After researching the science behind “flow”, I found nobody distilled all the different research into a simple strategy that could help us get into and leverage this state for work.
Since I knew this skill was vital to much of my success personally and professionally, I knew people needed a simple way to clarify and organize all the information they needed to get into a flow state.
So I took it upon myself to figure it out.
I asked myself, how can I put together a way to get into the flow using all the theory and research in a one-page document? That way, people can figure out in 20 minutes or less what they need to do to get into a flow.
I leveraged my experience in business planning and used the lean canvas as a design constraint, to condense all the information down into a concise one-page tool called the Flow State Canvas.
I highly recommend you download it now and fill it out as I dissect each and every part of the canvas article for you.
Set Clear and Immediate Goals With Feedback Loops
The best goals to make for yourself in a flow state are small.
Small goals are intrinsically clear and provide faster immediate rewards or feedback. So you need to break down your goals into quarterly rocks, then break down your rocks further into your weekly to-do list.
You’ll set yourself up for success to accomplish more small goals within your flow state, build the momentum you need to gain traction and create a positive, tight feedback loop that keeps you coming back to flow for more.
Action Item: Fill out the “Goals” box on the canvas. What are your quarterly rocks? Create weekly goals from your quarterly rocks.
Flow state is a cycle, and to maximize your time in flow, you have to honor all of its components.
A well-rounded recovery (a balance of mental, physical, and social wellness) involves all the following:
- Nutrition and hydration
- Sleep: 7 hours minimum
- Social support: family, friends, and community
And one of the following:
- Practice Gratitude: 5 minutes a day
- Meditation and breathing exercises: 11 minutes a day
- Exercise: 20 to 40 minutes a day
Recovery is vital to maintaining your energy levels in a flow state; thus, every flow starts and ends with recovery.
Action Item: Fill out the “Recovery” box on the canvas. What’s your routine for sleep, nutrition, and social support? Will you do daily gratitude practices, meditation, or exercise?
Before you get into any flow state, you have to struggle or complete a task that’s not too easy or too hard.
Without the struggle or small challenge, you won’t get into what Mihaly called the Flow Channel, a space defined by challenging yourself by at least 4% every day to encourage a little struggle, and thus trigger flow.
Action Item: Fill out the “Struggle” box on the canvas. What’s your 4% plan? How will you incrementally challenge yourself every day?
After your flow state, you have to give yourself a release. In other words, step away from your work to take a walk, stretch, or grab some food.
The release helps trigger alpha brain waves, which will help your brain momentarily rest and relax (which stimulates creative problem solving), so when you come back, you can re-trigger another flow state without feeling zapped.
Action Item: Fill out the “release” box on the canvas. What releases will help you get back on track?
We have a finite amount of energy, which means if we don’t recover or release well, we’re going to have issues trying to get into a flow state.
We have to take care of our energy in every way we can, plus preserve it by stopping leaks that are draining.
Unresolved conflicts, or issues with no closure, are the biggest leaks of all.
These conflicts not only steal your energy but also hoard mental space and awareness.
Identify the unresolved conflicts that need resolution. Maybe you can resolve them with the person, great. If you can’t, that’s OK. You can resolve the conflict within yourself with a burning ritual.
Action Item: Fill out “Unresolved Conflicts” on the canvas. What unresolved conflicts are causing leaks? How do you plan on resolving them?
People can also steal your energy, so you have to ask yourself if the people in your circle are:
- Givers: The people that help you because they want to.
- Matchers: The people that look for something in return.
- Takers: The people that only take.
Takers are your biggest problem because they require a tremendous energy output without receiving any energy in return.
Deciding whether to cut the takers out of your life can be tricky.
Some of them may be your family or best friends, people you don’t want to write off quickly. So ask yourself these questions in this order:
- Are they taking temporarily or permanently? If it’s temporary, then handle it for a little and be a good friend. But if they are going through a constant crisis, then ask yourself the next question.
- Are they family? If they’re family, then ask yourself the next question.
- Can you tolerate it? If you can, then great. If not, then it’s time to be done and let go.
By following this flow chart, you’ll be able to systematically look at how much energy you give to people versus how much you should be giving them, and make the necessary reallocation.
Action Item: Fill out “People” on the canvas. Who drains your energy, and how can you reallocate your energy to the givers in your life?
Marie Kondo killed it with her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and her Netflix series “Tidying Up With Marie Kondo.”
The point is, things that don’t bring us joy drain our energy. The more junk we have, the more energy we lose.
I highly recommend not only tidying up your things Marie Kondo style but to also keep your desk tidy. That way, you don’t leak energy around your office and reduce distractions while working.
Action Item: Fill out “Things” on the canvas. What areas in your house are cluttered? What things can you start to let go of? What are the essentials you need on your desk, and what can get moved?
To stay in flow state, you must develop strong concentration skills. There are many ways to build your concentration skills with meditation being my personal favorite.
Concentration, or focus over a prolonged time, is the most fundamental skill to internalize and build intuition. Yet, many of us are not taught how to concentrate as kids, so we struggle with it as adults too. However, you can train your concentration, and one of the best ways is through a meditation practice.
Related: My FREE Guided Meditation
In fact, you can train around two different types of concentration:
- Hard Zone: You’re concentrating, but no one can disturb you, or you’ll break focus.
- Soft Zone: You’re in a concentrated state, no matter what’s happening in the world around you.
Ideally, you want to train for soft zone concentration and not let the outside world disturb or distract you. The best way to encourage and lean into your concentration is to block out a specific part of the day to focus and get the most important thing done first in this optimal time.
Action Item: Fill out “Skills” on the canvas. What skills do you need to internalize and build intuition?
In part I of this series, “What is Flow State?”, I talked about Dan Pink’s intrinsic motivators and how vital they are for flow. To trigger a flow state, you need all three motivators working for you:
Autonomy asks, do you have the ability to direct your own life and work? Are you in a position to choose how you work, and do you work with a team that encourages your independence and individuality?
Action Item: Fill out “Autonomy” on the canvas. How are you practicing autonomy in your work?
Mastery is, are you able to get better? Is your position helping you learn more and become masterful?
If you’re not, then you’re probably bored with work, and without the challenge, push, or struggle that’s involved in mastery, you can’t get into the flow channel.
Action Item: Fill out “Mastery” on the canvas. What skills are you trying to master for work?
Is your work aligned with a bigger purpose?
Your purpose drives passion and is one of the most crucial elements to help you internalize all the needed skills (including flow state), so you can fulfill that purpose.
For example, at my company Flow Marketing, our bigger purpose is to help provide apprenticeships for low-income youth through a for-profit model that offers marketing services. Our purpose drives us to get into a team flow so we can create a bigger impact faster.
The bottom line is if you don’t have a higher purpose, getting in a flow will always be hard because you’ll ask yourself, “Why am I doing this?”
Action Item: Fill out “Purpose” on the canvas. What’s your bigger purpose? Are your work and purpose aligned?
Flow State Routine
Your routine will be the way you help trigger and get into the flow state every day. Routines are useful to create so that you’re able to get into flow state at any time with just a mere thought.
In fact, I’ve outlined a specific way you can trigger flow state whenever you want, and I’m releasing it shortly after this article, so watch out for it in your feeds and inboxes.
Action Item: Fill out “Flow State Routine” on the canvas. What moment can you turn into a daily routine, and how will you start to slowly condense the routine?
Flow State Percent
One of the most important metrics is to measure what percent of your time you’re actually working in flow state.
Knowing that your productivity is 5x greater in flow, you’ll want to keep an eye on how long you’re actually getting into flow.
Action Item: Fill out “Flow State Percent” on the canvas. How long do you want to stay in flow state?
Learn How to Stay in Flow State Longer
If you didn’t follow along and fill out the canvas as you were reading, take a moment to do so now.
Download the Flow State Canvas and answer the short prompts.
If you have any questions or need further clarification, drop me a line or send me an email. I’m here to help you figure out exactly what you need to trigger this amazing tool that will help you boost your productivity 500%
Once you know exactly how you’ll get yourself in a flow for work, you need to learn the strategies to keep you there longer and create an energy cycle that will help you maximize its efficiency.
Stay tuned for the next articles in the series, “The 4% Golden Rule to Help You Stay in Flow State,” and “The Energy Cycle to Maximize Flow State.”