Have you ever gotten so lost in a task that time seemed to fly? You’re totally immersed in that article, spreadsheet or report and it brings a feeling of excitement and accomplishment. You’ve probably also noticed that you do your best work while you’re in this state. In positive psychology, it’s known as the state of flow.
You don’t need to be in a work environment to achieve flow. It’s a state of mind that is universal and can be experienced during many types of activities. You can experience flow during a workout, while doing chores or reading a book. Hobbies that inspire a state of flow include painting, needlework and scrapbooking.
There are eight factors necessary for a state of flow:
- Complete concentration on the task;
- Clarity of goals and reward in mind and immediate feedback;
- Transformation of time (speeding up);
- The experience is intrinsically rewarding;
- Effortlessness and ease;
- There is a balance between challenge and skills;
- Actions and awareness are merged, losing self-conscious rumination;
- There is a feeling of control over the task.
The Flow State in Positive Psychology
Positive psychology is a branch of psychology that focuses on improving your quality of life. It’s the scientific study of what makes humans flourish by increasing positive experiences and states of mind. One such state of mind is flow.
In positive psychology, a “flow state” is a state of mind where you’re fully immersed in the task at hand. You’re excited about what you’re doing and you feel totally energized and focused. You are completely in the present moment and you aren’t watching the clock or thinking about the next task ahead.
Flow has a number of benefits for your mental and emotional wellbeing. People in this state tend to enjoy their lives on a whole because they find fulfillment in their daily tasks. The flow state brings a sense of accomplishment and reward, which can boost your self-esteem and confidence. A flow state also causes significant performance improvements, regardless of the kind of task you’re performing.
Ways to achieve a State of flow
The flow state isn’t a happy accident that happens at random. It’s brought about by certain factors and we can learn to intentionally induce a state of flow.
A foundational element of flow is choosing work that you love. It’s nearly impossible to get into a state of flow while working on tasks that you find boring or are otherwise reluctant to do. Make a list of your daily tasks and identify the ones you enjoy the most. These are the activities most likely to get you in the zone. If your work is primarily comprised of tasks you hate, it may be time to seek out a more fulfilling career. If you’re afraid to take a leap, or unsure of what steps to take in your career, a therapist may be able to help. Work is a big part of our lives and our overall wellbeing is improved when we gain fulfillment and satisfaction from our work.
After identifying the enjoyable tasks, filter out the ones that you find unimportant or menial. A flow state is more likely to be achieved when you believe that your work is impactful. It’s also a good idea to reserve your flow state for the more important tasks on your todo list.
In addition to being enjoyable and important, the task needs to be challenging, but not too hard. Easy tasks often lead to boredom and difficult tasks can bring on feelings of frustration. Identify the happy middle by selecting tasks that challenge and excite you.
When you’re ready to start working on your task, it’s important to optimize your environment. Clear away distractions by silencing notifications and asking colleagues or family members not to interrupt for the next couple of hours. Gather everything that you need to work on the task. Having to pause to look for an item will break your state of flow. If you’d like, have water and a snack nearby, or any other items to make you feel comfortable.
Multitasking can lead to stress and diminished work performance. Try to focus on one task for as long as possible without switching to something else. Stopping to reply to an email isn’t conducive to your flow state.
Remember to rest/recharge
A key part of maintaining your state of flow is taking the necessary time to rest and recharge. Taking regular breaks throughout your workday is essential for staying productive and creative. After about an hour, take a fifteen minute break from your task. If you’ve been working at a computer or desk, now is a good time to move your body and rest your eyes. A quick walk or some light stretching can do wonders. You can also use your breaks for simple, practical tasks preparing a snack or refilling your water bottle.
The work we do is a fundamental part of who we are. Work-related stresses do not stop at the office and may affect your relationships, your home life, and your general mental health. By learning how to occupy the flow state more frequently, you’re well on your way to a happier and more fulfilling career.
The therapists at Flourish Psychology understand the impact of a fulfilling career on your overall wellbeing. We want to help you to do your best work so you can live your best life. Our clinicians can provide guidance and support during times of career transition or as you seek to find more balance between your work and personal lives.
Contact us today to schedule your first session.