Be it games, writing, studying or working, we all want to get in the state of flow. That’s when we enjoy ourselves, the task seems effortless and everything just flows naturally—hence the term. There are many ways people use to get in that state, such as exercise, meditation or blocking distractions. But the feeling can be short lived if we don’t come up with ways to keep the flame alive.
Many say the hardest part of a task is getting started. That is not the case for me. I’m really good at starting things, but I need help with the motivation to keep going. That is why I decided to list some of the methods I have personally found useful in keeping up the state of flow.
Set up metrics and goals
What ever it is we are planning to take on, we can make it into a game. There are always ways we can measure our performance and make the task more interesting with goals. Games do this all the time. There are metrics like win/lose ratio, amount of enemies defeated, timers etc.
Good metrics drive us to perform better, help us keep our heads in the game and are actionable. Generally metrics should be tied to the goal you want to achieve. If you are having hard time coming up with metrics, think about what you actually do throughout the day and list and time all the activities. Next, think about what you would like to improve. Is it to spend less time on something that takes the most of your day? Or is that actually something you want to spend even more time on?
One way to set up and test your goals is the SMART framework. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound. It’s used by both companies and individuals to ensure your goals are actually relevant.
If you want to keep yourself in the state of flow it is best to be prepared. The least you can do is prepare for the obvious that will happen when you start killing it. You will get thirsty, so have a bottle of water next to you. You will get hungry, so prepare your meal in advance. You might need to take notes, so have your favourite note-taking app or—if you are more old-fashioned—a notebook and pen with you.
What I’ve noticed to be especially powerful is to prepare the time before the actual task as well. To get a flying start for the day, I prepare everything in advance in the evening. I highly recommend you give it a try. My girlfriend is really sleepy in the mornings and I like to wake up early, and both of us get more done when we do this. Set up your clothes on a back of a chair for the next day. Prepare your breakfast so that it’s just the matter of pushing some buttons and pouring liquids in glasses (which are preferably already on the table). It’s guaranteed to save you time and make your mornings more enjoyable. The feeling carries for what’s to come!
Make a plan
Having a plan is always a good idea, even if it’s just for one day. That’s how you can visualise what the day will be like, and always know what to do next. Without a plan you will have downtimes when you are left pondering what should be done next.
The thing about plans is that they change. And they should change. There are always unknowns we did not take into account, but we have to be ready to adapt. Sometimes you notice you are doing the wrong thing altogether, and should be putting your time into something else to do better. That’s perfectly fine. It does not have to interrupt you flow. Just make a rough plan and be ready to change it. For me the best time to formulate the plan for the next day is the last 10 to 15 minutes of this workday. That’s when you remember everything you were working on and need to pick up the next day.
Everyone knows eating healthy is good for the body. Guess what? The effect on your productivity is immense as well. Nutrients such as folate, omega-3 and different vitamins are shown to increase your productivity levels. As you might have guessed, fast foods have the complete opposite effect. There is no magic diet that would fit everyone, but for me, a plant-based diet seems to work the best.
Getting back to point 2, you can prepare your meals in advance to keep interruptions to minimum. If you don’t have the time to prepare you can always go for meal shakes like Ambronite. There are alternatives, but Ambronite is the one I’ve been drinking and I know it has all the nutrients I need. It keeps me nourished for surprisingly long as well, and I can keep my flow almost uninterrupted. Before going down this road you will need to research what you will be drinking, so it won’t be counter-productive. If you would like to try out Ambronite, you can enter the code loadlastsave at check-out for a nice 25% off your order.
Divide your time into blocks
Our attention spans vary depending on the task and personality. Most research estimates it’s somewhere between 10 and 20 minutes. Certainly less than a lecture in high school or a board meeting. That is why it is beneficial to divide that 8 hour grind into small blocks.
A technique I use is called Pomodoro. You have probably heard of it, but here’s a short recap. You divide the time you focus on tasks into blocks the length of your choice (I use 20 minutes). Between each block you take a short break (5 minutes for me). After completing 4 blocks or “Pomodoros”, you take a longer break (15 to 30 minutes). There are apps you can use to implement the technique, or you can just use an egg timer if you feel like it.
The beauty of the Pomodoro technique is that you get so much more done besides the main task. If you work from home, for example, you can do some housework or exercise in between the Pomodoros. My experience is you will very likely get more done on what ever you are working on as well.
All of the techniques I talked about aim to optimise the use of time and make you feel good. That being said, we are all different and have our personal preferences. That means you will need to experiment what works for you and what does not. Hopefully you got something out of the list. Do you think I missed an important point? I’m always looking to improve my workflow, so if you have a suggestion, please share it in the comments or on Twitter!