What Is Flow State ?
Flow state, is also known as being in the zone, it is the mental state in which a person performing some activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.
Many top coaches in the world, use this to help generate peak performance in top CEO’s to professional athletes.
As our focus at The Ozone Spa is about health and happiness, we are going to use our Gangster Buddha skills, to squeeze the insights from entering into flow state, into the nectar to nourish our health, happiness and self healing.
You may have experienced a flow state at some point — that sense of fluidity between your body and mind, where you are totally absorbed by and deeply focused on something, beyond the point of distraction. Time feels like it has slowed down. Your senses are heightened. You are at one with the task at hand, as action and awareness sync to create an effortless momentum. Some people describe this feeling as being “in the zone.” This is the flow state and it’s accessible to everyone, whether you’re engaged in a physical activity, a creative pursuit, or even a simple day-to-day task.
When you’re in the state of Flow, you:
- are completely focused on the task at hand;
- forget about yourself, about others, about the world around you;
- lose track of time;
- feel happy and in control; and
- become creative and productive.
Popularized by positive psychologists Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Jeanne Nakamura, flow state describes a feeling where, under the right conditions, you become fully immersed in whatever you are doing.
“There’s this focus that, once it becomes intense, leads to a sense of ecstasy, a sense of clarity: you know exactly what you want to do from one moment to the other; you get immediate feedback,” Csikszentmihalyi said in a 2004 TED Talk. Csikszentmihalyi and Nakamura reached this conclusion by interviewing a variety of self-actualized, high-performing people: including mountain climbers, chess players, surgeons, and ballet dancers
“The best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times… The best moments usually occur if a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.”
– Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Why is Flow Important?
flow is about so much more than being more productive. Increased productivity is a side effect of flow, but achieving flow is ultimately about leading a more enjoyable, happier life.
I believe the ability to single-task (as opposed to multi-task) is one of the keys to true productivity. Not the kind of productivity where you knock off 20 items from your to-do list (although that can be satisfying), where you’re switching between tasks all day long and keep busy all the time.
The true productivity I mean is the kind where you actually achieve your goals, where you accomplish important and long-lasting things. As a writer, that might mean writing one or two important and memorable articles rather than 20 or 50 unimportant ones that people will forget 5 minutes after reading them. It means getting key projects done rather than answering a bunch of emails, making a lot of phone calls, attending a bunch of meetings, and shuffling paperwork all day long. It means closing key deals. It means quality instead of quantity.
How to Achieve Flow in Your Health and Happiness
Choose work you love. If you dread a task, you’ll have a hard time losing yourself in it. If your job is made up of stuff you hate, you might want to consider finding another job. Or consider seeking projects you love to do within your current job. At any rate, be sure that whatever task you choose is something you can be passionate about
Choose an important task.
Make sure it’s challenging, but not too hard.
Reap the rewards
How to Enter Your Brain’s Most Productive State
Flow State Trigger 1: Eliminate All External Distractions
It’s been proven by research that in order to reach flow state, you must eliminate all external distractions. Every time you get pulled out of your focus, you’ll be taken further away from flow state. Only when you can focus with undivided attention for at least 10–15 minutes you can get into flow state.
Therefore, it’s critical that you put your phone away and disable all alerts and notifications (as this is the biggest source of distractions nowadays), close all social media & email tabs, remove all unnecessary files and objects from your workspace and preferably go to a quiet environment.
This will protect you from being disrupted and allows you to enter a state of hyperfocus, which is the most important element of reaching flow state.
In fact, whenever you get distracted it takes on average 25 minutes (according to research) to gain back your full attention on the task at hand. This is because of something called ‘attention residue’, which implies that some of your attention is still left behind at the previous task or distraction that you were dealing with.
Flow State Trigger 2: Eliminate Internal Distractions
Besides eliminating external distractions, you also need to eliminate internal distractions if you want to reach flow state. Whenever you experience stress or have too much on your mind, it’ll be incredibly hard to keep your mind focused on your task at hand — and therefore it’ll be impossible to reach flow state.
If this happens regularly to you, I recommend you try two things:
- Journaling every morning and evening
- Daily meditation (at least 10 minutes)
Both will help you clear your mind, limit mind wandering and control your thoughts a lot better.
Flow State Trigger 3: Work At Your BPT (Biological Peak Time)
Getting into flow state is hard if you are low on energy. You need to have the willpower to focus on just one thing and not get distracted along the way. Tapping into your willpower and attention is energy draining, so you absolutely need to do it when your mind is sharp and energized.
If you try to get into flow state when you are tired and energy drained, it’ll feel like an uphill battle where you get distracted much easier and have less willpower to stay with your tasks for long enough to get into a state of flow.
Therefore, I recommend you use your mornings to get into flow state. Another option would be to enter flow state right after you took a real break (so not one in which you fill your attention to the brim by checking social media or email) of about 15–30 minutes.
Flow State Trigger 4: Listen To (The Right Kind Of) Music
Music can actually help you become highly focused and, therefore, highly productive. Especially when you listen to music on repeat (or repetitive type music such as techno, classical music or trance) it’ll be easier to reach a state of flow.
Listening to music with your earbuds in helps you to block external distractions such as chatter from co-workers. Furthermore, it helps to keep internal distractions at a minimum.
Personally, I notice that music (and especially techno music) keeps my mind in check and prevents it from wandering off. I clearly notice that when I don’t listen to music I start to have more internal distractions in the form of thoughts compared to when I do listen to music.
However, it’s important that the song you put on is familiar to you (aka, no new songs) and that you put it on repeat. When new songs come up, or when you listen to a variety of different songs that include vocals, the music starts to compete for attentional space in your brain. As your brain now needs to spend energy to fight off these distractions, you’ll be less likely to reach flow state.
Therefore, put one song on repeat for 1–2 hours or listen to repetitive type music like techno, classical music or trance music. This will help you reach a state of flow with more ease.
Flow State Trigger 5: Work On One Very Specific Task
When it isn’t fully clear about what exactly you’re going to work on, it’ll be highly unlikely that you reach flow state. When it’s not exactly clear what you’re supposed to work on, you’ll either switch between multiple different tasks too quickly or get distracted much easier. Both will prevent you from getting into flow state.
Therefore, pick one specific task that you’re going to work on. Maybe it’s writing a blogpost, recording or editing a video, recording a podcast episode, writing copy or designing an awesome logo. Be very clear about what exactly you’re going to work on.
Flow State Trigger 6: The Task Must Be Challenging Enough, But Not Too Challenging
If you want to reach flow state, the task that you’re working on must be challenging enough for your brain to be fully engaged, but not too challenging as this will lead to frustration and stress (which will prevent you from getting into flow state).
If a task is too easy, you’ll be bored quickly and your mind is likely to wander, so you won’t reach flow state. However, if a task is too hard you’ll likely get overwhelmed and you won’t be able to achieve that subconscious level that is necessary for the flow state.
Flow state can only be achieved when an activity is challenging enough to keep your brain interested, while at the same time you’re skilled enough to tackle the challenge without it being too difficult.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has written a book about the concept of Flow state and the model he presented can be found in the picture above. You want to find yourself in the upper right part of this model, as that is where a state of flow can be reached.
Flow State Trigger 7: Have A Clear Outcome or Goal
Whenever you lack clarity about what you want to accomplish, your brain will struggle to get into optimum concentration. Therefore, clearly set out what you’d like to accomplish to avoid this mental hurdle.
When you have a clear outcome or goal, you make sure you prevent mind wandering and internal distractions. If you don’t have a clear outcome, you don’t know exactly when you’re finished with your task. Procrastination loves it when this lack of clarity exists, as it’ll try to push you towards quitting earlier or switch to easier tasks instead.
Flow State Trigger 8: Strategically Consume Caffeine
According to Chris Bailey, author of Hyperfocus, consuming caffeine strategically can provide a serious productivity and focus boost. If you consume up to 200 milligrams of caffeine (about 2 cups of coffee), it has been proven that you can focus more intensely, work for longer without giving up and have a better short-term memory. All of this will help you in reaching flow state.
However (and this is a very strong however), after consuming more than 200 milligrams of caffeine the effects start to diminish. Amounts of more than 400 milligrams should be avoided as this leads to increased anxiety and decreased focus.
Therefore, aim to consume caffeine strategically. Drink a cup of coffee right before you want to enter flow state. Preferably, don’t drink more than 2 cups per day and don’t consume after 17:00, as this will impact the quality of your sleep!
Flow State Trigger 9: Stay Hydrated
One of the simplest but most overlooked ways to improve the performance of your brain (and thereby reach flow state with more ease) is to drink enough water. As it turns out, drinking enough water is incredibly important to your ability to concentrate and focus.
The brain consists of 75% of water, so it’s no wonder that we start to experience immediate effects when we don’t drink enough water. I always ask people who feel sluggish, unfocused and low on energy if they drank enough water and the answer is almost always no.