What does being in the flow mean?
You know those times when everything you do seems effortless? Somehow, everything you’re working on connects and seems logical, all the pieces fall into place. Being in the flow is when mind and body work together in harmony and clarity of thinking makes tasks seem simple. It is a great place to be and often we find ourselves in the flow almost by accident. When you are in the flow it is as if you have an effortless connection to your environment. Sometimes it happens spontaneously such as when you are driving on the motorway; the music on the radio soothes you; the road is relatively clear and you are in the rhythm of driving at a comfortable speed in good conditions.
The efficiency of being in the flow means that surely it is a state to aspire to? Wouldn’t it be great if most of your life you felt that way? The bad news is that we often live such stressed lives that being in the flow is a rare occurrence. The good news is; it doesn’t have to be that way. Being in the flow is a state we can learn to cultivate and thus improve both our personal and our working lives.
I find that if I allocate times of the week when I do certain tasks as a matter of routine that I can create a sense of being in the flow. In my case, I always do my accounts on a Friday. This is not a task that I am particularly excited by- it is a necessary part of business. However, by allocating a specific time to do this I create a sense of purpose for that time and I establish a known routine. Once the accounts are completed I experience a sense of satisfaction and completeness. It is generally a good idea to select a fixed time to do certain aspects of your business, especially the ones you don’t like doing. It is only human to put off unpleasant tasks but the problem then is they become insurmountable obstacles. Procrastination in this case will lead to stress. Far better to set aside a specific time, create a focused working atmosphere and just do it.
Our brain waves tend to spike when we are stressed and whilst our fight or flight instinct is useful in times of crisis it is not a healthy state otherwise. An alternative reaction is to freeze as there is nobody to actually fight and nowhere to run to. When we freeze our minds cloud over and thinking clearly becomes a struggle.
When you are in the flow your brain waves are rhythmically efficient, moving steadily through the activity you are completing. A way to trick your brain into this is to complete a repetitive physical task. It is why so many people do regular exercise, not just for the physical benefits, it also soothes the mind. I find myself in this place when I do culinary tasks such as preparing fresh runner beans. My mind is free to think and contemplate while my body tops, tails and slices!
Creating a work environment for being in the flow
Whether you work for yourself or are working for someone else- a work environment where employees are in the flow is good for productivity. The technique for creating this environment is to clear away visual and intellectual clutter to allow the brain to take a rest occasionally. Physically this could be green open spaces where employees can take a break. Atriums are great for this as the boost of oxygenated air and the visual stimulus of plants and greenery are good for settling brain waves.
You are trying to create moments when a worker can pause, reflect, rethink and then be re-energised to tackle a task. Many would call this ZEN moments and certainly meditation is proven to create a sense of being in the flow. I sometimes call this, quieting your mind chatter. You know, when you literally cannot “think straight” because there is too much spinning around in your head?
Taking a step back from the noise and stress of daily life allows the mind to take a breather and the body to reconnect to its environment. Whether you are employee or employer; creating space for people to refresh, and reconnect is good for creating the efficiency of being in the flow. People who are in the flow are more productive, less likely to get ill or have accidents and generally better people to work with. So, think about what you could do for yourself, or others to get in the flow.