What is the "Flow State"?
It is a psychological condition associated with intense productivity, and is accompanied by effortless attention. It is highly probable that the flow state has been experienced since the dawn of man, a state of consciousness associated with the mind. The state was first documented by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (his major contribution can be found in his book "Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience". The Flow psychological state is characterized by several beneficial experiential and measurable factors (based on wikipedia's flow reference):
- Positive Feedback
- the activity is rewarding, creating a positive feedback loop providing effortless action
- Direct and immediate feedback (successes and failures in the course of the activity are apparent, so that behavior can be adjusted as needed).
- Changed sense of time
- one's subjective experience of time is altered.
- a loss of the feeling of self-consciousness
- the merging of action and awareness.
- Enhanced Concentration
- a high degree of concentration on a limited field of attention (a person engaged in the activity will have the opportunity to focus and to delve deeply into it).
- a sense of personal control over the situation or activity.
Some Folks Have Mastered The Flow State
You may know individuals who appear to be in the flow state much of the time. As you can imagine the combination of the above mental properties makes for a super combination of productivity and efficiency. In return this leads to improved individual and group satisfaction. Folks that are in the flow are incredible problem solvers. Not only can they quickly perceive the root of a complicated problem, but they're able to leverage their experience, the best existing tools, as well as completely novel solutions without hesitation.
Have you personally discovered the flow state, yet it appears to occur at random? The first step to improving your personal efficiency and satisfaction is to make working in the flow state a priority. While experiencing this advanced mental state, not only will you increase the quantity of the work you do, but the quality. Unfortunately, determining how and when to enter, and maintain flow activity is a challenge unique to each individual.
Seeking the Flow State
Our goal should not only be to discover flow, but to lengthen the period we stay at our best efficiency. We are in need of folks that have mastered the flow state (statistically meaningful samples) in order to look for commonalities across individuals. Although only a novice of the flow state, here are a few of my personal suggestions to get started:
- Discover or create a job/business doing something you love
- Create an environment where interruptions and distractions are minimal (note to self getting two puppies is the polar opposite of this situation)
- Take 5 simple steps
- Give your mind time to relax and day dream
- Balance your activities with an abundance of enjoyable exercise (I prefer walking as that provides mental relaxation/meditation as well)