You’re completely immersed in the task at hand, your ideas arrive one after the other, and everything is coming together perfectly. You see the path forward with clarity and the more you work the more excited you get.
You’ve lost track of time, you’re tired, and haven’t eaten in awhile, but nothing is distracting you from your work.
You’re in the zone, you’re in a state of Flow.
What Is Flow
According to psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi (I have no idea how to pronounce that), flow is described as follows:
“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.”
The key to flow is being in the correct work state, which makes all the difference in how productive you are. These work states are broken down into 8 regions that are reached based on the challenge and skill level being engaged.
You can see the 8 work states below and how they related to each other.
Your work state is determined by the level of skill being used and challenge being faced; flow is achieved when you have the highest skill level and challenge to engage with.
You can adjust your activities to enter the appropriate work state, as the key is having a challenge that is difficult, but still attainable based on your skill level.
For example, if you find yourself doing something very challenging, but don’t quite have the skills yet, you’d be in the Arousal State. In this situation, you’re challenging your curiosity and developing your skills. You could either attain the skill level you need or take on a slightly less difficult challenge for which your skills are better matched.
As you can see, it’s all about the balance between challenge and skill.
How To Achieve Flow
1. Challenge/Skill Balance: Find something challenging for you, that you enjoy doing, and that you have the skills to be successful at. Too easy and you’ll be bored. Too difficult and you’ll be frustrated.
2. Set Clear Goals/Tasks: You need to know what you want to accomplish. Understanding the tasks and goals makes it easier for you to progress as you engage in the activity.
3. Focus Like A Laser: You must focus on that task at hand, no distractions, no divided attention. The task is your one and only goal and everything else should be shut out.
4. Allocate Enough Time: If you’re trying to achieve flow, you need to give yourself enough time, not only to enter it (which takes about 15 minutes according to research), but to take advantage of it once you’re there.
5. Good Energy: You want to have enough energy to tackle the challenge you’re facing, but also have a clear mind that won’t be distracted or stressed about other parts of your life.
6. Drop The Ego: The activity should be meaningful for it’s own sake, it’s all about creating and NOT specifically the outcome. There should be no fear of failure or anxiety. It’s all about the process.
Want to know more? Check out the book and TED Talk by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi.
I just finished reading The Flinch by Julien Smith and it’s a great read. Short and to the point, The Flinch is focused around the idea of facing your fears or those things that make us FLINCH. Here’s a quick synopsis of the book:
“Your flinch mechanism can save your life. It shortcircuits the conscious mind and allows you to pull back and avoid danger faster than you can even imagine it’s there. But what if danger is exactly what you need? What if facing the flinch is the one best way to get what you want? Here’s a chance to read the book everyone will be talking about, before they do. What are you afraid of?”
The book is about 50 pages if I had to guess, so not too long, but it’ll at the very least get you thinking about your life and how you’re living it. At least it did for me. And the best part is that you can get this Kindle book for FREE, so get it today and stop flinching.
A brief introduction to three new books that I want to read and you should too. Poke the Box by Seth Godin about starting, Evil Plans by Hugh MacLeod about balancing life and work, and Enchantment by Guy Kawasaki about the power of influence.
I love to read and there are 3 new books that I’m waiting to get my hands on.
1. Poke the Box by Seth Godin
Seth Godin has written a ridiculous amount of best sellers so far, and I expect this to join the club. Poke the Box is about that little push or “poke” if you will, that we all need at times to get started on something. The unique thing about this book is that its part of his new publishing venture The Domino Project, where he’s changing the rules in the publishing game. Pre-order your copy of Poke the Box.
2. Evil Plans by Hugh MacLeod
This book talks about how to have fun on your way to world domination. Sounds interesting doesn’t it? From the author Hugh MacLeod, writer of the book Ignore Everybody, we get insight into how to balance our life around work and love, and how doing so can unfortunately result in hate from others. Order Evil Plans today.
3. Enchantment by Guy Kawasaki
Another offering from Guy Kawasaki, this time sharing his knowledge on the “Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions.” It’s not about manipulating people, but taking the traditional thoughts of persuasion and influence to another level. I’ve noticed a trend recently, emphasizing the value of this skillset and who better to explore it with then Guy Kawasaki in Enchantment.
In this week’s Sunday’s Top Links we learn about innovation from kindergarten, discover a summary tool, explore the future of art, have a laugh with some generators, and learn about our love for popular technologies.
What are the keys to innovation? It can be as simple as thinking back to the good old days when we were in kindergarten. In this article from the Harvard Business Review we look at what we can learn from kindergarten.
Don’t have time to read a document? A book? An article? Well Topicmarks claims to have developed the perfect algorithm to give you a short and sweet summary of any text you input. Now I can’t say its perfect, but its an interesting tool to check out.
I really enjoyed the video, but not necessarily for the content itself, which was overall quite good and talked about major themes for the future of art. Why I really enjoyed it is because it got my head buzzing with all sorts of ideas and I love anything that can trigger my creativity.
Recently there have been a number of generators coming out, making fun of some of the trends we’re seeing today. This one is a startup simulator that pokes fun at the formulaic manner we see many of these web start-ups pitching themselves nowadays. Other recent ones have been the Malcolm Gladwell Book Generator and the Mflow Random Album Generator.
Many of us are glued to Google, Facebook, and texting, which are all new habits that many couldn’t live without. Slate.com explores this phenomenon and explains the role of th brain in all this and why its dangerous.
Enjoy! And if you missed last week’s links check them out here.
In this week’s top links we learn about balancing our input and output, see how everything is a remix part 2, are introduced to TED Books, find every newspaper in the world, and get insight on how to win the entrepreneurial race.
How much do we need to import and how much do we need to export, the balance between the two is a key to success. It’s more than just time management, its juggling your education with your creation. Another great one from Seth Godin.
Part II in this great exploration of the Remix has arrived. In this version we shift our attention from music to movies and see how much of what we see in cinema is “borrowed” from the past. A very unique perspective on creation from Kirby Ferguson. See my post on Part I here.
First we had the wealth of TED Talks, now they are introducing a new offering in the form of TED Books. Do we need to pay $2.99 for a book when there are already so many free talks available at TED.com? I’m not sure, but it’s an interesting move nonetheless.
In this week’s top links we see some great examples of HTML 5, view a guide to everything social media, create our very own kaleidoscopes, gain some insight on reading business books, and test our reaction speed.
From a Harvard professor, we get a well made Prezi going over the basics of everything Social Media. Check it out, and if you haven’t used Prezi before, its a great tool for creating presentations with a little more visual appeal for your audience.
An awesome tool brought to you by Ze Frank that allows you to create your very own kaleidoscope! It’s a lot of fun and even though it looks a bit complex, you can get started simply by drawing in the black square.
An interesting article by Rob Walling a serial entrepreneur, giving advice on how business books really aren’t useful for entrepreneurs. Now if this the case or not, I’m not sure, but he does bring up some great examples to get your mind working.
A fun little flash game from BBC that allow you to test your reaction speeds by… shooting darts at sheep?! All you need to do is click the dart button when a sheep starts running and at the end you’ll be evaluated.
Reading books is one of the best forms of self education ever created. Ever since I’ve graduated from college I’ve been reading more and more, and learning about things that I had no interest in previously.
What types of books should I read?
Everyone seems to have an opinion on what kinds of books you should read. Some think that non-fiction is the way to go and fiction is a waste of time. I personally enjoy both types of books, as I think you can learn lessons from either and having a good balance between the two, in all their forms, is important because it allows for the intersection of ideas, but in the end, its just good to be reading, whatever it may be.
Creating a habit of reading
When I turned 23, I set a goal for myself to read 50 books in that year (which will end on May 2nd). Currently I’m on book 34, so I’m getting there, but I’ll need to focus on reading a bit more these last few months. Even so, I think setting this quota has really motivated me to take the time during the day to read frequently and I’m quite happy I have.
One thing I can’t do without when reading a book, especially non-fiction, is taking notes. From taking note of an interesting point being made by the author or an idea that just floated into mind, I take notes on everything. Sure it takes me a bit longer to read , but I find it a fantastic resource to look back to when its no longer so fresh in my mind.
Determining whats to come
Now to really get the mind working, its a fun exercise to try and outline what a book will discuss before you read it. This practice helps you think about the possible problems, solutions, and ideas that are to come. The whole point is to try and formulate ideas of the situation prior to them being presented. Such practices are invaluable in thinking abstractly and moving away from the more straightforward process of what reading is.