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How to Reach Flow State | 8 Effective Ways to Control Your Focus

by | Oct 4, 2021

flow state

Flow state refers to focusing deeply on one task for hours as it is one of the core skills for professional success. It happens when you’re so engaged in your work that it seems like there’s nothing else on this planet besides you and your work. The state where you’re seemingly unstoppable and incredibly productive.

This state is called Flow State. Also known as being “in the zone.”

Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes ‘flow state’ in his book Flow that “the best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times. The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and fulfilling.”

So, when was the last time you actually felt you were “in the zone” while working?

Well, it’s apparent that it has become increasingly difficult to feel motivated and energized to pursue goals (and thereby reach a flow state) because of constant distractions and other factors affecting our minds. And nowadays these factors are more abundant than ever.

Fortunately, getting in the zone is not just restricted to professionals. A flow state can be achieved by anyone by complying with a few psychological strategies. You can achieve a flow state during a number of activities such as while working, doing meditation, preparing for something, or playing mind games.

In this article, we’re going to look at 8 effective strategies I’ve come up with that you can follow to get into a flow state on a regular basis.

distraction on work, flow state

distraction on work

Eliminate External Distractions:

Distractions are the number one enemy of your focus and productivity. External distractions, in particular, are the ones that originate around your surroundings — things like technology (smartphones, social media, websites, YouTube, video games, modern gadgets), noises around you, or food. These sources stimulate your brain to get hooked to them easily and it’s hard to resist their temptation as your brain releases a lot of dopamine when engaged in these distractions.

In fact, a study from the University of California suggests once you’re distracted, it takes about 25 minutes to get back into the swing of your work. Therefore, it’s critical to eliminate all sources of distractions to protect your focus and thereby reach a flow state.

Firstly, if the sources of distractions are easily accessible to you, you’ll likely get distracted. Therefore, it’s recommended to remove them from your work environment. The harder it is to access these sources, the less likely it’ll be for your brain to get diverted towards them.

Here are a few more ways to eliminate External Distraction sources while working: 

  • Put your smartphone in a different room.
  • Don’t work with email and instant messaging site tabs open or disable notifications; only have tabs open necessary for your work on your computer/laptop.
  • Work in a quiet space or put on noise cancellation headphones/earbuds.
  • Remove all unnecessary objects in the eyesight of your workspace or desk; decluttered workspace increases your ability to focus as unnecessary objects in your eyesight pull your attention whether consciously or unconsciously.

The key is to deprive yourself of all potential external distractions so your work remains the most stimulating thing to do and thus reach a flow state.

Eliminate Internal Distractions:

Apart from eliminating External distractions, there’s one big source of distraction that still remains, the mind. As humans, we’re always thinking which many times leads to breakthroughs, but while working, it mostly makes things harder to focus by diverting our minds from work – and therefore difficult to reach a flow state.

There are many forms of internal distractions that can affect an individual’s ability to concentrate on a task, like personal thoughts, feelings, lack of sleep, hunger, anxiety or stress.

However, the most common form of internal distraction is boredom. It might seem silly, but boredom affects many people while working and leads to an increase in absenteeism and a decrease in productivity. Boredom can lead to errors and other adverse events. It can lead to decreased productivity by causing someone to take frequent breaks or get engaged in dawdling activities in the middle of work.

So to deep dive into your work, you need to learn how to limit these distractions by composing your mind. 

Journaling every day can be a great way to organize thoughts, reflect on important events, and clarify goals. Studies have shown that journaling clears the mind and ultimately helps in eliminating internal distractions. 

You can write something like “today started with what went about doing what most of the time, how well focused you were, how it ended, and how you plan to carry out your day the next day.” it will help you better understand your problems, worries, and fears to offer insights into identifying triggers so that you can better deal with them the next day and keep improving.

Set a Clear Goal or Outcome of The Task to Improve Productivity

Whenever you’re uncertain about what and how much work you want to get done in a day, you will likely struggle to get your mind into optimum concentration. 

to do planning

Setting up a clear goal or outcome is an important part of any task. This can be accomplished by setting a clear and specific objective so you can use them as an indicator of whether or not you are moving in the right direction. They also help guide your actions and decisions so that your actions are aligned with your desired outcome. The clearer your purposes, the better your performance.

Once you’ve got a clear goal for the day, commit it to your memory (you can also write it up), so you remember it every time your mind starts to trigger a distraction. 

Whereas, when you don’t have a clear goal, you don’t know where to eventually complete doing your work and then your mind will likely push you towards quitting earlier or at an incomplete state of the task.

Moreover, setting deadlines for your tasks is an important part of completing your goals for the day. This forces you to prioritize your tasks so that you’re able to complete them on time. For example, some tasks are more time-sensitive than others, so they require a quicker response.

Maximize Your Productivity by Working at Your Peak Time

morking work

Our energy levels and productivity vary throughout the day. When we are wide-awake and energized, our creativity is unleashed. But when we are exhausted, it’s hard to get anything done at all.

What you need to understand is that you should not force yourself to stay at work when you’re tired or exhausted as at this point, your productivity significantly gets lower and you start to feel burnout. 

The key is to find peak times when you’ve no distractions and you’re mentally prepared to potentially break your flow state and you’re able to focus on work. Strive for making the best of your hours and manage them properly.

For many people, this can often be a couple of hours in the morning, where we’re at our most fresh and mentally engaged. Mornings are also the best time for tackling uninteresting tasks so you can get more things done before the day is out. 

Another option would be to enter a flow state is right after taking a long break, like after having an hour-long chat with your friend or after taking a big nap. It works because after taking a big break, our morals push us to do something worthwhile by returning to work.

Create a Mental Cue of Ritual to Get Into Flow State

Mental cue refers to certain behaviours or thought processes that we engage in before we start work to get ourselves ready for it. A cue is a sequence of behaviours that are repeated at certain intervals.

meditation before work

Like, creating a specific time at which you will start working, meditating for 5 minutes before getting into a flow state or deciding on listening to the same music every time while working. This can also be as simple as taking a few deep breaths or closing your eyes for a minute before starting work.

When the cue is followed, it tells your brain to go into a flow state. We learn and remember new things based on the associations we make with our brains. Hence, If you create a mental cue to trigger a flow state, you can improve your ability to enter a flow state.

You should note that reaching an optimal level of focus can take some time as forming a mental habit takes time, so you might not achieve immediate daily basis results. It is also crucial to find the right mental cue for you because different people have different preferences. The best way to figure out what works best for you is by experimenting with various methods until you find one that suits your needs.

Prioritise and Work On One Very Specific Task at a Time.

As a busy entrepreneur or student, you might be tempted to tackle every task on your to-do list in one day. However, this is not the best way to maximize your productivity. Your brain can only focus on one task at a time before it becomes overwhelmed by tasks that are all clamouring for attention. It’s essential that you prioritize your tasks if you want to be as productive as possible with the resources you have available.

If you’ve more than one work to do in a day then it’s vital to prepare your routine by prioritizing the order in which the task you’ll be doing beforehand and after hand.

This way, when you start working on the most important task beforehand and it’ll be in your mind that the task must be completed, helping you stay focused. 

Don’t be sceptical about what exactly you’re going to work on, otherwise, you’ll likely get distracted and switch to other tasks. Both will prevent you from getting into a flow state.

Provide Yourself Immediate Feedback After Work

“Without feedback, there can be no progress.”

self feedback

We all need to know when we’re doing things well and when we’re not. This is where retrospecting the work done and evaluating it becomes important. Being able to provide yourself with immediate feedback is an excellent way for doing it. 

Feedbacks help you identify gaps in your knowledge and pinpoint areas for improvement. Important thing is to keep it as sincere as possible and positively take it. Look back at how well you did and what improvement can be made going forward. 

However, you might not know that you are making mistakes or need help with your work until someone else tells you. In this case, you can ask your family member or roommates to give you feedback on how you are doing. It’s often easier to take criticism constructively when it comes from someone close to you.

Furthermore, when taking feedback from someone else, it’s important for them to keep it as positive as possible and not make it demotivate yourself.

Stay Hydrated to Get Into Flow State

drinking water on work

At last, one of the most straightforward but overlooked ways to improve your productivity and reach flow state is to stay hydrated by drinking water while working.

It may seem counterintuitive to drink water while working, but simply intaking a few ounces or sips of water every once in a while hydrates the body and brain, which improves focus, energy levels and decreases workplace stress.

As an added benefit, your energy levels are also boosted when you’re properly hydrated. The slightest lack of hydration can reduce your concentration and thus prevent you from getting into a flow state.

Conclusion

Flow state has been shown to have many positive effects for people who are able to achieve it.  It can help you complete tasks more quickly, increase your energy levels, improve your mood, and keep your stress levels down. 

However, it’s a delicate process to follow up in daily life for a beginner and can take some time to get used to it. Therefore, we encourage you to follow up on at least one of the 8 flow state strategies for your next workday and let us know how you did by commenting below.

Thanks for reading!