Flow: The Key to Getting Things Done Without Realizing It

Most of us have that one part of our day that we wish we could skip over. Maybe it’s a hurdle keeping us from something we want to do, or a lengthy task, or maybe we’ve hit an “I just don’t feel like it” headspace. In all likelihood, it’s a combination of these factors. However, no matter how badly we want to hit fast forward and skip the whole ordeal, it won’t get done until we hunker down and do it. The little secret to making it as quick and painless as possible? Flow.

Flow is the state where we’re so engrossed by what we’re doing that we forget to check the clock. The cylinders are all firing towards one task, channelling our focus into quality and productivity. Most of us experience flow when we’re engaging in our favourite past-times; reading, cooking, carpentry, finger-painting, whatever makes you feel creatively satisfied. But (and get ready) flow needn’t be exclusive to the things we want to do. We can train ourselves to enter flow consciously and use it even for the tasks we’re not crazy about. The key is space, both physical and mental.

1. Build yourself a flow nest

A flow nest is what happens when an office meets a playroom. It’s space deliberately stocked and organized according to your working needs. Whatever your job entails, find the best version of the necessary tools and put them here. Get a chair that you love to sit in. Make sure that anything you need access to is readily at hand. The foundation of your nest is the practical things, the “needs” of your work. Once you’ve got those nailed down, personalize the space with your wants. If artwork inspires you, deck the walls with your favourite pieces. If you’re the outdoorsy type then set up your nest by the widest available window, or have a sound system with nature tracks handy. If you’re a fidgeter then have stress ball in your desk drawer. Embellish the things you need with the things you want.

2. Remove all distractions

Now that you have a great place to slip into flow, eliminate the things that might pull you out of it. The usual culprit: your cell phone. Now, most of us need our phones in some capacity for work. If this is the case, turn off notifications or temporarily delete apps that send you tumbling down a rabbit hole of distraction (we’re looking at you, Instagram). Also be sure that nagging chores are dealt with, your space is as tidy as you want it to be, and similar minutiae have been smoothed over. If it has the potential to distract you, deal with it now.

3. Find your zone

Everyone experiences flow differently. Some people get ‘pumped’, and know they’re in flow because of the rush of adrenaline and the buzzing in their brains. Others experience it as more of a meditative state. The only common qualities are focus, contentment, and productivity. So find out what your flow feels like. Maybe it’s zen, maybe it’s electric, and maybe it’s somewhere in between. The point is once you know how you experience flow, you’ll be able to access it more readily through sense memory.

4. Practice regularly

Flow is a muscle; the more you exercise it, the better it will serve you. If you want to learn to enter flow naturally, then you need to make a point of doing it as often as possible. Don’t just dive into your work and expect it to happen. Flow is highly personal and idiosyncratic, so finding your version of it requires attentiveness and self-awareness. Keep at it!

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