I would love to tell you that I wake up in ‘full flow’ every single day and do my Thing with no distractions, interruptions or procrastination on my part. I would love to tell you that–except, of course, it’s not true.
What is true is that I know what to do, or at least what usually ‘helps’, to shift me into flow mode. It’s not always the same set of actions, but there are a few things I can choose from.
If I’m super-busy and overly-focused, I need to go and do the total opposite–I need to take a walk, read something, go out. Sometimes, the more I ‘stare at’ something, the less in flow I’ll be with it so the only answer is to go and do something entirely different. It’s the whole ‘a change is as good as a rest’ concept.
Multi-tasking can be a death knoll to flow too–trying to do everything at once usually means jumping about all over the place and getting not very much done not very well. I’m not saying you can’t do 2 or 3 or 5 things at once, but I do think you can’t do them all well. For me, flow is a one-focus-at-a-time thing. To be in flow for me is to be totally absorbed in one task or topic at a time. That’s not to say I might not have a daydream whilst doing that one thing, but it’s the one thing in hand that I’m working on. I’m far more likely to get in flow when I only have one thing to get done.
Flow is also not always something you can ‘time manage’–it’s good, sometimes, to get lots done in short bursts of time. I am well known for having a timer on my desk and setting it for 20 minutes or so to ‘get things done’. And sometimes you can make flow happen ‘on demand’ to fit into those time slots–for me that entirely depends on what I’m doing. Sometimes I have to ‘ignore’ timekeeping and just work 'til it makes sense–so flow will happen not inside a timetable.
Find your flow location–I know there are certain places I can go and I’ll be in flow for different things. Trains are brilliant thinking time for me, as is the spa. The theme with these 2 places is lack of distractions–although, now there is half-decent wifi on the train, that’s robbed me a bit of that quality time ‘away’ from noise. But for you it might be somewhere noisy–a busy café or a park full of people. There are no rules that say solitude and silence is necessary for flow. Some people love the ‘white noise’ of hustle and bustle to tap into their best ideas. I am sure you know where you need to be to do your best thinking.
What I know most about flow is that it is something you can create. There are times when things simply ‘line up’ and you’re in one of those moods where it’s all working perfectly. Then there are other times when it takes a bit more effort (when the weather’s grey is one of those times for me!). But the more you pay attention and notice what is where and how it’s all coming together, you can create more flow for you.
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