Has there ever been a time when you were doing something and you completely lost track of time? You may have forgotten to eat dinner, check the clock, or even go to the bathroom. Did you have a complete focus of what you were doing, and it seemed like everything around you was nonexistent during that time?
This is called flow. In terms of positive psychology, flow refers to a state of intense concentration with the present moment.
Being in a state of flow has many benefits. It is fulfilling and enjoyable, and this feeling is generally long-lasting. It provides a natural “high” that is productive, easily controlled, and positive. The experience itself is void of shame, guilt, harm, and damage.
Flow is also intrinsically rewarding, but as you become more skilled in the activity, you will need to become more challenged in order to stay in a state of flow. If the task is too challenging it can lead to anxiety and overwhelm. If a task is not challenging enough, it can lead to boredom.
One way to overcome this adaptation is to escalate your goals and continue sharpening your skills. The focus should be on the activity itself, and not the end result.
Here are 7 ways to find your focus and increase your flow.
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1. Define Your Skills
What are you inherently talented at? Is it remembering all of the words to every Drake song, typing 100 words a minute, painting, drawing, jump roping, waterboarding, designing clothes, etc? Think of every little thing and write it down. You don’t have to be the best at it, you just have to be good enough to enjoy the process to be able to increase your flow. Take the VIA Character Strengths test for more insight. It’s completely free.
2. Work With Focus
Personally, I have this weird talent where I can remember everyone’s birthday.
This pretty meaningless skill is something I have had since I was in primary school. I believe it is a result of being a visual learner and enjoying numbers and math. When I see a date on my calendar or phone, I try to think of a person or specific event because I have learned how to associate these dates with the people in my life.
Whatever your skills are, you don’t have to be the greatest in the world to experience a sharp focus and flow. Start with something small and work on it. Build up more talent and create challenges for yourself. If you enjoy writing, start with journaling a page a day about any topic a day. If you like to cook, make something without following a recipe and see how it works out. Practice, practice, practice.
3. Be Open to New Ideas
The biggest challenge can be starting something new. Think about what you wish you were better at and try it. Write down a list of activities you can pick from. Remember, everyone starts as a beginner so enjoy yourself and don’t worry about anyone else!
Ideas To Get You Started:
- Creative Writing
4. Be a Lifelong Learner
Children are a great example of how to increase your flow. They become easily consumed with learning (which is awesome!). They ask a lot of questions, and they practice trial and error. Be more like a child, and learn all that you possibly can. By being a lifelong learner you will always continue to grow. You will be able to use your wealth of knowledge to create something that has never been created before, even if it is a greater life for yourself.
5. Be Attentive
Perception is a reality, and we perceive that which has our attention. Focus and flow require controlled attention. It is important to gain control of your consciousness because this is how you will manage your experience. This is pretty difficult to do, but with practice, it is totally possible, and you will be better for it.
6. Spice Up Daily Routines
How much of your life are you spending in LaLa land? Sitting in traffic, a boring meeting, brushing your teeth… how much of this are you completely aware of and how much are you doing on autopilot? You have the ability to transform these routines into microflow activities.
Every morning I wake up and get ready for work. For most days, I am up before my husband. Using a little creativity I made my morning routine a microflow activity by getting ready in the dark.
This is how I am challenging myself. I need to be aware of my surroundings only using my other 4 senses. It requires remembering if I left anything on the floor, where the doorknobs are, and exactly what my articles of clothing feel like.
It’ silly, fun, engaging, and brings me right to the present. I am focused.
Using your own creative mind, think of how you can make your boring daily routines into fun challenges.
7. Find Flow in Conversations
Whether you are more of a talker or a listener, flow is a healthy state to be in during a conversation. People want to know they are being heard, and by having your full attention on what is being said you can have better responses. Pay attention to the other person and give them enough time to keep speaking between pauses.
What do you think the person feeling? What could you ask them in response? This can be hard to do at first, but just as everything else is learned, practice practice, practice!
Related: How To Make Friends As An Introvert
Flow is a state of mind that takes practice. It is a balance between your skills and the level of challenge. Practicing flow will help you to find focus in your work and inevitably your life.
However, focus is a double-edged sword. It is pleasing and intrinsically rewarding, but remember what is important. Don’t let your responsibilities slip away because you are too absorbed in your flow. Flow should be used to become more productive, enjoy your time, and develop new skills.