There has been a lot of talk about productivity these days, and most of the chatter is about two opposite ends of the spectrum – either taking advantage of these times to be highly productive, OR not being too hard on yourself if you aren’t being highly productive. I think it might be helpful to throw the idea of flow states into the mix.
So first off, what is flow?
Flow is a state of being, where you are completely engaged in an activity for its own sake. Time ceases to exist. The ego falls away. The experience is so enjoyable, that nothing else seems to matter. You’re not in a passive state; you’re in “the zone.” Every action, movement, and thought follows fluidly, from the previous one.
The intention of flow is to do something you truly enjoy, which leads to feelings of inspiration, internal motivation, clear focus, and joy. It’s one of the happiest, most nourishing states you can find yourself in, and cultivating flow is a gift you give to yourself.
The intention of “being productive” usually involves some kind of outcome or accomplishment. This can create pressure, which can lead to resistance, which can then result in a lack of motivation and feelings of disappointment.
Flow is about the experience, or the process of doing something, just for the sake of doing it. Yes, it can lead to feelings of accomplishment, but that’s not the point. It’s about feeling fully present in the moment when engaging in an activity.
There are endless ways to find flow – for me, it’s usually through creating art, exercising, playing my banjo, or taking on any new hobby that I’ve always been interested in (which yes, would include making sourdough bread, the quarantine baking trend that has taken the world by storm and I too have fallen into #sorrynotsorry #itsdelicious #especiallywarm)
Here are a few quick tips to help you achieve a state of flow.
1. Make it About you
Is your interest in a certain activity driven by external validation (AKA likes, compliments, a promotion at work), or personal satisfaction (AKA interest, growth, enjoyment)? Most likely, there is some of both. Try to let go of the external driving forces, and hone in on the ways that engaging in an activity is nourishing for you, even if no one ever found out about it.
2. If it’s challenging, you’re on the right track.
The key to finding a flow state is doing something that you enjoy, but also challenges you, and forces you to grow. Many people assume they should be skilled at something from the get-go, and then quit when it gets too difficult. Remember, it takes time and practice to balance enjoyment with skill and challenge. Don’t give up!
3. Just Start!
Don’t wait for the perfect moment for your workspace to look pristine or for you to feel fully prepared and bursting with inspiration. Take out the pen and paper, turn the music on, open up the paints, pull the instrument out of the closet. Stop overthinking, stop overpreparing, and stop making excuses; just start!
I encourage you to give your mind/body/spirit the gift of flow this weekend. What is something you’d like to create, or learn, or try, simply for the experience of doing it? Please share in the comments!