Flow State Of Mind – How To Stay Focused?

flow state of mind how to stay focused

Last Modified: Sep 10, 2018 @ 3:57 pm

Recently I have been studying Positive psychology a lot.

Mainly because personally, I have been struggling to keep up to date on my work even if grafting 70 hours plus. Yet if I went on holiday and worked several hours per day I could get myself clear and up to date.

Sounds crazy but I started to understand flow state of mind and how damning distractions are for you.

Previous articles written like taking action and being too busy still are very true. But it really is about working smarter not harder.

What is Flow State Of Mind?

People also refer to the term ‘flow state of mind’ as being in the zone.

The mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energised focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.

Why is Flow So Important?

Flow is one of the only times the brain produces all five chemicals norepinephrine, dopamine, endorphins, anandamide, and serotonin. These five neurochemicals the brain releases during Flow is credited to increase performance. This makes the “flow state” one of the most pleasurable, meaningful and — literally — addictive experiences available.

Executives in a state of flow are five times more productive than their counterparts. On a smaller scale, their research suggests that if you increase your time in the flow by 15 to 20 percent, you can double productivity.

The metaphor of flow is one that many people have used to describe the sense of effortless action they feel in moments that stand out as the best in their lives. Athletes refer to it as “being in the zone,” religious mystics as being in “ecstasy,” artists and musicians as “aesthetic rapture.”

How to Stay Focused?

I have compiled a list of things you need to do if you want to stay focused and in the flow state of mind:

  • Clear sense of purpose. You need to feel an authentic connection to the meaning behind your work and the importance of this. You want to feel intrinsically connected to the purpose of your role. Rather than working for the paycheck or advancement, people’s actions are driven by both their personal and professional sense of purpose. You can tell because they’re passionate, committed, and innovative.
  • Challenge / Skills balance. These challenging circumstances stretch people to grow without completely overbearing them. It’s about hitting the sweet spot on the extent of the challenge given to the skills of the technician. You don’t want to have tasks too challenging as you will enter the state of anxiety. On the other hand, you do not want to have the task too easy or it will become boring. So it is hitting the state of flow which runs parallel between these two in the sweet spot.
  • Eliminate Distractions. Flow follows focus and if you have distractions you cannot enter the flow state of mind. It’s worth knowing the true cost of distractions. Try to fight it by planning time for distraction-free thinking and working. I have started to book in slots of time to switch off mobile, email and contact with anyone so I can solely focus on my given task. The biggest entrepreneurs prove this to be the key to success. Most people sleepwalk through work and life. Never feeling intensely focused because distracted constantly with social media and mobile phones. You will be amazed at how much time is wasted by these distractions. Productivity quadruples if you remain focused.
  • Create lists of small tasks to prevent poor planning. By acknowledging small wins, you give yourself momentum and ensure you’re completing real work. Ticking items off your list gives a feeling of completing tasks and is rewarding. As Will Smith famously said: “You don’t task yourself to build a wall but instead you task yourself to lay that brick as perfectly as that brick can be laid. Then within time, the wall will be built”. Having a plan helps to set small concise clear goals each day.
  • Have a Snack or Chew Gum. Yes, this sounds weird, but research shows that chewing gum increases the oxygen flow to the parts of your brain responsible for attention. It also improved your long-term memory and injects a bit of insulin into your blood which may help give your brain that added energy boost. If gum’s not your thing, have a snack. Your brain gets energy from glucose so giving it the fuel it needs can help enter into the flow state of mind.
  • Create Habits. The ability to repeat an activity on a daily basis over an extended period of time gives confidence. This is because all humans are creatures of habit. Cultivating the discipline to do these really small things, you’ll start to believe that you’re capable of change. You’ll build confidence. That way when you attempt to adopt a more difficult habit you’ll have momentum behind you.
  • Develop Flow Mindset. Knowing the flow state of mind is the best mentality to be in then manifest your thoughts into seeing why you are not in the current flow state. Challenge yourself more, develop skills if struggling to complete tasks. Be proud of even the smallest tasks if you have completed to the best of your ability. With the power of the brain, you can direct your mindset into entering the flow state more easily.
  • The power of when. People are at their best at certain times of the day which could be an early 6am start or late at night. To learn more about your best time zones visit the power of when which highlights individuals’ most productive time zones. When you realise your best time zone you need to concentrate on what you need to complete. Make the effort to actually start doing it. This can be one of the hardest things – to actively stop fluffing about. Knuckle down and take the action necessary to fulfil your task. You can generally sustain “the zone” for about 2 hours and after “the zone” the rest of your day is pretty much lightweight by comparison. You complete your tasks but the burst of huge productivity is over.
  • Improve Every Day by Practising Regularly. According to pioneering research by Anders Ericsson at Florida State University in Tallahassee, it normally takes 10,000 hours of practice to become expert in any discipline. Over that time, your brain knits together a wealth of new circuits. These eventually allow you to execute the skill automatically, without consciously considering each action. This will provide you with the skills to complete tasks with a sense of effortless action because you have practised thoroughly. Your Brain Is Like A Muscle so Train It: Many people go the gym training their muscles physically but forget the most important organ they have is their brand. Train this regularly and find out how powerful your brain is in this article – your brain is your bitch.

Improve Every Single DayImprove Everyday

How long does it take to refocus after a distraction?

It is believed that it takes 23 mins and 15 seconds (from professional studies) once distracted to get back on your flow state.

Typical distractions could be texts, emails, phone calls, social media or being within your busy work office.

Productivity quadruples when you don’t have distractions and you enter your flow state.

Decide what is important to you and remove anything non-essential from your life. This will allow you to stay focused on the things that are.

Thinking is The Hardest Work

OMG James Dooley you are crazy to say thinking is the hardest work? If this is what you are thinking then watch this video summarising the book. It is by Napoleon Hill and it’s called Think and Grow Rich.

Pretty crazy and I have watched this video about 50 times over the last few years. This keeps me focused on making sure I am forward thinking and setting up my SOPs so that I can be delegating the daily work to free up more time for myself to plan ahead and improve our existing processes.

Conclusion

Understanding the flow state of mind and just how long distractions take made me realise my issue I wrote in this opening paragraph: “Personally I have been struggling to keep up to date on my work even if grafting 70 hours plus. Yet if I went on holiday and worked several hours per day I could get myself clear and up to date.”

I have understood the power of delegation, SOPs and processes and implemented this over the years. But never really realised the true negative power of distractions and how long it takes the brain to refocus.

My personal goals are to take myself out of these distractions by working from home more, travelling more and not focusing too much on social media, text messages, WhatsApp and other distractions when in the office.

If I can work less but achieve more then this needs to be the plan moving forward. This will allow me more thinking time to fine tune existing processes, refine SOPs and create new ideas for the company to blossom further.

For anyone who likes articles like this, listen to this podcast which is by far the best interview I have ever heard with Tony Robbins and Peter Diamandis – https://www.tonyrobbins.com/podcasts/episode-11 I just think this is so inspirational and motivates me every time I listen to this podcast.

James Dooley

About James Dooley

Digital Nomad who loves travelling the world networking while working on my laptop. Life is a perception of your own reality. You have no excuses and should be making memories every single day #LearnSomethingNew #Develop #Synergy #Network

12 Comments

  • Lucy says:

    Thanks for this article, it has been really useful and the videos are helpful too!

  • Wow, this has opened my eyes to what I am doing wrong and it seems I am doing a lot wrong!

    I get easily distracted, I then find it difficult to ‘regain the thread’, I have emails pinging, my phone ringing or texts coming in, Skype is on etc etc

    Then, I don’t delegate, I try and do everything myself, I jump from one task to another and then I get deflated because I am swamped…

    Thanks for this, I have bookmarked and will keep returning to stay refreshed and have a clear idea of what I need to do in terms of delegation, SOPs etc

    Andy

    • James Dooley says:

      Thanks for your comment Andy! It’s easy to think you have to take control of everything yourself, but in reality this will never be the most productive way to work. Passing tasks to others will free up your time to make sure you have your full concentration where you need it most.

  • Elliot says:

    Using mobile phones in the office can create a massive distraction to your work. A simple text message can sway your mind completely off topic from the work you are doing and prevent you from really hitting your flow state. It also leaves a negative image of you in the workplace if you are looking at your phone every few minutes. Just forget about it and check it later! I think the main factor in distractions such as your mobile phone and social media is a lack of enjoyment from your work. I’m a firm believer that your work should be fun and that is one of the main reasons as to why I have split myself into several different segments of SEO mainly including off-page SEO and development. If I ever feel like I’m starting to get bored, I will take myself out of whatever is boring me and move myself into a fresh department to avoid the want to use my phone to get away from the work. The expectation to complete work to a high standard is required in any workplace so it is important that you have the attitude to want to thrive in the workplace and prove yourself. A simple text message can distract you and take your mind off work, so it is important that you are constantly in your flow state of mine and keep your phone turned off or on do not disturb until your break!

    • James Dooley says:

      When staff is on their mobile phones or on web pages non-related to work this is bad practice. Progression would be restricted with that attitude and even dismissal if it is a regular occurrence.

  • Ben Proctor says:

    With the introduction of mobile phones into the working environment, I feel like employees always have that temptation to use them for 2 minutes or so to check up on certain things. However, that 2 minutes soon becomes more when the person becomes more focused on their phone instead of the work given to them. From a personal standpoint, I would find it really hard to complete content when I had Facebook open beside me as I would always find myself becoming lost in the stuff people post which in return halted my progress of creating a really well designed piece. However, when I finally turned every distraction off and started focusing on my work I found myself completing it in a short amount of time. This was simply due to cancelling out the distractions and really putting my focus into one thing and one thing only.
    Linking back the mobile phone example, the constant barrage of notifications persuading the user to interact with it doesn’t help and eventually can create a temptation with them to interact with it. I think this article summarises it perfectly by just turning off all the distractions that you find yourself surrounded by. Through this, you eventually realise how much more productive and focused you become and by realising this, you will hopefully realise that it’s a great idea to get into the habit of doing this. I think my favourite line from this article is that “Productivity quadruples when you don’t have distractions and you enter your flow state”. If this doesn’t persuade you to eliminate these distractions whilst at work then I don’t know what will. Just imagine how much work could be completed, saving you so much time and stress in the future.

  • Using mobile phones in a workplace is certainly a distraction and there is no denying it. The minute an employee starts to forget about their work and gain an interest on whats on their phone it has automatically become an interest on what is going on in their personal life outside of work which has now become a sudden priority rather than their actual work. Not only does this effect the individual but also their colleagues and co workers as they now feel it is fine to do the same. This will negatively effect the team and their moral which could lead to a low work ethic and nothing being completed and sooner or later everybody in the office has become interested in their phones rather than their actual work and no work is actually being completed. In the long term this can have an extremely negative affect on the company and in the long term could even potentially lead to employees getting dismissed. In my opinion i feel mobile phones should be banned in a work place and only to be used when not working, this way the employees are maintaining fours and the productivity shall be increasing rather than decreasing.

  • Jorge Barna says:

    Every workplace I have worked for has been against using phones in work time. I think being on your phone in a public workplace makes you look unprofessional and shows a lack of respect for the company. I think if you plan what you are going to do in the day you are less likely to get distracted, usually, people go on their phone when they are bored or have nothing to do in the workplace. This article has been presented well and I think the bullet points about how to stay focused will help people in the workplace. I think another reason people get distracted by their phone is that the work is they are doing is repetitive, so if they mix it up each day they are less likely to be distracted by their mobile phones.
    I think having some rule or warning in a workplace where the employees are only allowed on their mobiles at breaks/dinners. Doing this would increase how much work is done during the day and help improve the company. I think having this article is important as it will help many workers who often get distracted by their phone in the workplace stop getting distracted and get on with the work they are paid to do.

  • Josh Stark says:

    “But it really is about working smarter not harder.” This is one of my most favourite quotes currently. Not only does it literally say how to improve and it opens your mind to think “How can I work smarter?” which will be different with every single role and every single task.

    The article said once in a flow channel if getting distracted by a message, email or a conversation in the workspace it is believed it will take you 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back into the flow channel. Now even with this you could think “Well I’m working 9 till 5 so I can afford to get distracted.” However according to this article you can only get into your flow channel for about 2 hours a day and that time of day varies between each person so the 23 minutes and 15 seconds is just above a 6th of that total time which is shocking of how much less productive you will be from simply answering a call.

    The first video with the graph on the balance between challenge and skill creates the flow channel i found very entertaining as a visual representation of what this article talks about really puts it into perspective. Especially when it shows that having too high or too low of a challenge or skill can cause anxiety or boredom but having too high or too low of both skill and challenge can cause apathy or ecstasy.

    Finally, having that huge list on “How to Stay Focused?” allows everyone to rethink certain tasks they do or what not to do when in a work environment to produce maximum focus and therefore creating maximum productivity.

  • Ryan Nixon says:

    One of the things my Dad used to confuse me with when I was younger and we was watching football was that “90% of football is psychology.” and he would go on to tell me how when most teams went to Old Trafford that they were beaten before they could even get on the pitch. And it was only until later on in life that I discovered how true this was not only as a concept in football, but in life as well. So when stepping up to life’s challenges you have to know, not just think, that you can defeat whatever your facing. That’s the first step in giving yourself a platform by which to succeed. This article embodies these ideals and then some, mobile phones and social media gives us an audience by which we can complain our lives away to. Yet the most important thing to wake up with in the morning is a positive mindset. This is why if there is work on the table you won;t see me post a snapchat story about, “my boring work” absolutely not. In fact I’ll tell you straight up instead that I shall never think what I’m doing is boring but the best possible thing for me at that moment. So if a good percentage of life is psychology and the articles quote, “the brain is a muscle, therefore train it” I want to train my brain to be able to operate extensively in as many situations as possible. Apologies for the lengthy anecdote but to summarize, “knowledge is literally porridge” so all I plan to do in my workplace is work as a primary function and the secondary to soak up as much information and perspective to contribute as part of forming my own in the digital marketing sector.

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