Flow is a “mental state in which a person is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus and enjoyment in an activity, characterized by complete absorption and a resulting loss in one’s sense of space and time” (Wikipedia).
When I was a little girl, one of my favorite things to do at summer camp was to make friendship bracelets. I remember picking out my colored threads, tying their ends in a knot, pinning that knot to my pants, and then getting lost in the rhythm of tying each thread’s end to another one by one, in an endless and repeating rhythm. I didn’t know it at the time, but undoubtedly one of the reasons I loved making those bracelets so much was because the process put me straight into a state of flow.
Can you remember the last time you were in flow? Meaning you were so lost, so immersed, and so focused on what you were doing, without interruption or distraction, that you quite literally lost track of time?
It’s a sad reality that in our modern, distraction-ridden world today, for many of us flow is hard to come by these days.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
We are the creators of our own experience (no one else) – and with just a little intention, creativity, and discipline, we all can have more flow in our lives.
Below are five of my favorite ways of getting there.
1) Have a “Flow Self Inquiry”
For me, a great first step towards incorporating more flow into my life was identifying the activities that get me there. TRY IT: get out a pencil and piece of paper, and write down answers to the following questions. Your answers will guide you closer to discovering what activities put you into a flow state.
What have you always especially loved to do?
What fascinated you as a kid?
What activities cause you to lose track of time?
If you had a day void of all plans and responsibilities, how would you spend it?
2) Learn Something New
One of the easiest ways to get into a flow state is to learn a new skill. What’s something that if you knew how to do it, it would just be plain cool? What if you learned to speak a new language? Or learned to play your favorite song on the guitar? Or learned to rock climb? Or learned how to build an Adirondack chair? All too often we’re stuck in a fixed-growth mindset, convinced that we could never learn something new, when in fact, we most likely could – and would also experience lots of flow in the process. TRY IT: come up with one new skill you’d love to acquire in the coming year and make that first step towards beginning your journey.
3) Schedule Distraction-Free Time
It’s hard to convey how powerful this has been for me. As a full-time professional web designer, I’m either designing or building a part of someone’s website on virtually every workday. But amidst this paramount, focused work, there are emails and phone calls coming in multiple times per hour to distract me. I’m embarrassed to admit that for many years, I let those distractions come in at all hours, decimating my precious focused hours into a smattering of smaller bits that in no way pieced together to create the whole. Make your focused time a priority by shutting out all other distractions and you will be amazed at what you accomplish and the flow state you achieve. TRY IT: the next time you want to focus on something important and get into a flow state, set an alarm for how long you want to work, put your phone into Do Not Disturb mode, turn off your email and/or computer and anything else that has the potential to distract you, and just see what happens.
4) Give Yourself Permission to Be in the Moment
We’ve all heard of mindfulness and the power of being present in each moment of our lives. But before we can do that, we first have to give ourselves permission to do so. For example, for the hour that I get my clarinet out and play etudes on it just for the sheer joy of it, I give myself total permission not to worry about my clients, or my to-do list, or my calendar, or anything else that might want to steal my attention. TRY IT: ask yourself what might happen if you gave yourself permission to not worry about any of your responsibilities for one or two hours and just get into a state of flow. What’s stopping you?
YOUR TURN: What activities get you into a flow state? Tell us in the comments below!