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.
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 flow state of mind :-
- Clear sense of purpose. You need to feel an authentic connection to the meaning behind your work and 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 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 how much time is wasted by these distractions. Productivity quadruples if you remain focussed. Find out how long it takes to get back into flow state after a distraction.
- 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 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.
- 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 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 their 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.
- 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.
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 focussed 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.
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 myself more thinking time to fine tune existing processes, refine SOPs and create new ideas for the company to blossom further.