You know those moments where you’re at the top of your game and you don’t notice time passing?
We call it “flow” or “being in the flow.” And though sometimes it feels like a near-mythical concept reserved for the Olympians and artists among us, flow is attainable. But you can’t just sit around waiting for it to happen.
While starting my new venture, I began to notice what created this flow naturally for me. And then I took steps to design my habits and environment to make it easier to get in that highly focused, creative state. Here is how I create flow at work.
- Divide your time into sprints. I work on a schedule of 50 minutes of work and then a 10-minute break away from the computer during every hour of my workday. During those 50 minutes I pick one task I can focus on and complete. Knowing the clock is ticking is a great motivator to get me focused.
- Alter your surroundings for productivity. Both in my home office and in the coffee shop where I sometimes work, I usually like to listen to music that doesn’t have many distracting lyrics to it. I use an app called Focus at Will or play my favorite songs on repeat. If you work from a noisy location, I advocate getting noise-canceling headphones. I got mine six months ago and they changed how quickly I can get into the flow and stay there–even if there’s a crying baby next to me.
- Find the best time you do your work. If you’re a morning person like me, I advise you not to check emails before you do your most important task in the morning. I know it sounds like heresy, but when you check your messages your mind will start thinking about all the things you have to do and, not the task at hand. If you’re a night owl, make sure to have enough time before bed to get out of “work mode.” Otherwise you will waste time thinking about work when you should be sleeping. Trust me, I’ve done that plenty of times.
- Prevent distractions. If you work in an office with many distractions, there’s still hope. Either get there before everyone else or set a time during the afternoon and let people know that for the next hour you’re busy, but you will get back to them afterwards. If a call or somebody stopping at your desk distracts you, jot down the last thought you had before you start talking to them. You’ll be able to quickly review where you were and jump right back into the flow. Another trick I used to do while working in an office was to put on headphones while I was doing my work and keep them on even if there was no music playing. That proved to be a great sign I was not to be disturbed so I ended up getting more of my work done.
Do you have your own methods of getting into the flow? Tell us about them in the comments section.