In our series of flow articles, we will focus on what you need to do to enter a state of flow. There are tons of online how-to guides and here is a short summary of some of the most common advice – including one that might surprise you.
Get rid of all distractions
Flow requires your full attention. Put your phone away and go somewhere quiet. You must also shut down your internal noise as stress and other distractions disable flow. To focus fully, you need to clear your mind. Two ways of doing this are journaling and meditation.
Choose your peak time
Flow takes energy and willpower—so, choose your best time. A good advice is to get a good night’s sleep before or try to enter flow after a longer break (15-30 minutes).
Listen to the right music
Music on repeat, classical music and techno (!) are great as they cancel out noise. New tunes or songs with vocals are worse as they require attention and make you lose concentration.
Pick one task with a clear goal
Multi-tasking is a sworn enemy of flow. Pick one task and set a clear, finite goal. If the goal is fuzzy, your brain will not find its focus, you start to procrastinate, and the mind wanders off.
Find the right challenge
To enter flow you must balance the challenge with your skill levels. When you do, your brain stays interested and you feel in control of the outcome.
Eat and drink properly
When your brain is hydrated you can think up to 14 % faster and focus for a longer period. And do not try to flow when hungry, that is a flow-killer. Eat properly, i.e. avoid junk food and sugar and go for food that releases glucose slowly into the bloodstream, like nuts, fruits and vegetables.
Set a mental cue
Every time you want to enter a state of flow, do exactly the same thing. This creates a mental cue, which becomes a neuro-association the brain understands and acts upon. When repeated, such a cue makes it easier to reach flow.
Try the pomodoro technique
This is a method where you set a timer and focus on a task for the full duration of the set time. What this does is breaking down the barrier of getting started. Remember that everything else we mention in this article must be in place when going pomodoro.
A special one for all you coffee-drinkers
Caffeine boosts your focus and productivity as long as you do not exceed two cups of coffee (200 milligrams of caffeine). Should you double that dose, you lose focus and anxiety steps in.
Listen to Harvard
Flow does not always happen when you want it. These pointers, from an article by Harvard Health Publishing, might help if flow eludes you.
- Surprise yourself and discover new things about your skills and the activity.
- Do something that provides new feelings, experiences and insights.
- Allow your feelings and awareness to flow without interference.
- Pay attention to bodily sensations and posture.
- Do not let mistakes stop you, just focus and keep on going.
- Nervousness is normal and will ease off as you get going.
- Work and play with others.
- Do not lose your sense of humor.
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Read more about flow, and how to find it, in our series of articles