Have you ever thought about why some of your work days are just crap? You know those days at work when nothing goes your way. 8 hours pass by and you feel like you haven’t gotten anything done. You’re both mentally and physically tired and feel unmotivated to go back where you left off.
A couple of years ago, this was my reality and I can imagine that many of you are having days like these as well, especially now that most of us are working from home and find it hard to focus or get motivated.
But, there is a solution to this. By tapping into something that is called the “state of flow”, we can get more done and feel excitement and joy during our days of work. In this article, I will share with you how to get into the flow state on command, so you can get more out of your working days and stay motivated.
The reasons why you’re unproductive when working from home
Working from home is a new reality for many of us. One big benefit with it is that we’re closer to our family and get to spend more time together. But, we’re also closer to work which makes it more challenging to keep focus during the day. For example, when the occasional coffee break quickly escalates into a cleaning session. And just when you start to feel productive and focused, something (or someone) interrupts you and you have to start all over again to get your focus back.
And now that we no longer see our working colleagues in the office, we often try to compensate with even more communication on different channels online, like email, Slack, Teams, Skype and text messages. So at the end of the day when the work day is supposed to be over, we often find ourselves putting in some extra hours just to cover up for the unproductive moments we had earlier.
What is FLOW?
So what can we do about this and how can we make our working days more efficient and fun?
The solution is called FLOW.
You’ve probably experienced the state of flow many times before. Like when you’re at work and everything just goes your way. You complete tasks one after another and you almost feel like you’re dreaming and time moves slower. Things that could have taken a whole day to complete, get done within a few hours instead. This state of flow spikes your energy and you feel more motivated and creative than ever.
I always wondered what this phenomenon was, because during my years when I was working as a music producer, I tried to reach this state everyday. Because whenever I managed to get into this state, I started to create magic. I became one with the music and everything was just flowing.
The concept flow is not something that I’ve come up with myself. It’s a widely researched subject by psychologists and professors. And according to the scientists, flow or “effortless attention” as they call it, is:
A mental state in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.
Neurologically, flow is the process when stress chemicals like norepinephrine and cortisol are replaced by performance enhancing and pleasure-producing hormones such as dopamine and endorphins.
I know, this explanation sounds pretty complicated but athletes often refer to this state as being “in the zone,” which may be more familiar.
So why should we try to get in flow state and how can we use it to optimize work?
Well, one of the reasons for entering the flow state is that we become so much more productive. According to the scientists, the flow state allows us to increase our productivity with 400-500%. Not only do we get more productive, but we also feel more joy and happiness during this state.
Now let’s talk about how you can get into the flow state. Remember, this is something you have to practice so don’t give up if it doesn’t work the first time.
How to get into flow state on command
Step 1: Struggle
Find a task for the day that is challenging but not hard enough to complete. During this struggle phase, everything can seem difficult and you’ll probably get stressed and feel that you suck. That’s totally fine. Keep working at it and when you’re stuck, move to step number 2.
Step 2: Release
When you’re stuck, do one or a few of these to release stress hormones:
Take a break, walk, stretch, meditate, work out or power nap for 20 mins. In that way, we let our subconscious mind work at the problem while we’re taking a break. Then go back and complete simple tasks that are not challenging nor time consuming. This will create momentum and put you into the next phase.
Step 3: Flow
Your stress hormones are out of the system and this is the state where things seem less like a struggle, everything flows and time flies, you’re in the zone and dopamine and endorphins are rushing through your body. I really have to emphasize the importance of cutting out all distractions because it will determine how long you will stay in the flow state.
Step 4: Recovery
The flow state consumes a lot of energy and your nervous system is being challenged so it’s important to recover. Eat healthy food and get some rest. If not, you will risk burnout.
So to summarize
Being able to enter the flow state at command is a massive skill to have. It enables us to be more productive and feel enjoyment at the same time. And it really forces us to be in the present moment.
About the author
Nadir Benkahla is a digital marketing specialist, working at the biggest e-commerce company in Scandinavia. He’s also creating content about finding happiness, life optimization and mental health through his YouTube channel. He spends most of his free time researching about philosophies and how we can get more out of life. He’s on a journey to share his insights and help people find happiness at work and at home.