and focused concentration
- Action oriented
- Loss of self-consciousness
- Personal control over the activities
- Distorted sense of time
- Intrinsically rewarding experience
In order to achieve a state of flow you need to perform the following activities:
- Clearly identify and define the task or set of activities that you wish to achieve
- Set clear goals on what you want to achieve and how you will obtain the results and outcomes
- Ensure you have the skills and resources to be able to meet the goals
- Before you begin, pause and take at least three deep breaths, holding each breath and then slowly exhaling
- Focus your attention on the immediate task, eliminate any distractions and concentrate on completing the activities.
- Ensure you have allocated sufficient time for each activity to allow you to become fully immersed
- Remain alert, keeping the mind fully attentive in the present state while maintaining a level of awareness
- Become completely absorbed in the activity as if it feels like you are playing a game
- Monitor your progress and your emotional state to ensure you are achieving your goals
If we can experience extended time in a mental state of flow, then we can improve performance and productivity, increase happiness and achieve success.
Dr John Kapeleris