11 Steps To Achieving Flow State (+ Why You Need To)

11 Steps To Achieving Flow State (+ Why You Need To)

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Generally, there are two different groups of entrepreneurs in the world today.

And no, I’m not talking about men and women but:

Those who get nothing or little done throughout the day…

…and those who kill their to-do list and make it look like eating pie.

And it’s always better to belong to the latter group.

But, you may be wondering:

“How do I always finish my tasks so I can fling my to-do list off the window?”

Flow!

Flow State

 

In this guide, I’ll be taking you on a step-by-step walkthrough on how to achieve flow state.

But first…

What exactly is flow?

Understanding Flow Can Change the Way You Work

According to Dr. Mihály Csíkszentmihályi:

“Flow is a state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience is so enjoyable that people will continue to do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it.”

For the records, Dr. Mihály Csíkszentmihályi was a Hungarian positive psychologist who pioneered and named this notion “flow” after researching on it for years.

Dr. Mihály Csíkszentmihályi

 

Csíkszentmihályi further described the flow concept as:

“Being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.”

It’s a state of complete, pleasurable immersion in an activity. It’s that mental state when you’re so soaked into the moment that you seem to forget about every other thing, including your cat. It’s what athletes often describe as “being in the zone.”

Being In The Zone

 

But:

Why does flow matter and how can it help you work better?

Here:

The problem with most entrepreneurs is that they’re simply unproductive; they get into their office with a to-do list but end up achieving nothing at the end of the day.

In most cases, this is caused by unhappiness, dissatisfaction, and displeasure. They do not enjoy performing the activities associated with their business.

In fact, Conference Board, a New York-based nonprofit research group, found that majority of Americans, including entrepreneurs—52.3% in 2014—are unhappy at work.

The group has been running job satisfaction survey every year since 1987.

They found that…

Nearly 3 decades ago, 61.1% of people said they were happy and satisfied at their work.

However, that number has ebbed over the years, reaching an all-time low of 42.6% in 2010, following the Great Recession.

Flow State-Overall Satisfaction

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But here’s the good news:

With flow, you can triumph over these problems of dissatisfaction, unhappiness, and unproductivity in your entrepreneurial pursuits.

How?

Flow can lead to improved performance as well as skill development. But not only that, flow is simply one of the keys to happiness at work.

As a matter of fact, the main discourse of Csíkszentmihályi’s most popular book, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience (1990), is that happiness is not a fixed state but can be developed as you learn to achieve flow.

Flow State-Optimal Experience

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Also, going by the definition Csíkszentmihályi gave us just above, flow is about enjoying what you do and gaining satisfaction from it at the end.

To do this…

All you have to do is learn how to achieve flow (which is the purpose of this guide).

Now:

Beyond being happier, gaining satisfaction and ultimately becoming productive as an entrepreneur, here are a few more things flow can help you achieve:

1. By continually experiencing flow, you become a more focused person and your ability to concentrate on important activities increases

2.Flow helps you learn how to manage challenges effectively, which is vital for business success

3. You actually begin to love and enjoy your entrepreneurial endeavors as you practice flow, which ultimately makes life more enjoyable to you and worth living

4. Through flow, you can complete tasks faster and easily, without feeling bored or anxious.

“So then,…” you might ask:

“…how do I take a hold of these benefits, including being happier?”

Good question!

Follow These Steps to Achieve Flow with Ease and Be Happier

STEP #1: Find a challenge you love

The first step to achieving flow is to choose an activity you love. It can be your interest, a hobby or any business-related activity.

It may come as a surprise to you, but…

…in response to the question, “If money was not the object, would you still do the same work you do today?“, 55.1% of the respondents said NO while only 44.9% said YES as found in this survey.

Find a Challenge

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Equally, the activity must be important to YOU and intrinsically rewarding.

The essence of picking an activity you love and that is important to you is that, for flow to occur, you need to be fully INVOLVED in the moment.

And you cannot do that with an activity that you don’t love, is not of importance to you and isn’t rewarding; the connection simply won’t be there.

That’s why Steve Jobs advised that you love your work:

“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.” —Steve Jobs.

Flow State-Full Involvement

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Warren Buffett even thinks it’s crazy to take a job you don’t love:

“There comes a time when you ought to start doing what you want. Take a job that you love. You will jump out of bed in the morning. I think you are out of your mind if you keep taking jobs that you don’t like because you think it will look good on your resume. Isn’t that a little like saving up sex for your old age?”—Warren Buffett.

Warren Buffet on Flow State

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What’s more, Csíkszentmihályi also said that to achieve flow, the activity also has to be challenging…

…but not too hard.

It should be neither too demanding nor too simple for your abilities.

It has to equal your skill level, otherwise, if the challenge is higher (or lower) than your skills, then you’ll have to carry out the next step.

STEP #2: Develop your skills to meet the challenge

No one enjoys doing *tough* work, but the essence of flow is about enjoying what you do.

So:

After choosing an important activity that you love, next step is to calibrate your skills to meet the challenge.

Here’s the reason:

If your skill level is higher than the challenge, boredom sets in. If the challenge is higher than your skill level, anxiety takes place.

Flow Channel

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So, there’s got to be a balance between the difficulty of the activity and your skills.

Here’s how Csíkszentmihályi explained it:

“Flow also happens when a person’s skills are fully involved in overcoming a challenge that is just about manageable, so it acts as a magnet for learning new skills and increasing challenges.”

“If challenges are too low, one gets back to flow by increasing them. If challenges are too great, one can return to the flow state by learning new skills.”

(Note: Join my Free Newsletter to get my weekly tips on Business Growth, Marketing, Technology and overcoming the challenges faced by me and other fellow entrepreneurs…Join Free Newsletter Now.)

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STEP #3: Set SMART goals

Once you’re done leveling your skills with the difficulty of the activity, you’re to determine what your goal is in carrying out the activity.

For instance…

If your activity was to write content for your business blog, your goal can be that you’re not just going to write, but write a detailed content that can aid your marketing and that’ll be helpful to the readers…

…at one go.

Why set a clear goal?

The thing is, you’re not to “flow” to just anywhere. There has to be a direction; a definite, measurable goal that’s neither too hard to achieve nor too easy.

Flow is about achieving that set goal at the end of the activity to your satisfaction.

Set Smart Goals

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Additionally, goals create a mechanism for measuring your progress (see Step #10 below) and defining your direction.

Without a connected goal, you may not find any reason to carry out the activity or even enjoy it. It’s like living alone and cooking a meal you know you wouldn’t eat.

STEP #4: Work at your peak time

To easily achieve flow, it’s advisable to work at your peak time.

Work At Your Peak Time

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Maybe you’re most productive (mentally) in the morning, then just do your best work around then.

When Do You Feel Most Productive

Working when you don’t feel like it won’t be enjoyable, and thus, won’t help you achieve flow, at least, not easily.

Another thing to note about the time here is that:

Flow actually requires TIMELESSNESS— that means the sense of time will become distorted, where you’re so focused on the present that you lose track of time passing.

And that means, when preparing to get in the zone, you have to ensure there is enough time because…

You can be in the zone for hours without knowing you spent that much time on the activity.

Another thing is, most times, the flow experience may not occur in full the first few moments you start out on the activity.

You may have to stay on it for at least an hour or two to get immersed, which actually goes against the popular Pomodoro technique of working for 25 minutes and taking a 5-minute break to post a picture of your last trip to Beijing on Instagram.

Pomodoro Technique

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STEP #5: Give total attention, focus and concentration to the activity

I just explained above that flow requires enough time to be carried out, but during that time, you have to completely focus all your attention on the activity.

Focus On Activity

 

In fact, CONCENTRATION is one of the factors that accompany the experience of flow, according to the Hungarian psychologist, and without it, flow may not occur.

The rule is simple:

No concentration, no flow.

In addition to intense concentration, you have to learn to stay in the state of flow for as long as you have to stay there. This aids your overall productiveness.

And to do this?

Don’t cap flow, but stay extremely hyperfocus instead.

STEP #6: Let go your self-consciousness

If you don’t want to experience flow, the best way to do that is to make yourself (and your environment) your cynosure versus getting absorbed in the task at hand.

But that’s not our goal here with this guide so I’ll recommend you do the opposite.

Want to know why?

Alright, here’s the reason:

One of the main characteristics of flow is complete absorption in the task, where you’re fully immersed in the moment and are involved in the activity.

And complete absorption portrays the absence of self-consciousness and a merging of your awareness into the activity you’re engaged in, which is the heart of flow.

What is Flow

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This is where productiveness takes place: when you focus deeply on nothing but the activity – not on yourself, not on your emotions, not on your environment.

A positive psychologist, Dr. Martin Seligman, puts it:

“Consciousness and emotion are there to correct your trajectory; when what you are doing is seamlessly perfect, you don’t need them.”

STEP #7: Enjoy yourself

The end-of-ends of flow is a feeling of spontaneous joy, satisfaction and great happiness, or even a feeling of heavenly bliss, while performing a task.

For this feeling to occur, you have to relish every moment of the activity at hand, purposively but freely.

Eliminate Distraction

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This goes to support our point discussed in step #1—doing what you love.

See?…

…because you really cannot enjoy doing what you don’t love.

When you determine to enjoy the activity, and actually take advantage of the moment to do so, you’ll find that you’ll experience flow easily.

STEP #8: X-out every distraction and interruption

A while ago, I mentioned the importance of concentration in achieving flow, but just imagine having your kids run around while you’re trying to get in the zone…

Or having the TV on and perhaps watching it moment-by-moment while trying to achieve a state of flow with another activity.

That’ll be next to impossible.

So, to fast-track your journey into that different world of insuppressible, gratifying rapture, you have to get rid of every distraction and interruption.

What It Feels To Be In A Flow

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You can start by creating a distraction-free environment or even turning off your social media alerts, if your chosen activity is computer-based.

STEP #9: Clear your emotional state

Sometimes, it might be difficult to achieve flow because of a negative state of mind.

For instance, if you’re emotionally troubled—anger, fear, uneasiness etc.—then it’ll be difficult, if not impossible, to achieve flow.

In that case, what you have to do first is to clear your emotional state. Clean out your mind and eliminate every negative thought.

Clear Emotional State

STEP #10: Get feedback

One other component necessary for the flow experience to occur is immediate feedback.

Get Feedback

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So, in preparing to create flow for yourself, make a chance for getting feedback.

The feedback doesn’t necessarily have to come from another person, but…

It should be based around the goal of the activity.

Why?

Immediate feedback is significant for knowing immediately whether your goal was reached or not, thereby evaluating your progress.

It helps you know that you’re actually doing something progressively, which in turn gives immediate satisfaction.

STEP #11: Keep practicing

Look:

The thing with flow is that, just like every other human-generated concept, it takes practice to perfect it. You may not achieve complete flow the first time, or even the first few times, you try it.

But as the saying goes…

Practice produces perfect performance.

Keep Practicing

 

In his findings, Csíkszentmihályi even concluded that there are people who, through continuous practice, have developed their flow to such a level that they can easily rework every potential threat and turn the same into an enjoyable challenge, and thereby maintain an inner peace as a continuous state of mind.

Conclusion

So, there you have them…

Steps to achieving flow state.

As these steps show, flow can be achieved by getting involved in an activity while following specific set of conditions like:

1. Balancing your skill with the difficulty of the challenge

2. Having a clear goal

3. Focusing your concentration intensely

4. Getting immediate feedback etc.

Now:

As helpful as flow state may sound, it’ll do nothing for you except you decide to do something with it.

If you haven’t gotten the point yet, it’s not enough just to read these words and stop here.

If you want to be relishing every moment of your entrepreneurial career while staying productive, if you want to be happier and more satisfied in your business, and if you want to always finish your tasks so you can fling your to-do list off the window…

You gotta act. You gotta put the information in this guide to work. You gotta deliberately take steps to achieve flow.

Now, go ahead!

(Note: Join my Free Newsletter to get my weekly tips on Business Growth, Marketing, Technology and overcoming the challenges faced by me and other fellow entrepreneurs…Join Free Newsletter Now.)

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5 Responses

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  • Rish September 4, 2017 at 8:15 am

    I highly agree with your opinions about the steps on achieving flow state. For more information I will suggest reading https://www.cwilsonmeloncelli.com/flow-blog-2/. It features helpful blogs on how to achieve flow state.

    Reply
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