How to Get into the Flow

It’s important to note that one can’t experience flow if other distractions disrupt the experience (Nakamura et al., 2009). Thus, to experience this state, one has to stay away from the attention-robbers in our modern fast-paced life.

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According to researcher Owen Schaffer of DePaul University, there are 7 conditions which are mandatorily required to achieve flow.

· Knowing what to do
· Knowing how to do it
· Knowing how well you are doing
· Knowing where to go (where navigation is involved)
· Perceiving significant challenges
· Perceiving significant skills
· Being free from distractions

Schaffer proposes the following strategies for experiencing flow.

Choose a difficult task (but not too difficult!)

Schaffer’s model encourages us to take on tasks that we have a chance of completing but that are slightly outside our comfort zone. Every task, sport, or job has a set of rules, and we need a set of skills to follow them.

If the rules for completing a task or achieving a purpose are too basic relative to our skill set, we will likely get bored. Activities that are too easy lead to apathy.

If on the other hand, we assign ourselves a task that is too difficult, we won’t have the skills to complete it and will almost certainly give up — and feel frustrated and give up. The ideal is to find a middle path, something aligned with our abilities but just a bit of a stretch, so we experience it as a challenge.

Have a clear, concrete goal.

According to a study by Boston Consulting Group, when asked about their bosses, the number one complaint of employees at multinational corporations is that they don’t “communicate the team’s mission clearly,” and that, as a result, the employees don’t know what their objectives are.

What often happens, especially in big companies, is that the executives get lost in the details of obsessive planning with no final “goal” ; out-of-sight out-of-mind..

Joi Ito, director of the MIT Media Lab, encourages us to use the principle of “compass over maps” as a tool to navigate our world of uncertainty. In the book Whiplash: How to Survive Our Faster Future, he and Jeff Howe write.

“In an increasingly unpredictable world moving ever more quickly, a detailed map may lead you deep into the woods at an unnecessarily high cost. A good compass, though, will always take you where you need to go.”

What Joi essentially means here is it’s important to reflect on what we hope to achieve before starting to work, study, or make something. While the path to achieve the same might not be clear or straightforward initially, it helps if you have the end objective in mind before you start to reach that objective more creatively and efficiently.

Concentrate on a single task.

To maintain that focus, it is necessary to concentrate completely on the present moment, as in self-hypnosis or meditation. Any concern for failing and looking bad — or succeeding and looking good — will break the concentration.
Great tennis players often become totally lost in the heat of the game, intent only on making the ball go precisely where they want it to go. ‘’Their focus is on making a good shot, not on the fear of losing the match,’’ says Csikszentmihalyi.
By contrast, a climber who thinks too much about getting to the top may lose concentration and make mistakes. Instead of thinking about the summit, no matter how high and beautiful it may be, he must think about the steps he has to climb to get him there.

Concentrating on one thing at a time may be the single most important factor in achieving flow.

‘’You must subordinate the outcome to the immediacy of the moment, But, as the moment takes over, it needs to be sustained by feedback — you have to have a sense of how you’re doing to continue to meet the challenge. Was the shot good? The color on the canvas right? Friendly competition can help give you something to measure yourself against.”
Csikszentmihalyi says

And Lastly Don’t Flow ALONE…..

Researchers from St. Bonaventure University asked students to participate in activities that would induce flow either in a team or by themselves.

Students rated flow to be more enjoyable when in a team rather than when they were alone. Students also found it more joyful if the team members were able to talk to one another. This finding was replicated even when skill level and challenge were equal.

A final study found that being in an interdependent group whilst in flow is more enjoyable than one that is not. So, if you want to get more enjoyment out of an experience of flow, try engaging in activities together.