Have you ever been in a situation when you felt like you were “in the zone”? Where you were so involved in what you were doing that you become unaware of your surroundings and time stood still?
Psychologists call this experience “flow”, and it’s essential to doing meaningful deep work. It helps you to enter your brain’s most productive state, meaning you will get more work done in a lesser amount of time.
In this article, you will find out how you can go to a flow state and be more productive:
1. Deal With Your Hunger
Being hungry will prevent you from entering the flow, so you must avoid it when working to achieve flow states. It doesn’t mean you need to snack constantly while working, and it certainly isn’t a justification to eat junk foods. High sugar junk foods and energy drinks will give you a short-term boost in energy, sure, but then you’re going to crash hard, yanking you right out of the flow state.
As Chris Bailey from A Life of Productivity puts it in his exploration of the effects of food on productivity:
“When you eat anything processed, the oil refinery in your stomach converts it into a heap of glucose that storms your brain all at once, which causes your energy levels to a rollercoaster.”
Instead, you need high-quality fuel that will release glucose slowly into your bloodstream. What you eat depends on your dietary preferences and general tastes, but in general, you can’t go wrong with nuts, fruits, vegetables, seeds, and lean meats. Avoid processed snacks with lots of added sugar/sweeteners.
2. Remove Distractions
You’ll never achieve flow if you’re distracted. Your brain just can’t handle it. However, distractions are sometimes unavoidable. But much of the time, you can work to minimize or eliminate distractions. Here are our favorite tactics for doing so:
- Wear headphones (noise-canceling ones, if you have it)
- Put your phone in airplane mode (or, better yet, in your closet/drawer/in another room)
- Dedicate a workspace
- Close your door (if you have one)
- Schedule blocks of uninterrupted time on your calendar
- Use the Pomodoro technique (see the next section)
3. Use the Pomodoro Technique
When you are just so distracted or are putting off something important that you should be doing, the Pomodoro technique makes an enormous difference. The Pomodoro technique is setting a timer for 25 minutes (or any reasonable length of time) and working only on one task for that time. No checking your phone, browsing Facebook, or daydreaming about something. Once the timer is up, you’re free to take a short break (usually 5 minutes).
So how does this relate to flow? You can’t just enter a flow state at will. It’s something you need to ease your brain into. The Pomodoro technique makes this possible by helping you jump the biggest mental barrier: getting started. Because once you’re immersed in a task, you may find yourself working well past when the timer goes off.
For a free and easy way to get started with the Pomodoro technique, try TomatoTimer.
4. Don’t Multitask
Multitasking sounds like a great time-saving strategy in theory. Doing multiple things at once is more efficient, right?
Well, it would be, except that our brains don’t work that way. Your brain can’t perform multiple conscious tasks at once without sacrificing the quality of your output or spending a lot of time redirecting your focus. Essentially, every time you switch from one task to another, it takes your brain time to get back into the previous task you were doing.
Since the flow is so dependent on pursuing a single task with laser focus, multitasking is its enemy and opposite.
5. Get Enough High-Quality Sleep
Sleep is vital for your health and general well-being.
What’s more, it’s also key to reaching flow states. If you’re tired, your ability to concentrate will decrease, and smaller distractions will pull you away from more easily from the flow.
I’m sure you can relate when I say that a person feels alert and ready to conquer the world if he/she has gotten a solid amount of sleep.
By the same token, it’s important that you get not just a sufficient quantity of sleep, but also that your sleep is high quality. Spending nine hours in bed is no good if you spend most of it tossing and turning.
So there you have it, the practical tips on how to get more work done by achieving the flow state. You can employ the above mentioned steps in all aspects of your life because flow touches on so many parts of human experience that it’s difficult to categorize it.
This is a life lesson worth learning because in learning to achieve flow, you learn to control your consciousness. It requires you to “concentrate attention on the task at hand and momentarily forget everything else”, thus meeting your ultimate goal of leading a more meaningful life.