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5 tips to achieve the flow state at work

We plan every minute. Endless to-do lists, calendars filled with meetings of different colors, countless tools for optimizing the schedule. And yet, little is actually done - and all because we try to do too much and overestimate our capabilities. 

Being superhuman and doing things simultaneously, or, at the very least, doing a lot, has been romanticized by many lately. Yes, some 2% of people can truly multitask, but others can’t. And although people know that multitasking is harmful, they have to do it because who else would reply to the letters from people who expect an instant response?


Busier=happier?

This is a realm of the current work culture - people feel better when busy (read: build an illusion of busyness with many due tasks on the list). 

This, as one might guess, is very detrimental because while trying to kill two birds, you mind end up with the stone slipping out of your hands. 

Writing emails, minor edits to different sheets, rechecking the email, going back and forth between various applications - we feel productive when doing them, get many small to-dos ticked off from the list, but are of little value as well. In the end, we realize that we haven’t yet started that one significant task, start worrying, skip the break, and it all begins again. 


That ultimate state of flow

Have you ever been intensely focused on this very task, concentrated so hard that by the end, it felt like the time had flown so fast? You were probably in the state of the so-called “flow,” which you might have heard of as it’s turning into one of those workplace-related buzzwords. 

In short, it’s the state when you get many challenging tasks done in a short period while also enjoying the process. Quality time spent, hard things done, you feel good afterward... Isn’t that a dream, right? To figure out how to use it to our benefit, we’ll check what exactly that is, how to achieve that state and what limitations it has.


What is this↑ state of “flow”?

The following features characterize flow: 

Total immersion or absorption in a task.
Enjoyment in the work without necessarily being aware of this.
An underlying and intrinsic sense of motivation. (Oxford Review) 


We all know the feeling; it usually happens before the tight deadlines (doesn’t it?). We get the things done, and we enjoy the process...

How to effectively use it then?

One can’t be in the flow all the time, just like it cannot be used for all types of activities. As our co-founder Henri suggests, it could be used for high- or extreme-intensity work that requires total concentration. For content marketers, it could be brainstorming and defining the next blogpost structure, for salespeople - writing a proposal, for software engineers - actually writing and testing a code.

Meanwhile, those tasks shouldn’t be taking more than 1-1.5 hours. Stretching the mind to its limits must have a defined length because it is a highly energy-consuming process. Quality work time - quality break time should be a key for someone practicing getting into the flow.

How to enter the flow state?

With homes literally turning into offices, people have been into “improve your efficiency” topics a lot lately. Most have been employing different productivity hacks and trying to clear up the work life and social life’s perimeters. However, the more we try, the more distractions we get. 

Here are the five ways of dealing with them and finally getting the meaningful work done. 

1. Prioritize

To achieve “total immersion or absorption in the task,” we need to eliminate all the extra noise and additional tasks that steal our attention. Thus, prioritizing and focusing on one single task is the critical step for achieving the flow state. After all, not everything you do has an actual impact. Learn to understand what matters the most and put most of the energy into the tasks that will bring the most value.

2. Get rid of distractions

Once you have identified what to work on, all the distractions - whether internal or external - must be eliminated for you to be absolutely absorbed in the task. 

Emails, messages from teammates, phone notifications - those can wait. You could also close all the unnecessary tabs and apps and put your phone on a silent mode for that. Likewise, you should be internally ready for the flow. Leave all the possible non-work-related emotions behind and let yourself be immersed in the task.

3. Challenge yourself

Does the type of the project or task at hand matter? Short answer: it does. 

People can fully enjoy it only when they actually do a meaningful job that’s of the right level of difficulty for them. If it’s “sending the emails” or “typing the same thing manually,” it’s probably not going to challenge them enough to be delighted. 

“In effect, when an individual’s skills and resources match the level of the challenge facing them, it is much more likely that an individual will get into flow with that task.”


4. Come up with a ritual

Yes, you heard it right, come up with a trigger or a ritual preceding the state of flow. For me, I go for a short walk, and after I’m back, I bring a glass of water and take a few deep breaths. This sequence of activities reminds my brain that “whee it’s time to get into the flow and get that work done”. 

It’s also wise to note that the way you feel overall does matter a lot. Good sleep, healthy diet, and physical activities should always be in place. Moreover, listen to your body and learn when it is the best time for YOU to focus. 


3. Make use of the best tools

Last but absolutely not least, strive for using the best and latest technology. With countless tools and applications being out there, you definitely want to make the best out of it. The latest technology and automation minimizes manual work and the need to work on multiple applications. All this leads to better focus, getting more things done, and receiving extra hours to work on the priority projects and tasks.


The following startups are examples of great time-saving technology innovations in their field and might be worth your time to explore too.

X.ai is a great tool for the automatic scheduling of meetings. It integrates with other calendars/meeting tools and finds the best meeting times for you and your guests. 

Instabase is a tool that helps to have all the past data and documents at your fingertips, allowing you to analyze and use them in a minimal time. It has natural language processing, optical character recognition, and other tools, which build a platform for optimizing different parts of the business. 

Pipefy is an automation tool for HR, Finance & Procurement, and other departments that helps build no/low-code workflows to make the work hassle-free. 


Hours wasted? We’ve got you covered

Small repetitive tasks can quickly add up to an enormous amount of time wasted during the day; unfortunately, this is the case with many of us - knowledge workers. To ensure that the time is spent wisely and on the things that truly matter, all the non-essential tasks should be optimized. 

Since there is a tight information exchange within teams and organizations, it’s hard to get into the flow without your team members being on the same page. That being said, check out our workflow optimization product that helps identify the repetitive and manual tasks within teams that can be eliminated, optimized or automated; thus bringing more room for creativity and meaningful work!

As a final note, investments made to improve employee satisfaction are never pointless, but now those investments are a must-have! 

Book a demo with us! First team is free up to 30 days.



References:

https://www.oxford-review.com/blog-how-to-get-into-flow-at-work/#needs 


Written by

Kazyna Turdibayeva

Marketing specialist at Workfellow.