For many of us, flow is somewhat of a mystery. We know when we’ve experienced it. We love the way it feels, but we’re not quite sure how to reproduce the state at will. In the process of working on the manuscript for my next book, I’ve been experiment quite a bit with hacking flow states on a daily basis. The days that I’ve managed to get and stay in flow have 4 common elements.
1. Do Deep Work
It’s damn near impossible to get into flow if you’re checking email and updating social media every hour because multitasking inhibits your ability to get into flow. But when we do deep work like writing, reading books, or computer programming, we’ve chosen an activity that is actually conducive to flow. The more deep work you do, the more you’ll experience flow, and the more easily you’ll be able to reproduce it on a regular basis.
2. Avoid Interruptions
One focused hour a day of uninterrupted creation time can turn almost anyone into a prolific creator, the key work being “uninterrupted.” When we get interrupted, it kicks us out of flow. In fact it can take up to 15 minutes to get back into flow after an interruption. Designate at least some small part of your day to be completely free of interruptions.
3. Listen to the Same Music Track on Repeat
This was an idea that that Steven Kotler had mentioned to me on the Unmistakable Creative when we were speaking about the neuroscience of flow. It’s also a method that Ryan Holiday uses. Given that both of them have produced tremendous bodies of work, I decided to give it a try. And it turns out this is an incredibly effective technique for getting into and staying into flow. When you play the same music track over and over, you drown out the noise around you, and it because it’s on repeat you no longer have to give it conscious attention. All your attention can be directed to doing deep work.
4. Work for Long Enough to Get into Flow
On any given day, it might take me 30–45 minutes to get into flow. It’s one shitty first sentence after another, almost all the way to 1000 words. Eventually, I become more lucid, and it goes from writing gibberish to the the construction of coherent sentences and writing articles like this one. As Anne Lamott once said “all good writing begins with terrible first efforts.”
This is more a framework than it is a formula. That means you should adjust and adapt it to your own needs. If you do, you’ll eventually find yourself leading an extremely high flow life.
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