What if you could spend a bigger portion of your day in maximum productivity?
Maybe you’ve heard of the “flow” state? Or, “being in the zone?” Or perhaps, if you’re a student of psychology, “peak experiences?”
In fact, I’m sure that you’ve experienced it yourself.
In those moments where you’re so absorbed in an activity that the world seems to melt away around you.
Sometimes it feels like time is slowing down.
Other times, time speeds up.
No matter what, you focus on the moment with ease…
Totally enraptured in whatever it is you’re doing…
And when you later look back on what you were doing, your performance and productivity during those moments were at their peak.
Not only that, this experience is often one that we try to go back to, over and over and over again.
Three really quick examples…
People often ask how I write these essays every day, that exceed 1,000 words, and get incredibly-consistent feedback that I strike nerves and help readers achieve breakthroughs in their thinking.
The short answer is flow state. I give myself an hour (sometimes less, like today). I pick a topic. And I riff.
I get in the zone, crank it out, and hit send.
By making it a habit and a practice, the performance is at a level that often even surprises me.
Another example? Sports. For me, specifically, hockey.
I ended up playing defense, from my first year of youth hockey.
On defense, I was often the only person between an oncoming forward, with the puck, and our goalie and goal.
In those moments, I’d flip around to skate backwards, facing the oncoming opponent. And my mind would go blank of thought, wide open to what was unfolding in front of me.
I’d hold my stick in one hand, waiting for the moment.
Then, a quick sweep of the stick later, the opponent’s play was broken up, the puck was free, and we were fighting for it. Since I was the one who knocked the puck away, often I grabbed it first and passed it to my teammates further up the ice.
It’s a moment I can feel even now, that created an instant flow state.
Last example: DJing. I DJed electronic music in college, where I mixed songs from one record to another in a seamless mix.
This required synchronizing the music, by matching the speed of the two records on two turntables. Plus, it required knowing your music well, so you could match one song to the next in a perfect flow.
When I’d really get going on a set — especially in front of a big club crowd — I’d drop into that flow state in the middle of my mix.
I wasn’t thinking about anything. I was just feeling exactly what I needed to do in that moment. And I was managing every little element of the mix, so songs swept from one into the next, and the crowd would go wild.
Getting into flow state will make you more productive, and your output will be better…
The second especially is about how to apply flow in a work environment, including how to structure your business to create work opportunities conducive to flow. So that you can maximize the success of your entire organization.
Of course, there’s a whole lot I could go into here, to talk about flow.
But I want to just give you a high-level overview of Csikszentmihalyi’s observations on flow, based on significant psychological research.
Here are the 8 elements of flow state, from science…
What you’ll notice as you go through the list is that it starts with the conditions of getting into flow. And then, as that happens, the elements transition more toward describing what happens.
- Clear goals and immediate feedback
First and foremost, if you want to go into flow, you need a finish line. You need a clear goal for what you’re doing. Not only that, you need immediate feedback regarding the effectiveness of your actions in the situation. This is maybe why sports and art are such consistent areas where flow is relevant. But as long as you have these two factors, you can find flow.
- Balance between the level of challenge and personal skill
Flow doesn’t happen when the work is too easy. It also doesn’t happen when the work is too hard. It happens when you find that sweet spot between working on things that challenge your ability, but that you can be successful at.
- Action and awareness are merged
As you approach the flow state, you stop thinking about what you’re doing, and you just do it. Yes, your brain is working. But it’s almost on autopilot, with your subconscious competencies directing your behavior so you’re really not having to consciously weigh your decisions.
- A high level of concentration on a limited field
With this, your focus narrows. You’re no longer focusing on the world around you. Yes, you could break focus at any time, and some part of you is still aware of what’s going on. But you’re focused “on the field of play” because that’s where the action is.
- A feeling of control
In this moment, you feel completely in charge of your behaviors. Not only that, you feel like you have control over the outcome. It’s not a false confidence. You simply see that you can take specific actions, and it will lead to specific results.
- An altered perception of time
With this, again, time can slow down, or it can speed up. Either way, it feels just right. It feels like time is passing as fast as you need it to, for the situation to go exactly as you want it to. But heck if you could tell if it’s been 30 seconds or 30 minutes.
- Self-consciousness disappears
You’re completely absorbed in the activity. It’s not that you’re not conscious. You’re extremely conscious. You’re just conscious of everything going on in the present moment. And things your ego or narrow sense of self normally are concerned with are of no concern to you — you don’t even think of them — in the moment.
- The experience is self-rewarding
Although you probably care, outside of the moment, the outcome of the experience (such as in a sports game), in the moment it’s really not about that. It’s about riding the flow state, working toward the goal, and acting with excellence. When you’re doing that, you’re on top of the world. For this reason, most of us spend most of our lives hoping to get into these moments, or reminiscing the times it happened.
Flow is the perfect state for creating breakthroughs…
I know that when I get on the phone with a client and start working through business challenges, when I hit a flow state, my best ideas start coming.
When I interviewed Perry Marshall for The Masters of Response Summit the other day, I asked him a question right at the end of the hour that opened him up… And he went REALLY DEEP for the next 20 minutes or so (our interview went 23 minutes over!), with mind-bending ideas and breakthroughs — coming from a place of flow — that you probably won’t hear any other marketer talking about today (but that’s part of what makes him one of my favorite business thinkers).
Flow is what you get when you’re in your Unique Ability (what Dan Sullivan calls it).
And when this happens, in a business context, you’ll be maximally productive. Not just in terms of output. But in terms of breakthrough results.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,
PS: If you’re not already signed up for The Masters of Response Summit and your 24-hour pass, the clock is ticking! Tomorrow morning, I’ll be opening up access to everyone who has signed up at that link.
If you’d like EARLY and ONGOING access to the 10+1 interviews, you get that on the inside of BTMSinsiders.