Flow states - How to master the art of absolute concentration
In the flow state, we lose track of time and are fully immersed in the activity at hand. You've probably experienced getting so caught up in one of your favorite activities that you completely forgot about time and felt great afterward. The goal is to create this state of flow as often as possible while working, to be more efficient and enjoy the activity at the same time.
How to get into a flow state?
Shaffer, who introduced the theory of flow in psychology in 2013, described several conditions for inducing it. The essential condition is that the activity must be a demanding but manageable challenge, where we see immediate results, and no one interrupts us.
We need the challenge because otherwise, we would soon become bored. But we can't take too big a bite at once, because after a while we would get frustrated and give up. Instant results produce dopamine and stimulate the reward center in the brain, which is why we enjoy them so much. The absence of distractions is also very important, allowing full concentration for longer periods.
How to use flow states for work and learning?
• Make your task a challenge. Set a higher goal, sign up for a course - anything that challenges you. Not sure how? Ask a supervisor or professor for a more challenging assignment. You're sure to get a positive response.
• If, on the other hand, the assignment is too hard and you're going around in circles hopelessly, seek help. Either from a more experienced colleague or classmate, or the trusty Uncle Google. New information or a different perspective can help you overcome hindrances and stay in a state of flow.
• If an activity is a challenge and I know how to deal with it, but I don't understand its purpose, I won't stay with it for long. We need to see meaningful results. As I write this article, I can immediately see the words coming in, I know what the goal is, and I can evaluate in real-time how I'm doing.
The last and very common stumbling block is distractions. Today's age of incessant notifications and open-space offices is a breeding ground for various distractions. We can't do without clear rules for working or learning. We recommend scheduling time for flow states (undistracted work) in advance and notifying your environment so they don't try to reach you at that time. Activating the "do not disturb" mode on your phone helps a lot.
„If you are interested in something, you will focus on it, and if you focus attention on anything, you will likely become interested in it. Many of the things we find interesting are not so by nature, but because we took the trouble of paying attention to them.“
― Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement with Everyday Life