Flow is Created Through Eliminating Distractions, Discipline and Deep Work
Not only is the distracted present a miserable place to be, it’s also the worst kind of self-handicapping. — Steven Kotler
If you have ever been in a flow state, you know it’s a truly beautiful thing. Your work is easy, effortless, and the quality of it is great. Time flies by. And when you’re done, you feel incredible.
As artists and creators, we’re constantly looking for how to create more flow b ecause our best work emerges from this place. So how exactly do you create more flow? In my experience as both a writer and surfer, it’s a combination of discipline and deep work.
1. Reduce the Role That Distractions Play in Your Life
The way a professional athlete takes their diet very seriously, I take sources of distraction very seriously — Cal Newport
If you were truly honest with yourself, what is the role that you allow distractions to play in your life?
- How many apps are on your phone? How many are mission critical?
- How many times a day do you check your email? Remember nobody ever changed the world by checking email.
- How much time you do you spend mindless browsing the web or pursuing social media? Remember this is the cognitive equivalent of being an athlete who smokes.
If you answer these questions honestly you might be horrified. That’s good news because now you can actually do something about it. When you reduce the role that distractions play in your life, you take back your time, you tell yourself that you’re serious, and you make space for meaningful, high value, deep work.
If there’s one thing I’ve observed in prolific creators like Ryan Holiday, Neil Gaiman, and others it’s how little they’re online. That’s probably one of the many things enables accomplishments like writing 3 books in 3 years.
2.Discipline Begins with Your Changing Habits
For the purposes of this article, I’ll define discipline as the ability to repeat an activity on a daily basis over an extended period of time. As I said in a previous post, you don’t want to attempt to change more than one habit at a time. And you want to make your initial attempts to change so simple that’s impossible to fail.
Write a sentence a day
Put your shoes on and walk to end of the driveway
Drink a glass of water
By cultivating the discipline to do these really small things, you’ll start to believe that you’re capable of change. You’ll build confidence. That way when you attempt to adopt a more difficult habit you’ll have momentum behind you.
3. Deep Work Results in Flow
- Computer Programming
- Playing an Instrument
Immersing yourself in any of these activities for an extend period of time, free of all distractions will eventually put you into flow. Before I started writing this article, I was having one of those days where I was giving into my temptation to be distracted.
A few email checks
A few FB checks
And a quick tweeted deck browse.
I decided I would block everything for one hour using Heyfocus. The first 300 words of what I wrote was all garbage. But like I’ve said before the secret to becoming a good writer is to become a prolific one. I knew eventually I’d reach a point where my ideas were more lucid. About 15 minutes into my one hour time block that I’d set side to write my 1000 words a day, I was in flow.
4. Flow Hacks
If we want to achieve the kinds of accelerated performance we’re seeing in action and adventure sports, then it’s 4 percent plus 4 percent, day after day, week after week, months into years. This is the road to real magic. — Steven Kotler
The idea that Steven mentions in the above quote is one that I’ve been experimenting with lately. I’ve applied the concept to the idea of writing 1000 words a day. Another way you could do it is in terms of time spent immersed in deep work. Increase by 4% each day.
This one is more of a happiness hack than a flow hack, but it’s been something that had a profound impact on my overall productivity and happiness. Shawn Achor’s research has shown that starting the day by watching something funny like a clip from The Daily Show has an impact on us that lasts the entire day. So I take about 15 minutes to watch a John Oliver segment. If you haven’t seen this one on Trump Wall I’d recommend it for a good laugh.