What you don't know about the flow state of work

It’s when you’re at your deepest, most productive level of concentration, but the flow state is increasingly difficult to get into.
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Beyond the obvious tech distractions and push notifications – including those from productivity software itself – working from home has also thrown a real spanner in the works. 

‘For almost no-one is it their “job” to answer emails and attend meetings – they are meant to be tools that we sometimes employ to do our jobs,’ says Alicia Navarro, the founder of deep work platform FLOWN. ‘When we invert this, we can build our day and environment around creating significant work products.’ 

Alicia continues: ‘We not only accomplish so much more in our work, but the sense of pride, satisfaction and even joy that emanates from a day well spent infiltrates beyond our work lives and makes us feel like our best selves.’

At FLOWN, the psychology of deep work is combined with physical settings that inspire concentration – it’s like an Airbnb for good working spots. The physical setting is just as important in getting into a flow of work, as Alicia has found in her own professional life. ‘The technique I’ve been using for years is to actually get away for a few days. I pack my car up with my monitor, cables, lumbar support and my puppy, and I stay in beautiful remote locations. I can spend time not only working but also walking in the woods and journaling.’

But, given that this isn’t achievable for everybody on a regular basis, Alicia adds that trying to achieve a flow state in the current climate requires more effort than people think. ‘Unfortunately, most of us just don’t get the practice in when it comes to getting to a flow state. We need to constantly practice a language if we want to speak it fluently.’

So what can you do beyond putting your phone on do not disturb, and how can we sustainably keep coming into a flow state of work? Here are some techniques to help you achieve a flow that’s not just productive, but that will draw out a higher quality of work.

Find the right level of challenge. Not everything requires a state of flow – daily admin or responding to emails certainly doesn’t. Because flow is difficult to get into, save it for the tasks that need your fullest, undivided attention

Work in chunks. A flow state doesn’t – and shouldn’t – last for hours on end. That defeats the purpose. Instead, aim for multiple flow states by breaking the day up into chunks of work, punctuated by short breaks.

Inform your team. It’s part of setting healthy boundaries in the workplace to let people know when you don’t want to be disturbed. Block time out for yourself in your calendar so that no meetings are slotted in without your permission. 

Contain your meetings. And speaking of meetings, their number has gone up exponentially this past year. Try putting all your meetings either in the morning or in the afternoon. That frees up the other half of the day for flow work.  

Know the roots of procrastination. When we procrastinate, we often blame ourselves for not being good enough. We can reframe this by thinking about the task – what is it about it that we don’t want to do? Can it be delegated, outsourced, or just done another way?

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