You could argue that creating a state of flow, heightened employee engagement, and team productivity is the single most critical component to long-term business success. Despite this, most corporate environments do everything in their power to stifle or mitigate flow. From meetings with no agendas to open office plans, getting into a flow is too often relegated to the hours of 6:00am - 8:00am (if you are a morning person) or 6pm - 8pm so if you have children and/or a long commute forget it.
Interested in creating more time, bandwidth and flow? Start by reading Camille Preston's latest book, Create More Flow: Igniting Peak Performance in an Over-wired World. This outlines the five stages to create more flow. This is a mindset shift that does not require a physical investment, just the institutional commitment to show up in a profoundly different way.
Most executives complain about the amount of time lost to "bad meetings." Frustrations mount because too much time is spent in meetings that are unnecessary, poorly run, and filled with too many attendees.
One of my clients dealt with this frustration with a new rule: No agenda, no attendance. If you can't invest the amount of time to prepare for a meeting, then attendees shouldn't invest time in attending that meeting.
To run a great meeting you must invest your effort and energy in the planning: what are the outcomes, who needs to be there, what information should people have in advance to be prepared to make decisions?
No one said getting into flow is easy. Create time, space and a culture that promotes deep thinking. Easier said than done, right? You might consider piloting meeting-free Mondays. One company I know implemented a day each month where no one can schedule meetings. It's your job as a leader to make it okay to block out productive time without explanation.
Embrace the concept of "calling in well." A Utah-based company I know has a policy of calling in well on powder days. Employees take time to ski hard for a few hours in the morning, and this behavior often led to more focused and impactful work in the afternoon. Practically speaking, this is more about making it okay to create space between and amid the fast pace, and granting the permission to go off the grid for a few hours--assuming you are delivering with excellence and you are responsible and respectful towards your team.
Most companies aren't set up well for this critically important stage. Most of the successes here are when people notice flow--and re-juggle commitments to stay engaged. In reality we need to proactively engineer flow by creating the conditions that give us the space to succeed. If you found yourself in a great state of flow this week, how did you get there? Recreate those circumstances for peak performance.
If you pushed hard last week and over the weekend on a huge deadline, you might really need today to recover. So look at your schedule to assess what needs to be delivered now, and what can be pushed later in the week. "Force yourself" into work for deadlines and honor commitments, but also know that by being gentle on yourself today you will be better tomorrow.
According to Preston, "flow is magical and mesmerizing--and yet in our always on, always connected over-wired world it can feel illusive. Companies of the future understand that individuals self awareness and ability to optimize their own flow/ effectiveness are actually investing in their sustainability and bottom line."
Companies like Airbnb enable flow by offering employees Work from Home Wednesdays. What could you do in your firm to enable and inspire a sense of flow today? You will get more from your employees and this will have a positive impact on your business results too.