Milhay Csíkszentmihályi* in his book FLOW identified three things that must be present if you want to enter a state of flow:
- Goals – Goals add motivation and structure to what you’re doing. Whether you’re learning a new piece of music or creating a presentation, you must be working towards a goal to experience flow.
- Balance – There must be a good balance between your perceived skill and the perceived challenge of the task. If one of these weighs more heavily than the other, flow probably won’t occur and in some circumstances you will be likely to trigger what is known as a fight or flight response.
- Feedback – You must have clear, immediate feedback, so that you can make changes and improve your performance. This can be feedback from other people, or the awareness that you’re making progress with the task.
What we are going to explore in this post is the first essential part of tapping into FLOW deliberately – that is, setting clear goals.
Let’s take surfing for example, when I go surfing my goal is to catch as many waves possible. Once I assess the waves, my goals might change. It could be I just want to get barrelled.
In a state of FLOW I am adaptable to any given situation, I don’t think of the consequences I just do what I feel is best, and usually I ride well.
Clear goals set you up for balance and provide immediate feedback – which is all part of the FLOW loop cycle. This is why it is evident that having a clear set of goals will significantly aid your ability to tap into FLOW.
How do you enable clear goal-setting? It’s one thing when it’s something awesome like surfing but what about work?
Let’s take my example of working as a recruitment consultant. A big part of what I do is admin and organising a list for business development opportunities the next day.
I hate admin. It was a big part of the frustration phase I went through because I love being on the phone talking to people.
I associated a lot of pain to being off-the-phone and pleasure to being on-the-phone. For me, phone time is wealth time.
However, so is admin time. Why? Because producing quality data to produce quality lists for business development opportunities allows me to get into more fluid states of FLOW during business development or on-the-phone-time. This is because I’m not scratching my head trying to figure out the next person to call or what group to email next.
I have now set myself up to develop new business opportunities by working through my list of leads, introducing them to candidates that are in my network thus opening doors for myself and organising future meetings and business opportunities. Business development FLOW doesn’t get any better than this!
What about tapping into FLOW when I’m doing admin? If I could do this would I be able to turn what I hated into something that I loved? OR was the belief that I was setting myself up for success enough?
So here is what I did – I did something that I always thought I was very bad at, I planned (after doing this and developing habit out of it I soon discovered that I was never bad at it, I was just lazy – typical Aussie!):
1)I set a clear goal to update all of my admin/data at certain times of the day and week.
2) I would commit and focus purely on this at this time (remove WMD’s -weapons of mass distraction – no phone, no email etc)
3) I would pick the right sound track (It might be some classical music, which is already scientifically proven to help people focus, some drum and bass or my favourite some Old School hip hop. Whatever works for you – I do find music without lyrics tend to help me focus better – remember laser focus is the channel to flow.)
4) I would us the Pomodoro technique setting myself for a time frame to achieve these goals and giving myself adequate breaks.
A combination of these strategies would allow me to harness my focus during this. and after a short period of time even the mundane task of admin soon allowed me to access FLOW.
I found when I was free from distraction, had the right sound track doing my admin duties – the frustration part disappeared!
The results are phenomenal, I soon discovered that the amount of time that I would dedicate to admin was significantly reduced and the data that I would have from lead generation were of quality, setting myself up for further success when business development time approached.
What I didn’t know that this automatically anchored a reward system into my brain about why what I am doing is important. It’s important that I go thought these duties to give myself a better chance of getting into FLOW tomorrow while I am business developing, this will happen because I will have an accurate list of quality leads to chase after, connect with, send information to. I appreciated my list as it made my business development a hell of a lot easier!
I later created a book called the recruiter’s journal that allowed me to document my day as I went along so I could record everything onto my database later, instead of during dedicated blocked times for business development.
This is my example, it’s going to be different for software engineers, architects, accountants etc. there are always going to be part of our jobs we don’t like doing, but what if we could shift the mind set of not liking something we do at work to appreciation? Then use this and set the right sound track, block background noise and focus on the task at hand. I wonder what results you could achieve?
So when you have something that needs doing, and you want get into your FLOW state but can’t seem to get out of the frustration part.
Try a few things: have a clear set of goals, remove distractions, change your environment, set the right sound track, block out time slots with the Promodoro technique and give your self breaks to reset.
You can replicate this with your work, your relationship with yourself, your partner, your family/friends, wealth, business, health, spirituality, charity – the lists are endless. When you do this you are setting yourself up for FLOW in many aspects of your life, if not all of them.
Just imagine, for one minute, how AWESOME that would be.
We are going to explore these next time FLOWHACKERS…
P.S. I’ve recently read for the second time Anthony Robbin’s Awaken the Giant Within and in there are two great chapters on GOAL setting, practising and visualisation techniques you can do to help you achieve them. Highly recommend reading this NOW! Click here to buy