You know when you start working on a task and it feels like you have tons of energy? You even lose track of time and forget to eat or go to sleep at a reasonable hour. If you’ve ever experienced something like that, then you’ve been in flow. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s book Flow is about the psychology of optimal experience. It doesn’t really matter what activity is happening, whether you're an author in the rapture of writing a chapter or a rock climber progressing up a difficult rock face—the elements of that enjoyable experience are the same for everyone.
An alignment of the right conditions creates the experience of flow; where you are challenged but not stuck, in control but not bored.
The studies in Flow suggest that there are eight major components of reaching flow:
- When we confront tasks we have a chance of completing
- We must be able to concentrate on what we are doing
- The task undertaken has clear goals
- The task also has immediate feedback
- The person acts with a deep but effortless involvement that removes the awareness from the worries and frustrations of every day life.
- Enjoyable experiences allow people to exercise a sense of control over their actions
- Concern for the self disappears, yet paradoxically the sense of self emerges stronger after the flow experience is over
- The sense of the duration of time is altered. Hours seems like minutes, and minutes like hours.
Our designer at Sokanu, Jørgen, put together his own flow chart so that he could track how often he had focus reached that higher plane of optimal experience. The biggest dots mark a higher frequency of experience at that level.
While you are at work, whether it be writing, sculpting, painting, building, coding, or candlestick-making, there 3 things that NEED to be happening in order for us to focus and enjoy our work.
1. You have an environment optimized for focus
When we have to dig down into our work, that’s always when you need to get that load of laundry in the wash or water the plants. What this really comes down to is self control. Every time you want to switch to a different task, take a breath, wait. Focus. Find a quiet room, or shut everything out with a good playlist and headphones. Minimize all unnecessary tabs, clear off your workspace, flip your phone upside down. KEEP you mind and eyes on the task at hand. Give yourself permission to be patient.
2. There is an end goal
What is the BIG picture? Are you trying to finish payroll for an entire organization, gain X amount of subscribers to your blog, or sending an album of edited photographs to your client? Whatever you're working on, there MUST be an end. Deadlines make the world go round.
3. You set milestones for your work sessions
If the end goal is the finish line, then milestones are the laps around the track. Set your milestones one lap at a time. The key here is to see milestones are within your reach. If our big goal will take weeks or even months to complete, then it's easy to slow down progress because it feels so far away. You can always catch up later, right? If you’re building a house, you set milestones for each portion of work. Frame the first floor, lay the concrete, install the roof. (Can you tell I’ve never built a house before? But you get the idea.) Even smaller spurts of work will get you moving. Edit 20 pages non-stop, find 10 articles for your research, find the bug that's breaking your code.
Whatever work you do, there is a place between ease and challenge that gets you in the flow of your work. Once you’re in, you won’t want to come out until you’re done.
About the Author
Renee Masur is the Community Manager for Sokanu and Island girl living in Vancouver. She loves people and their stories.Follow on Google Plus Follow on Twitter More Content by Renee Masur