Do you find it difficult to concentrate right now? It’s easy to achieve goals and have fun while working in a state that is flow-like. It takes some effort to get flow, especially considering the current news.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a Hungarian-American scientist, describes this state in Flow: Psychology of Happiness. She says, “Concentration is so intense, that no attention is left to think about any irrelevant or worry about problems.” The sense of time is distorted span>
You don’t have to be a scientist in order to access this state. As many others, I experienced a state that allowed me to write, exercise, and work on difficult projects without being interrupted.
Today, I spend an hour trying to achieve a state or flow. I listen to ambient noise or music so that I don’t get distracted. This approach has three main benefits for nearly everyone.
1. Deep concentration is possible
My wife entered my home office on Friday morning. I was writing a chapter for a book and about 30 minutes in, when she came in. I was wearing noise cancelling headphones at that time. I was shocked when my wife tapped me on the shoulder.
Maybe you aren’t a writer. Choose one task that you can concentrate on all day without taking a break. Coders can often work for hours on difficult problems without stopping. Athletes who are top-ranked will train at the track or in the gym for hours to improve their skills for the next big competition.
Focus on the tasks and projects in your area of control
However, it can be difficult to focus if you are watching TV or reading the news. Keep up to date with the happenings in your local area, but only after work.
Csikszentmihalyi writes a lot about passive pursuits. They leave us feeling more tired and less hopeful than before. ”
2. You will pursue meaningful work
The typical workday is filled quickly with meetings, last-minute tasks, and other people’s priorities. These are important? Some, perhaps. They all have meaning. They are not all meaningful.
It doesn’t mean that cultivating flow means giving up all your tasks and saying no when you disagree with your boss or coworkers. This is a quick way to lose your job or get fired.
Instead, think about what is most important to your life. You might want to write a book or start a company, or do a project that will get you promoted.
A state of flow is ideal because it allows you to move a little each day so that you eventually reach the top of your personal Everest. You’ll be more motivated to work on challenging projects if your work is meaningful.
3. It’s a happy place to work.
Csikszentmihalyi writes on flow state:
“An experience that produces such experiences can be so gratifying that people will do it for its sake with little concern about what they will get out it, even if it is dangerous or difficult.”
Think about if you have ever been to a club or bar and seen a musician perform with an effortless joy on their faces. This is a state of flow.
Although I don’t consider myself a musician, I find that I am most happy when I’m focusing on one task at a time. For example, editing a manuscript or training for a marathon. This state is reassuring because I feel positive and can make measurable progress towards a desired outcome.
However, I feel overwhelmed, behind and like I’m not keeping up with the news and email. Apart from worrying, I can’t do much after the election results are over.
It would be great to be able extend my state of flow to the whole day. However, it is exhausting. Anyone can still tap into flow for an hour or so each day to focus on the important things.
It’s a lot like baking a cake. All you need is the right ingredients. I will show you how to do it later in the week.