When I was younger, I always used to have trouble focusing. Every time I tried to get work done I would immediately notice something in my surroundings and get distracted.
Nowadays, smartphones make this problem even worse. It seems like every time I start getting into my work, I immediately lose concentration because of a notification or text message.
Most of my friends have this problem as well. We all know that if we focus we can get serious work done, but it’s extremely difficult to work for extended periods of time in the current era.
However, over the summer, I discovered “The Flow State,” which is the term psychologists ascribe to the feeling of deep concentration that allows you to break free of distractions and maximize productivity.
The term “flow state” was originally coined by Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. The term was used to describe the feeling that many people have when they are fully immersed in their current task.
Flow is characterized by complete involvement; this often means that you lose track of time and are able to make a great deal of progress on whatever you’re working on. When in flow, you maintain extreme focus and have a feeling of deep clarity.
When I’m in flow, I lose all of my worries and internal distractions. One key aspect of flow is that you don’t want to stop working, because the process itself feels so rewarding and productive.
A few months ago, I had never heard of the term “flow.” I would accidentally fall into it, often attributing it’s appearance to pure chance. However, I’ve recently realized that it’s completely possible to use external triggers to induce flow, and that anyone can do it.
Because 80-90% of deep work takes place in flow, the best way to get more stuff done is to learn exactly how to initiate flow and extend it for as long as possible.
The most important thing you can do to enhance the flow state is removing all distractions from your work area.
While in flow, you aren’t bothered by your own thoughts, but not even flow can protect against a constantly buzzing smartphone. For most people, the first key step is to remove their phone from their workspace.
In the past, I would leave my phone on my desk when studying; the fact that I could see it in my peripheral vision was often enough to break my concentration, so I quickly realized that I had to get rid of it.
You should also try to clean up your workspace and remove anything that is non-essential.
Another thing that has helped me induce flow has been listening to a very specific playlist of my favorite film scores every time I want to get serious work done.
Because I only listen to this when in deep work, I’ve started to subconsciously associate it with extreme focus which helps me stay in that state for longer.
One key technique that helps jumpstart flow is introducing something novel to your work session. For me, this usually means I make a cup of coffee or tea.
Some other things you could do are move to another work area, or change up your process in some way.
Flow doesn’t last forever. After a while, I will start to lose focus and distract myself. I use this as a prompt to take a study break.
Because my flow states vary in intensity and length, I don’t usually like to set study timers or schedule specific breaks. It’s vital that you don’t break flow, and I’ve found that these often do so when they go off during my work session.
Rather, I listen to my feelings, and I’ll only stop working when I start to feel uncomfortable.
Hopefully you can use these techniques to create flow and get some serious work done.
Have a great week,
This week, I listened to an interview with Tim Ferriss and astronaut Scott Kelly. They discuss space, difficult choices, and the importance of trust in scientific institutions. I really enjoyed this conversation, so I'd recommend you listen to it.
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"Wind extinguishes a candle and energizes fire." - Nassim Taleb, Antifragile
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