Have you ever spent half an hour searching the internet which, as you find out afterward, lasted three hours? Or opened a book shortly after getting into bed, only to realize at one point that the sunlight’s creeping in already?
When you are fully enjoying what you’re doing, you might be entering a state of ‘flow‘. Flow happens when your mind shifts to a new space and you feel connected, inspired and in tune with yourself. You lose track of time and before you know it, you are working non-stop for hours. And even though you don’t fully understand why, you are enjoying it greatly. That’s when you’re in the zone. That’s when you enter your flow.
One author described flow as followed:
“Flow is an optimal state of consciousness when you feel and perform your best. Stress-causing hormones are flushed out of the body and the autoimmune and nervous systems go haywire. It’s a moment of total absorption. Time speeds up or slows down like a freeze-frame effect. Mental and physical ability go through roof, and the brain takes in more information per second, processing it more deeply.”
I personally get in my flow whenever I’m cooking. It’s like something else inside of me takes over, moves my knife, highlights my smell and activates my taste buds. I can spend hours on end, cooking and trying new recipes, without getting tired of it. It’s one of the few times where I’m able to completely relax, without forcing it. And I’m not the only one. Artists experience flow when they get swept away in an inspired creative frenzy. Picasso’s 1932 wasn’t just a time during which his creative juices flowed, they gushed. Writers experience it when they get caught up in their story and the words seem to pour effortlessly onto the page. But how can you find your flow and incorporate it into your daily business?
Here are my 5 tips:
#1 TAKE MORE RISKS
We’re all familiar with the idea of ‘fail fast or fail forward‘. But not all of us can fully embrace that idea. And I’ll admit, I’m also a bit scared of failing. But if there’s one thing my burnout taught me it’s that you have to take risks. You have to find that space in which it’s okay for you to fail, because if you never try, how will you know what you want? So move fast and break things. Take part in rapid experimentation. The bigger the consequence of your actions, the more rewarding will be the outcome. Those projects or ideas will drive flow and you’ll get further, faster.
#2 Try something new and unusual
Besides your mind, actions are a big part of triggering flow. Think about the last time you learned a new skill. Wasn’t it exciting to absorb all that new information? To be exposed to new ways and processes? Now, remember the last time you were doing a routine job, like accounting or answering emails. I bet it felt very different, very dull. So if you want to achieve flow, you need to get out of old habits and routines. Shake things up!
It could be as simple as brushing your teeth with the wrong hand. Or taking a quick break from work by doing jumping jacks. These kinds of unusual tricks will demand a different kind of focus from you and activate different parts of your brain. That’s where flow happens.
#3 Use all your senses
Did you know that only 2% of our brain is capable of language and logic? The other 98% is called our ‘sensing brain’ and creates whatever is needed for the other 2% by comprising all of our emotions, senses, memories. Cool, right? The problem with society and how we work nowadays is that we focus too much on logic, strategy, deadlines. We increased our working hours hoping that we would get more work done. It didn’t. What we should be focussing on is substance, sense, emotion. Being present. You can achieve that outcome with mindfulness.
Make sure that your way of working offers you all sorts of possibilities to trigger your senses. For example: instead of always working at your desk, you might want to go and work in a coffee bar some days. Or outside, in the park (when you don’t need your computer for example). Simply smelling the fresh coffee or the tree blossoms will help you reach a deeper state of awareness. Which in turn will help you come up with new and original
#4 Embrace your process, forget the end result
While setting goals is important for your business to succeed, you shouldn’t focus too much on them because you’ll be running around in circles. What comes after you reach the goal? What if the outcome isn’t what you had in mind? Do you start over? Flow, on the other hand, requires you to focus on the process, the art of creation itself. And isn’t that what your business should be all about?
#5 Mind your mindset
Various studies have shown that language can influence our thoughts. The words you use, how you phrase things, will determine how you think and feel about them. For example, you could describe yourself as someone who has a ‘need to achieve’. Or you could say that you have a ‘never ending curiosity’. See how those two things can mean the same, but evoke different feelings?
Tying this back to my burnout, I learned the power of phrasing. Whenever I felt anxious, I told myself that I was simply excited. Because the physical symptoms of being anxious and being excited are exactly the same, it’s the emotion that’s different. So for you to get into your flow, you need to lean into new experiences rather than doubting your abilities.
Getting in the flow is a lifelong skill that will serve you in every challenge, every environment, and every job. By being able to go deeper into the present moment, flow will guide you forward without you even realizing it, both personally and professionally. Unlike other productivity hacks, it evokes meaning — something that should never be underrated.