Getting into Flow - simple techniques for focus
Have you ever lost yourself in your work, so much so that you lost track of time? This is the experience of being in "Flow".Getting into a state of flow can be an incredibly productive and satisfying experience. When you are in this state, creativity flows effortlessly, things "click" and before you know it you have a huge chunk of work done!
Pic credit https://unsplash.com/@avirichards
However, it's not always easy to get into this state. More often we find ourselves distracted by so many things. Maybe it's 11 am and you've just had a crazy day. There is so much to do and you are battling overwhelm. All you want to do is calm your mind down. There is a big presentation coming up but your focus is impacted - something you really need to get the job done.
Find below my science-backed techniques to get you into flow.
There are two parts to getting into flow
1) Choosing the right task: You need to choose a task that is challenging enough to require your full attention but not so difficult that it overwhelms you.
2) Getting into the zone: This involves calming your mind down i.e eliminating irrelevant chatter and distractions on the outside and inside :)
Let's look at these in more detail.
Choosing the right task
Whether you are starting a new venture, embarking on a creative exercise like writing a paper/ PRD , studying for an exam or putting together a high stakes presentation there are bound to be unknowns. It may seem overwhelming and the feeling of not knowing where to start can be paralyzing. Rather than let this feeling stop you from starting or procrastinating - you can get started with a small portion of what you need to do. In order to get into flow, you need to have confidence that you can finish the chunk of work you are embarking on.
How to chunk your work
1. Bullet point outline: Let's say you are putting together a presentation or writing a paper and are unsure where to start. Take 10 minutes to create a quick bullet point outline. Think of this as a Table of contents for your work. This exercise will help you refine your thought process and help you identify some big areas you need to research and focus on. Then choose one area and go deep into it. If that area is still big and vague - break it down even further till there is a portion that you can confidently start and conclude on.
Example: I recently gave a presentation on "Why products fail". When coming up with this presentation I created a quick outline of what the talk would be about. While the actual content changed - the title of the slides, how deep I went into everything - the overall thought process for how I would talk helped me frame what areas I wanted to create more content on.
2. Mind Maps: The advantage of mind maps is that they are a non-linear way of thinking and are highly visual. This is pretty useful for blue sky or brainstorming projects. Let's say you are starting a new project like starting a podcast/ blog and want to start creating content for it. You could use a mind map to break your content into a central topic with branches containing keywords and concepts radiating out in all directions. Let's say you are starting a blog on essential oils and their uses for your store blog. Below is how you can break it down. Once this is broken down sufficiently, focus on a single node to get into flow.
3. Checklists: Sometimes, the work may already be known but you may be loth to get started because there may be too many things to do or you are simply not in the mood.
I often find checklists are just the thing to get me going :) Just list out a bunch of things you want to get done and focus on each item one at a time. Yes, there is a "create a checklist" - I'm silly like that :)
Scoring out things you have accomplished is incredibly satisfying and gives you the momentum you need to keep going.
How to get into the zone in under 5 mins :)
Now that you have identified what you will be working on, let's focus on getting into the zone. Getting into the zone means eliminating distractions both on the outside and inside.
Eliminate external distractions: Switch off your notifications on your computer and phone. Chose a comfortable clutter-free environment. Have your necessities (water, pen, paper, etc) close by so you can do some uninterrupted work
Techniques for calming your mind:
Getting into the zone is easier when your mind is free of chatter and you are relaxed. When we have several things running through vying for our attention, our ability to focus is greatly reduced. You don't need to be a yogi to do this :) Below are some tried and tested techniques to calm your mind in a matter of minutes!
1) Guided meditation for instant focus: If silent meditation is not your jam (I can't seem to go more than 5 minutes without a pesky thought popping in) and are strapped for time try this 3-minute guided meditation by Deepak Chopra for some instant focus. My biggest regret about this meditation - it ends too soon :) Trust me, it's that good! Through a series of instructions and visualization, Deepak Chopra guides you to a place where your mind is calm and zen. Perfect on days when things are going haywire or you are feeling overwhelmed.
2) Listening to white noise/focus music :
Many types of music can be beneficial for enhancing focus and concentration. Having this running in the background helps you focus. My favorite genres are below:
Classical Music: Classical music, particularly Baroque music, has been shown to help improve concentration and productivity. Examples of composers that may be beneficial include Bach, Handel, and Vivaldi.
Nature Sounds: Natural sounds like rainfall, ocean waves, and birdsong can be calming and improve focus. Grab a sound machine (hello Hatch!) or choose a playlist from youtube or Spotify. White noise falls in the same category.
3) Practice a quick pranayama session:
"Prana" means vital life force and "yama" means to gain control. Simply put, pranayama is breath control exercise practiced by yoga practitioners. These breath exercises have the effect of energizing, relaxing, and healing the body and are perfect for getting into the zone.
Here's a video you can use: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=395ZloN4Rr8
In summary, achieving flow can be a powerful tool for increasing productivity and satisfaction in your work. It takes practice and patience to get into a state of flow, but the rewards are well worth it. By breaking down the work into meaningful chunks, eliminating distractions, and practicing techniques to get into the zone you will be able to get into flow whenever you want. Enjoy!
(PS: If you have other techniques you use or find this post helpful would appreciate a quick comment).
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