Tips & Insights — 16 February 2018

Getting more real work done by getting in flow

getting in flow

What if we told you that you could raise the effectiveness of your team by as much as 40%? And then what if we told you it came down to a few simple things that were totally in your control? And finally, what if we told you it will only take a few minutes each day to make it happen? You’d say we were crazy most likely, but it’s totally possible. It’s all about getting in flow.

Flow is characterised by Headspace, a digital service that provides guided meditation sessions and mindfulness training, as:

  • Intense undivided focus
  • The merging of action and awareness. Actions become effortless, senses are heightened and feedback about how you are doing is available immediately
  • The settling down of the ego and feeling uninhibited, somehow going beyond ourselves
  • A sense of personal control and a feeling that we have the potential to succeed
  • The distortion of time – slowing down in the moment and yet flying by in retrospect
  • Pure enjoyment of the activity

According to Olympic champion canoeist and Headspace user, Etienne Stott MBE, getting in flow feels like, “…a great sense of power, freedom and expression. Like everything within me is coming out to make my boat go fast. I am completely focused on what I’m doing. It feels like I can do anything, or maybe more accurately, I can deal with anything and something good come from it.”

Does that sound familiar? It happens from time to time in business meetings when ideas are passed back and forth, evolving and blossoming into new strategies. That inspired feeling you get that what you’re doing is going to make a difference. At Dropbox we believe that getting into flow is the perfect way to fuel your creative energy, finding a way to channel your time and enthusiasm into solving challenges and focusing on the work that truly matters.

Psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi says that we are often at our happiest when in flow. This is because we are so absorbed in the task at hand that we simply don’t have any attention left over to be distracted by our monkey mind or worry about things beyond our control.

This is a good thing, since multitasking causes mental overload and the constant switching from task to task causes us to lose time. This flip-flopping between objectives takes a huge toll on productivity too as research says: “Brief mental blocks created by shifting between tasks can cost as much as 40% of someone’s productive time.”

That’s right, flicking between screens, checking email, answering text messages, or looking at your social media can account for as much as 40% (if not more) of productive time every day. According to Headspace and the science community, “Trouble crops up when the switching creates conflict within our environment and places demands on our productivity and safety. Whether that’s checking email for a few minutes while trying to analyse sales reports or chatting on your mobile phone while driving.” Being in flow minimises this switching by eliminating distractions.

Workplace distractions can threaten to derail even the most fervent planner. So, what can you do to help block out the background, zero in on the foreground and get in flow?

Headspace offers its users a few top tips:

  1. Choose an activity / task that you love and find a goal related to it that you’re motivated by
  2. Think about what can act as immediate feedback
  3. Before you start, take three deep, centring breaths and focus attention in the present
  4. Go about your activity / task with determined focus
  5. Understand that its natural for the mind to wander
  6. Switch off anything that you don’t need and close any applications that could distract you

Getting in flow makes you more effective and more focused, and all it takes to find your flow state is a few simple actions. So, next time you’re staring down the barrel of a deadline or simply want to power through some important work, take a few deep breaths, focus on your goal and kick into flow.

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timing and exact functionality of these features may change from what's shared here. The decision to
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