For many entrepreneurs and busy professionals, the pursuit of getting more done during a typical workload can seem daunting. We're distracted constantly; we spend considerable time putting out fires and managing those who can't manage themselves.
Think about it: How many times were you interrupted today? Add to that the burden of getting enough sleep for your health (yes, it's important; ask Jeff Bezos), managing relationships and family life, and squeezing in outside interests. It's no surprise that we find ourselves unable to make it all work. Stressed yet?
While I could point out the usual reasons you should have more work-life balance and frustrate you with played-out illustrations of meditation, "unplugging," and (ugh) time management, how about I actually tell you that you can get more done, if you do it in a smart way.
Immerse yourself in a state of "flow."
We hear about it often, but do we know what it means and how to pull off a state of "flow"? The integral work of positive psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who came up with the concept and practice, says that we can maximize productivity while rewarding ourselves with pleasure and meaning. Nothing can beat that.
Ever had a few hours go by when you were so absorbed in your work, reading a book, or playing a sport that if someone had shouted your name, you wouldn't have heard it? Yeah, that's flow. It felt like minutes instead of hours, didn't it?
The science behind this will get you hooked. When we experience flow, we benefit from the twin towers of peak experience and peak performance. In other words, we both encounter pleasure and perform at our best. Seriously.
It's the old adage of "being in the zone." You're distraction-free, utterly focused on the activity at hand, but with future benefit--you learn, grow, improve, and perform at your insanely best.
Take it a step further: flow and goals.
To experience true flow, Csikszentmihalyi says you need to have clear goals with a well-defined purpose that takes you to the top of the mountain. Here, as you start a new week, month, or year, are some hallmarks of experiencing flow to the fullest:
- When pursuing goals, make sure of the direction in which you're headed so there's no ambiguity. Your destination must be crystal clear.
- Be committed to your objective, with both your head and heart in the game.
- Your future goal should contribute to the experience of the here and now. Think "present gain, future gain," instead of the false analogy of "no pain, no gain."
- Make sure the difficulty of a task is not considerably higher than your skill level for that task; otherwise you'll experience the ultimate anti-flow: anxiety.
- Make sure your skill level for the task is not considerably higher than the difficulty of the task; otherwise you'll experience the catatonic state of boredom.
- You'll experience flow when the difficulty of the task and your skill level match up.
Bring it home.
It goes without saying, if you're at that place where you just can't get tasks going or push yourself forward to do more, you may want to assess your culture or environment.
If you're in a pressure cooker at work and stressed out daily, that's going to lead to anxiety. On the flip side, if you're in a work environment where there's no challenge and you're merely going through the motions -- clocking in, clocking out, with really no meaning behind your work -- in either case, you'll find it hard to experience flow.
Your turn: When have you experienced flow?