When you dive into an activity so deeply that your sense of time and place float away, that’s flow state. When you are in flow, your movement, thoughts, and output feel almost effortless. You experience a state of deep concentration where worries and stray thoughts can’t slip though. It’s a relaxed, energetic, and happy place inside your mind. Flow state is meditative without being meditation, exactly.

Benefits of Flow State

  • You’ll feel relaxed. The focussed flow state is deeply calming and worries recede.
  • You’ll get sh*t done. Flow state creates a route to productive output.
  • You’ll do your work better. An undistracted mind finds connections and higher levels of whatever you are doing
  • You’ll get unstuck. Insights and clarity float to the surface helping to overcome hurdles.
  • You’ll cure a headache. Refocussing attention and concentration helps to reduce physical pain.
  • You’ll feel energised. When you end your flow state, you will be refreshed and happy with a big sense of accomplishment.

How to Get into Flow

I try to get into a flow state every day and there are many ways to do it. Here are some tips that work for me most of the time.

  1. Remove obvious distractions. Put your phone away or turn off notifications. Get away from other people, if you can. Don’t let the cats into the studio. Be sure you have a long block of time without meetings or other commitments.
  2. Create a comfortable environment. That might mean playing music or finding an ergonomic chair, or making sure you are suitably dressed for your activity. Your physical environment will fade away, so make sure it’s good to start.
  3. Choose an activity that you can focus on for an unlimited amount of time. Writing, dancing, walking, programming, knitting, playing guitar, or may I suggest drawing?
  4. Visualise yourself in flow state. If you’ve experienced flow before, try to call up the memory of the feeling.
  5. Commit to a minimum amount of time. For example, tell yourself that you will walk for “at least 15 minutes.” This is a good trick for when you think you are too busy to flow. Don’t set an alarm, but let yourself have access to a clock. If you notice the time limit arrive, you can stop. I think that if you are still aware of time at that point, then you aren’t in the flow state so don’t force it. If you don’t notice time passing, just keep going.
  6. Set an alarm for a maximum amount of time. I have been in flow so deeply from morning through the afternoon that the sun set before I realised I needed to eat and use the toilet. Setting a maximum alarm ensures you won’t miss the next thing on your schedule, including your next meal.
  7. Don’t beat yourself up (or snap at anyone) if you get distracted. Deal with the distraction or ignore it and get back to your focussed state if you can.
  8. When it’s over, reflect. All good things come to an end. When you drop out of flow, take a minute or two to savor what you’ve just done. Smile, feel the happy relaxation, and gather yourself together for whatever comes next in your day.

I’m pretty good at reaching a flow state, but I’m not always successful. Flow can can be elusive when I have lots of things going on at once and deadline pressures. If you try the hints above but can’t get focussed, stop to take care of whatever is popping up, knocking at your door, or troubling your mind. Then try again later or another day. It’s really worth the effort to go with the flow in this way.

Further Reading

3 Surprising Benefits of Flow State. Forbes https://www.forbes.com/sites/bryancollinseurope/2020/03/31/3-surprising-benefits-of-flow-state/
What It Means to Be in a Flow State. Headspace https://www.headspace.com/articles/flow-state
They Psychology of Flow. Verywell Mind https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-flow-2794768
Benefits of Flow. Positive Psycholopedia. https://positivepsychlopedia.com/year-of-happy/benefits-of-flow/