Flow State is an almost-mythic state of superhuman performance and focus
Experts claim that, in a Flow State, people can produce their very best work, and see creative insights that would otherwise not occur to them.
Furthermore, some can achieve extreme focus for hours on end, and even to enjoy a feeling of euphoria!
But Flow State is no myth.
The Flow State is a very real psychological phenomenon that has been written about by countless psychologists and neuroscientists.
Probably the best book on this topic in recent years is Deep Work by Cal Newport
Cal’s book is over 300 pages long, and goes deep into a series of strategies, philosophies, disciplines, and techniques you can use to sharpen your focus and dive deep into your work.
Sounds very complex and involved doesn’t it.
But Flow State it is something that anyone can tap into if they want to get more work done and produce a higher standard of output.
So instead of suggesting you plough your way through 300 pages, here’s my 5 minute guide to how you can achieve Flow State as a solopreneur.
Learning to Flow
There are countless tips out there for getting into Flow States.
Suggestions vary from such things as filing your room with stimulating materials, to taking a precise cocktails of supplements like caffeine and l-theanine.
In truth though, there is nothing truly magical about the Flow State.
The Flow State simply occurs when all other brain chatter falls away.
This is something that anyone can achieve, but like any new skill it takes time to master.
Nobody can sit down and find themselves in an immediate state of perfect focus!
So, you need to train yourself.
A good starting target is to achieve Flow State for 40 minutes.
If you can follow the following five steps you are already on your way.
- Set a timer for 40 minutes.
- Sit down somewhere comfortable with no distractions.
- Begin a mental task. (reading, writing, a crossword, maths or logic puzzle etc..).
- Don’t stop the task until the timer goes off.
- Congratulate yourself and then take a complete break for 10 minutes.
It is tempting to feel distracted during the first 30 minutes.
Some people attempt to work and then stop after a few minutes because they assume Flow State going to feel different and it doesn’t.
Others think it won’t hurt to take a 2 minute break in the middle.
But to achieve Flow State you must push thorough any initial resistance and force yourself to only focus on the matter at hand.
The more times you can do this for 40 minutes, your brain will eventually get the hint.
With time and practice, Flow State starts to come more quickly and easily.
So consider this a skill to develop, rather than a magical state to somehow “stumble upon.”
Remove the Distractions
As mentioned above, one important pre-requisite of achieving Flow State is to remove any possible distractions.
- Move to a different work area if necessary.
- Face a wall, not a window.
- Put a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door.
- Turn off your phone (or set it to Focus Mode)
- Do one task at a time.
- If using a computer, close down any applications not needed for the task.
- If possible, disconnect from the internet to prevent notifications.
Now you should be ready to begin a deep focus on the task before you, and achieve Flow State.
Finding the Right Type of Work
With that said, the right type of work will make it much easier to get into a flow state.
For example, video editing and coding are much easier to get stuck into because the result of good work provides an instant feedback loop.
Achieving Flow State and seeing immediate success provides your brain with a dopamine hit that makes it easier to focus.
You can achieve Flow State with other types of work by finding ways to create landmarks and rewards.
Here are some examples to try:
- Read a book until you reach the end of a chapter.
- Transcribe a complete interview without a break.
- Write an article of 1000 words.
- Balance your business accounts against your bank statement.
Most important of all though, find ways to make the work itself rewarding and engaging.
Find ways to make each task rewarding.
Ideally, this means working on things that you find exciting and for which you have a true passion.
Thankfully, this is easier for the solopreneur than it is for anyone else.
After all solopreneurs get to design their own business and choose the work they want to do.
But sometimes there will still be work that you need to do that is going to be less than thrilling.
Your job then is to find ways to make it thrilling.
For example; if you need to write 5,000 words on a topic that you don’t find interesting, make it easier for yourself to stay focussed by finding your own interesting angle on that subject.
Is there a way that you can relate to what you’re writing?
Is there a way to tie it into another topic that you find more exciting?
Likewise, setting your computer to an interesting font, strange though this may sound, can also make a big difference.
Now make sure to watch the word count carefully so that you can see your own progress, and find small ways to reward yourself as you reach certain points.
Building Up Your Flow
Once you have trained your brain to focus on a task for 40 minutes, start increasing the period of focus.
Many people like to work in hours – 50 minutes of flow, followed by 10 minutes break.
If the work you are doing is particularly involved, an hour may be too short.
Coding is an example of this.
I find it can take me 15 minutes or more to “think my way in” to a particularly tricky coding problem.
Once I am in that Flow State, and can see all aspects of a coding problem, I like to stay that way until the code is complete.
Depending on the complexity, this could take several hours.
Follow this Flow State with a complete break.
Move to a different room, make a drink, look out of the window.
Once the break time is over you will be refreshed and ready to dive back in again.
The important thing is to find a Flow State & Rest pattern which is best for you and the work you are doing.