When I was working on my masters in psychology, I became captivated by the work of Hungarian born psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (pronounced mee-hy cheek-sent-mə-hy-ee). Aside from his notoriously yet charmingly difficult name, Csikszentmihalyi is famous for his pioneering and extensive work in the fields of happiness and creativity. I know -happiness and creativity!!! Most importantly, however, Csikszentmihaly is widely known as the architect of the concept of flow or what we commonly refer to as being in the zone.
Csikszentmihalyi argues that people are happiest when in a state of flow – a state of concentration or complete absorption with the activity at hand and the situation. Flow is generally characterized by a feeling of great absorption, engagement, fulfillment, and skill—and during which temporal concerns (time, food, ego-self, etc.) are typically ignored.
Whether you find yourself in a state of flow while working on your business, creating art or playing with your child, you can have more of it!
Clear the Clutter, Clear your Mind, Increase your State of Flow
Below are 3 concrete actions you can take right now to increase your state of flow. Remember, flow = happiness!
- Use a “capture tool” to deal with mental clutter – The concept of a “capture tool” was introduced by productivity expert David Allen in his book Getting Things Done. A capture tool can be a tape recorder, your smart phone, a notebook – something you have with you at all times to capture ideas, thoughts and to do’s. The point is you want to get things out of your head and into a trusted system. Once you are confident that all those thoughts swimming around in your head are captured in your trusted system you can focus on higher order tasks – tasks that put you in the flow state.
- Eliminate physical cutter – This is common sense but definitely worth emphasizing. Physical clutter causes anxiety and distraction. When your desk is littered with papers and to-dos tugging at your attention, it’s hard to get into a flow state. Address physical clutter asap. One way to do this is to use my quick sort method. If you need help with this task, by all means call in a professional organizer to help you get a handle on things. Not sure if you need to bring in a pro? Here are some questions to ask. Remember, I want you to clear the decks, free your mind and your space so you can get into that flow state. Whether at work or at home, flow = happiness!
- Guard against distractions and time wasters – Just as you want to avoid mental and physical clutter, you want to guard against things that clutter up your time. This can be colleagues, employees or even family if you work at home. You can address this issue by implementing the “closed door, hold all calls policy” It’s a classic and it has stood the test of time. To better prepare to enter a flow state, guard against distractions and time wasters – at the very least you will be more productive when you implement the closed door, hold all calls (or shut off the blackberry/iPhone/android) policy.
- Identify your optimal flow state – If you can’t get into the zone where you are, go elsewhere. Know the time of day that is best for you. We all have environments that support our state of flow. Whether you thrive in a bustling environment like a Starbucks or need total quiet and a closed door, it’s important to know what your optimal environment is . Artists for example can lose themselves completely while painting in their studio. If you are a business owner or executive you might do your best thinking in the quiet hours before you start your work day or late at night when everyone else has left. It varies from person to person – the point is to find your optimal flow state environment. Be mindful of where, when and under what conditions you are best able to get into a flow state and go there!
Remember – to increase your own state of flow, use a capture tool to keep your mind free of clutter, use the quick sort method to deal with physical clutter (or call in a professional organizer like AKorganizing to help), identify your optimal flow state environment and guard against distractions.
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