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February 7, 2013

How to enhance productivity by getting in the flow

Flow Activities

Between 1980 and 1990, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and his fellow researchers discovered the obsessions of famous artists and painters. They found that creative people, when immersed into their work, experience a state of being where they compulsively disregard their need for food, water and even sleep.

He called this experience the flow.

Above everything, he studied lives of individuals like Michelangelo, Bruce Lee, and religious texts like Buddhism, Taoism and Hindu Advaita philosophies to come upon a conclusion where the experience of being totally absorbed into your work is one of the best meditations one can use be productive and create something new.

You might have experienced this phenomena yourself when you were so immersed into something and your mind ignored the passage of time. It could be while you were immersed in painting, dancing, or creating that office presentation or talking to that friend. When you’re in the flow, the activity absorbs your complete attention onto itself.

But, you can’t forcibly push your mind into it. In fact, flow happens when you’re unconcerned about getting into it, when you are totally committed to solving that puzzle.

Learning to be in the flow can solve many of our productivity problems. This idea could be used by students and professionals who need to stay committed to their learning and spend large amounts of time studying their subjects with focus and tolerance. Also,

Flow could be referred as a state of being when mindfulness automates itself. You don’t have to put effort to stay mindful to your work anymore. So, how to find that flow? How do you do it?

1. Reduce your activities – There are too many distractions, too many things to do, Facebook updates to be notified about, calls to be handles, things to be done! Reduce your activities. The first step to getting into the state of flow is about reducing distraction and disturbances. Give your mind enough space to expand its focus upon activities that require it most.

2. Get your mind in the pace – Your mind should be with yourself. Neither should it run ahead of you, nor lag behind. Most people find that at a given point of time, their minds are actually expanding their web of logical analysis during every activity they take up. And mostly, the analysis relates to related tasks and moves outside of the spiral to consider unrelated tasks for continuing the analysis.

Keeping your mind in pace is about thinking of the activity and analyzing only that particular activity at that time.

3. Reduce boredom, anxiety, apathy, worry are the type of emotions that deconstruct your mental acceptance to the flow. In 1997, Mihaly came up with a flow model that described ideal characteristics of flow as relaxation, control, and positive acceptance of the activity.

Takeaway? Select a goal you want to be in flow with. And convert it into your flow activity. Make it the only goal you’ve to achieve in the time, get your mind in pace with the requirement of the goal and create positive acceptance and expectance with it. Illustration by Glenn Simmons via Flickr