I’m not writing this blog in a state of flow. I admit it. It took a good three sittings (rather, nap times) to complete. But, I know writing about it will help you.
He is 8 weeks old. He is adorable. He is lovable. He is curious. He is not potty trained. He does not help me get into a state of flow. This week is a good reminder of the power of working in flow. A state that I completely crave!
Flow is a term psychologists use to describe a mental state when you are completely involved in an activity. Think of it as: Being in the zone. Complete mental focus. Immersed in an activity. That part of your work where you are crushing it.
How to get into flow:
- Keep a clear and actionable to-do list. If you are a parent you will especially understand this. When your baby goes down for a nap it’s “go” time. You don’t have 20 minutes to decide what to work on. You only have time to DO the work. By keeping an organized and clear to-do list you will always know what to work on next.
- Pick doable tasks that have specific goals. For example, at this very moment, I’m trying to write as many sentences as possible before my puppy wakes up. My goal is to finish three….(And, he’s up. Damn, I seriously just jinxed myself.)…(Playtime.)…(He’s napping again. Back to writing for me.)…more bullet points for you before he wakes up. Didn’t get that goal. (And, he’s up again. That nap was a false alarm. Now, we’ve had an accident in the kitchen. Went outside. Cleaned that up. 35 minutes have passed.) Thankfully, I have a specific goal to finish this blog post. Therefore, as soon as I sat back down at my computer, I knew exactly what to work.
- Remove distractions. Not happening for me today. Typically, I would be working from my second-floor office. It’s quiet and set up with minimal distractions. Due to the puppy, I’m working from the kitchen table in a more cramped and less comfortable space. Glancing to make sure he is still sleeping at an every-other-minute cadence. Keeping my ears alert to the sound of him moving around. Noticing the birds, squirrels, and the neighbors cat in the yard. Hearing every passing car. Seeing every notification on my phone as I’m waiting for the vet to call me. I’m breaking all my own productivity rules today. One distraction after the next. But, I’m not beating myself up for it. I’m doing my best with the circumstances I have for today. It’s worth it. This puppy is the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. Distracted again by his sweet little face.
- Batch your work. Batching your work really helps you get into a state of flow. If you have similar tasks, group them together. This puts your mind into the state to complete those initiatives. A lot of my clients hate doing non-creative work such as invoicing or paying their bills (well, everyone hates PAYING their bills) but I mean the physical act of paying them. It’s inefficient to do one invoice or bill and move onto other work. Your brain will literally need to rewire itself when you change the type of work you are doing. Instead, gather all the information you need to do your invoicing. Get your mind in invoicing mode. Then, you can knock out all the invoicing you have to do at one time and be done with it. Check it off the list!
- Give yourself enough time to complete your tasks. When you sit down to work try to give yourself enough time to get into a state of flow in the first place. Your brain will take about 20 minutes to really begin to focus on the task at hand. Then, allow enough time to finish the tasks. If you know this will take you two hours. Don’t give yourself one and pray that you can do it faster. That’s setting yourself up for failure. Be honest about how much time you need to complete a task. Add about 10% extra time for wiggle room and unforeseen distractions or interruptions like a puppy. How do you do this? Well…
- Just get started. Sitting down and getting started on your tasks is the hardest part. This is like a plane taking off. Lots of prep work. Lots of energy to get liftoff. But, after take-off, you will reach your cruising altitude. Cruising altitude is a state of flow.
- Work. And don’t stop working until you’re done with the tasks at hand. A lot of people will tell you to set a timer and work until the timer goes off. I agree with that partially. However, if you are in a state of flow, instead of stopping when the timer goes off, I want you to push past the timer. When you are in flow don’t stop. Keep it going as this is where your best work happens. Let the momentum take over.
- Reward yourself. Just like my puppy gets a treat for good behavior. You deserve that too! I’m serious. Getting into flow and working your little tail off is no small feat. For you, I’d recommend something other than duck and apple treats. Keep it simple. Go for a quick walk. Grab a cup of coffee. Check your Facebook feed. Just be sure to give yourself this break and reset after you push through a state of flow. You’ve earned it!
As a productivity expert, I thrive in a state of flow. I try to get into it as much as possible. I know the power of the work I can accomplish in flow. (As I’m proofreading this, he needs to go out again. Flow interrupted.) Life events happen. Plans changes. Stuff happens. While you can’t force flow, you can set yourself up for a strong likelihood of getting into it. I’m suggesting you give that a try. Work on a few of these steps and see how that goes.
This week has been a great example for me. Working in little sprints to keep my business goals going while loving my new puppy to pieces.
If you need extra help getting into a state of flow, I’m your gal. I bring you my top productivity tips to help you get back control of your time, accomplish more, and be present when you are done for the day.