What Is Flow State, and How Do I Get There: 10 Tips
You have probably heard about the flow state before if you’ve made it this far in your educational journey. The flow state is that state of being in which you can be your most productive without having to consciously achieve it. It gets easier to do the better it is you are at whatever you’re doing.
In the following article, we assume that you have a level of competence on par with the material you’re covering. You may not be an expert, but you understand some things, and you’re capable of learning. With that said, here are 10 tips to help you better achieve the flow state, no matter what your subject area or activity is. Let’s begin!
1. Clear Space
The first thing needed to achieve the flow state is a good space to work in. Some people do just fine in messy locations while others cannot do a single thing until their workstations are spotless. There is no right or wrong way to do it as long as you’re able to think.
We do recommend cleaning your space off to the level that it minimizes distractions and gives you access to the supporting materials you need when you need them. If you think about it, everything you need should be within arm’s reach.
2. Make Time to Focus
The cleanest or coolest space in the world won’t do a lot of good if you’re not mentally prepared to tackle the material. To achieve mental preparation, you need to focus your time on the task at hand with laser precision.
How you do this is up to you. Some choose to block off time while others enjoy breaking up work into smaller sessions. Experiment and decide what your preferences are.
3. Physically Set a Timer
Now that you’ve got the space and the time set aside, it’s time to create a sense of urgency about what you’re doing. Nothing does that better than the ticking clock.
The human attention span starts to wane after 30 minutes or so. Keep this in mind as you set the timer on your phone or other devices. (Yes, literally set the timer.) The presence of the ticking clock has a psychological effect that kicks your focus, attention, training, and competence into gear. Better yet, it shuts off your inner critic and allows you to tackle topics and assignments without fear.
4. Shut Off Other Distractions
You’ve got the space, you’re focused, and the clock is ticking. All is well. Or at least, all is well until that first text message comes in or you get a phone call or the alien green of the Xbox in the room beckons you as you look up from your screen.
Distractions derail the best of us, so don’t make the mistake of thinking that you’re above them. If you have to, unhook electronic distractions and move them to another room. Turn phones on silent and place them somewhere the vibrations can’t be heard if a phone or text comes in while you’re working.
Flow state success depends on being able to stay plugged into what you’re doing. Otherwise, your efforts are tenuous at best.
5. Arrange With Your Circle
Human distractions can harm your progress as much as gadgets and toys. If you live with a roommate or family member(s), prep them for what you’re about to do so they don’t distract you unless it is an absolute life-or-death-sized emergency.
Can’t get their buy-in? Consider going to another location. But let them know ahead of time with an email, text message, phone call, or in-person chat that you will not be responsive or available. This will greatly reduce the likelihood of their even trying to reach you.
6. Raise the Stakes
One of the best ways to learn how to swim is to get thrown into the deep end of the pool, as terrified of the water as you can possibly be. The kicking and thrashing and sense that you are about to die will often do what is necessary to kick in your survival instincts.
(We would not recommend doing this to anyone who doesn’t know how to swim unless there’s a good swimmer hanging around who can safely scoop them out of the water.)
Achieving a flow state is not life-or-death, but it should be treated as such. And one way that you can do that is to adopt a program that requires you to keep working or lose your progress. One of our favorites is actually called Flowstate.
It’s a word processor that erases words if you don’t keep typing within five seconds of stopping. Adopt that sense of urgency the program creates and use it for other purposes as well. It can get you in the zone and keep you there until your timer goes off.
7. Take Breaks But Be Regimented
To more quickly reenter the flow state in another session, make time for breaks. Short breaks rejuvenate your mind. They prepare you to pick back up where you left off. We’ll discuss that more in a moment. For now, what you need to know is that the break should be taken, planned, and timed.
Be regimented with how you approach your break time. Treat it just like you did your flow state time. With a ticking clock! This will ensure that you recharge your batteries and get in the mental position to handle the next interval of work.
8. Leave Notes
When you come to the end of one session, take a quick moment to make notes to yourself about where you need to pick up. This will help you optimize the productivity that you get from the flow state. Instead of having to take time to find your bearings, you just pick back up where you were.
Notes are invaluable for cutting off lost productivity time. Slow down about a minute or two before the end of your work session to give you enough time to develop a plan.
9. Change It Up If It Is Getting Stale
We all need a change of pace every once in a while. If you feel like you’re not getting inspired enough to do your work, then it could be that the practice you’re using to get into the flow state needs a little work. Consider incorporating more activity, like a walk or run, to get your head clear.
Define the points in your preparation or work time where you’re losing interest. Make a decision to try new things. Stay up for the challenge of achieving a flow state, and you’ll be able to constantly energize.
10. Tailor Your Approach to the Work
Not every type of job will look the same when it comes to attaining a flow state. Some steps you have to take are physical, some mental. Still, others may be a combination of the two.
Define what the key actions and mental tricks are that get you into the best possible place to be your most productive self. Then, do what works for you and strive to refine your processes so you get more and more productive over time as your level of competence rises.
Achieving Flow State Is Reaching Maximum Productivity
Without the flow state, it is tough, if not impossible, to do your best work. Getting to the flow state entails knowing how you work best. It also involves a high level of knowledge for what you do. With more experience, it gets easier to slip into and out of the flow state.
Now it’s your turn, readers. What are some mental and physical tricks that you use to get going? Furthermore, tell us what your expertise and training are, so others can see how the flow state changes over time. Sound off in the comments section below.
[Featured Image by Flickr Creative Commons]