Have you ever concentrated on a task so much that it seemed like time had disappeared while you were performing the task effortlessly? If you have, you were in what is commonly termed as a flow state.
Reaching flow state is a key to excelling at a job, or doing anything else that requires your clear focus and undivided attention. It helps you boost productivity, creativity, and even your overall well-being.
Flow State Is Basically the Famed “Zone”
Perhaps you haven’t heard about flow state before, but everyone's heard about being “in the zone.”
Fundamentally that's what flow state is.
It’s a mental state in which you’re completely absorbed in a (usually challenging) task, immersed so much in it that your perception of time changes while you’re doing it.
American author Cal Newport also refers to it as “Deep Work”.
We’ve all experienced that feeling of time flying when we’re doing something we love? How do you completely lose track of time while doing something challenging but still feel energised and happy? That’s all flow state.
But it’s more than merely being immersed in something that makes you happy. Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, a Hungarian-American psychologist who recognised and named the psychological concept of flow, perfectly described this state in his book “Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience.”
He said: “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.”
What Are the Characteristics of Flow State?
According to Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, there are eight characteristics of flow state:
- Full concentration on a task
- The feeling of control over the task – control without controlling
- Clarity of goals, with immediate feedback and reward in mind
- A perfect balance between challenge and skills
- Effortlessness – spontaneous actions without deliberate reflection
- Merging of awareness and action and loss of self-consciousness
- An altered perception of time
- Intrinsically rewarding or autotelic experience
You don’t have to experience all these elements to be in a flow state, as most of them are entirely subjective. However, the real flow experience happens when you combine them.
What Can I Do to Reach Flow State?
Reaching flow state may seem like something only the greatest gurus can do. The truth is anyone can easily get “in the zone” and enjoy the flow experience.
It may take a bit of practice, but with the following tips, it can quickly become second nature to you.
Eliminating Internal and External Distractions
Distractions are all around us these days. Social media notifications, email alerts, the phone that won’t stop ringing – the list goes on.
If you don’t eliminate those productivity killers, you’ll continuously tackle the challenge of attention residue
. That’s when you can multitask instead of focusing attention on one task at hand, so you’re never fully concentrated.
So, when doing something important, put your phone on “silent,” “airplane,” or “Do Not Disturb” mode, so that you’re entirely free from external distractions.
It is much about the environment you create.
But what about their internal counterparts, often caused by stress or anything else preventing you from silencing your thoughts and focusing? You can try eliminating them through meditation.
Biological Peak Time (BPT)
Biological peak time
, or biological prime time, is the time of day when you have the most energy, which is what you need to enter a flow state.
Mornings may be ideal for a state of flow, but you might feel more energised in the afternoon. You can keep an eye on your energy levels for a few weeks to see exactly when your BPT occurs. That’s when you’re most productive, with a sharp and laser-focused mind. There are influencing factors to this time.
The Right Challenge
You can’t get “in the zone” if you immerse yourself in a task that’s excessively challenging. You can try, but it’s likely that you’ll only get frustrated. If a task is too overwhelming, it might simply stress you out.
The same goes for tasks that are too simple. They can quickly become boring, causing your mind to wander.
It takes just the right amount of challenge to reach flow state – something doable yet challenging enough to get you excited and engaged. It’s all about that ‘sweet spot’, challenging and satisfying.
Biological and Metabolic Factors
There are plenty of things that can influence your biological and metabolic factors. Good routines, management of light exposure, solid hydration can all boost focus, alertness, and productivity.
Your body will produce more energy, your mind will be sharper, you’ll think faster, and you won’t deal with physical and mental fatigue.
Supplements are a great way to enhance your cognitive function and summon your creative muse. There are many supplements for boosting cognitive and physical function, which often come with lots of other benefits to health.
This is why we created RISE
and the aptly named FLOW
, to tick many of those boxes and prime your productivity and output.
Things That Help to Find the “Zone”
Some of the best things for finding the “zone” are music, nature, casual walks, and exercise, but it can really be anything else. It depends on what personally relaxes you, clears your mind, and helps you focus.
Music might truly be the best flow state trigger, especially when it’s repetitive. Think instrumental music, such as classical, techno, or trance. It can help you eliminate internal distractions and keep your mind from wandering.
It all sounds much simpler now, doesn’t it? It’s going to take regular practice for you to get into a flow state, but, once you’ve fully mastered it, it will really become second nature. And you’ll realise it’s one of the most fulfilling experiences you could ever have.