How to get into the flow state (the zone)

What is flow?

Sometimes when we are playing a sport or reading a book we become so immersed in the task that we enter the state of flow, or we enter the zone. When we are on the field kicking a soccer ball, hours might pass by in minutes. For some time we let go of ourselves and get fully immersed in the moment. The activity becomes so enthralling that we forget everything unrelated to our activity and become focused on what we are doing.

The state we enter is the state of flow. In flow we lose ourselves in the moment. When we enter flow it feels like time has deformed. The state of flow has been well documented and studied in various people from doctors, artists, and even farmers.

Why should we enter flow?

Even though at some point in our lives we have entered flow, many of us still are unaware of the benefits of flow. Some benefits of flow are:

  • When we enter flow we feel more skilled and stronger. As a result, we emerge from flow as developed and more complex individuals.
  • Flow aligns our thoughts and feelings together. As a result, our self feels more aligned and we emerge as more integrated individuals
  • The most obvious benefit of flow is that we usually feel great when we emerge from flow. Whether we are immersed in a book or a game of chess, the feeling of flow the activity brings is great.

So the question arises…..

How do we enter flow?

There are 5 simple steps to enter flow while doing an activity:

  1. Pick the right activity
  2. Eliminate Distractions
  3. Structure the tasks
  4. Establish clear goals
  5. Establish a way to get immediate feedback

 

  1. Pick the right activity.

Although it would be great we could enter flow doing anytime we want, there are some conditions that must be met to enter flow.

To enter flow the task must be the right challenge level. It shouldn’t be too terribly hard that you feel you have no chance of completing the task. But the task should also not be so easy that it puts you to sleep. The right challenge level will keep you focused on the task and you also won’t feel demotivated by the task

Another condition to enter flow is that we must be intrinsically motivated complete the task. This means that we want to do the task because we like it and not solely because we have to do it.

  1. Eliminate Distractions.

This might be the most obvious tip to get into flow, but yes, you cannot get into flow reading a book while you’re phone is ringing from notifications. So if you are writing an essay or a blog post(In my case) you should try to eliminate all possible distractions that you can.

  1. Structure the task.

The reason why we can easily enter flow during games is because games are structured. In chess there are rules as to how the pieces can move and capture other pieces. In soccer there are rules as to where you can take the ball(can’t take the ball outside the field) and you can’t touch the ball with your hands unless you’re the goalkeeper.

Structured tasks like games make it easy to enter flow because it allows you to feel like you have some control over the activity and structure also makes it easier to understand and complete the activity. If there were no rules in sports or if we enforced no rules while studying (such as turning your phone off) then there would be too many unpredictable events that would happen and you would feel like your actions have no control over the activity. This makes it harder to focus and get immersed in the task because you never know what to expect. Therefore, structuring the task makes it substantially easier for you to focus on your task and enter flow.

You can structure your activities by establishing rules or guidelines as to how you will do your task. If you are trying to enter flow while studying, make sure you know exactly what you are specifically trying to study. It would also be useful to have all your textbooks or resources that you might need while doing homework, near you. It is also helpful to plan out how you will take your breaks, and how long they will be.

  1. Establish Clear goals

Before we actually start the activity we should break down the overall goal of completing the task into simpler goals. This means that we can break down the task of cleaning the room into making the bed, organizing closet etc.

Establishing simpler goals makes it easier for us to understand what we are actually doing and it also makes it easier for us to stay on task. For example completing a 20 question math problem set is a much simpler and clearer goal than “completing homework.”

  1. Establish a way to get clear feedback

Another condition to get into flow is that we must have immediate feedback of our performance on our task. When practicing shooting basketballs in a basket you have immediate feedback on your progress as you immediately see if the ball went inside or outside the basket.

 

Conclusion

Flow is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus.

There are 5 simple steps to enter flow while doing an activity:

  1. Pick the right activity
  2. Eliminate Distractions
  3. Structure the tasks
  4. Establish clear goals
  5. Establish a way to get immediate feedback

Try using these steps to get into flow and make your work more fun.

Read the book Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi to learn more about how to get into flow