No matter how much we practice or how fluid we get at reaching the flow cycle, there will be always be obstacles we need to be aware of. Being able to identify what will keep us out of flow will help us navigate our routines so we can prepare and plan our flow cycle sessions.
Ideally we want to be able to find our flow as often as possible. If we have approaching deadlines or work that requires it, that may mean attempting to get into the flow several times per day. So anything keeping us from reaching that state is effectively our productivity nemesis.
Here are four flow killers to be aware of and combat against while utilizing the flow cycle to unlock our limitless productivity and potential.
Eliminating distractions isn’t just a helpful tip, it’s a necessity. We all think we can multi-task, and perhaps in some areas of our lives we can. But the simple truth is this: we cannot multi-task our way to flow.
We’re often asked to juggle several tasks at once. If we have kids, we’re always working around their questions or keeping an ear and eye open while cooking, cleaning, running errands. At work it can largely be the same. We’re expected to work but keep an eye on emails. Focus on a project but be available for calls or last-minute team meetings. It’s demanding and that constant alertness comes at a price.
In order to reach a state of flow, we need to find time to eliminate all distractions. We can’t check email, chat with a co-worker, or be interrupted for a meeting. If we want to reach flow focus and concentration are essential. We need to clear our calendar, silence our notifications, and let everyone know we’re unavailable while working.
Stress is a killer to many areas of productivity, but it’s particularly deadly to achieving a state of flow. But unlike multi-tasking, where we can work to tune out distractions, stress is far more insidious.
The problem with stress is that it creeps into your thoughts, disrupting our focus and concentration when we least expect it. And that kills the momentum we need to build towards flow.
Conquering stress requires two things. The first is being able to tackle stress head on, asking ourselves which tasks we absolutely need to handle before we can sit down for a flow session. We have to be brutally honest with ourselves, and this often requires us to build discipline to prioritize our tasks and stick to the schedules or timelines we set.
The second is managing the stress. That may seem obvious, but in order to get into flow, our normal stress-fighting tactics may not be enough. We might need to meditate prior to our flow session, so we clear our mind of anything that can distract or hold us back. The benefit to managing our stress is that our productivity and overall well-being will flourish even outside of flow sessions. And being disciplined will fine time our schedules, opening time to do more of what we love.
Fear Of Failure
One of the most important aspects of the flow cycle is pushing ourselves. We have to go outside of our comfort zones and when we do that, we have to be aware that we may not succeed. At least, maybe not the way we initially want to.
This fear of not succeeding will keep up out of flow. And that fear can take many shapes. Maybe we’re afraid we won’t complete the amount of work we need to in a single session. Or, perhaps we’re concerned that the result won’t be the quality we want or need it to be. But when we put these limitations on ourselves, even subconsciously, we risk not being able to find our flow.
The truth is, flow is a varied state. Some sessions it might be harder to reach our flow cycle, or we have a tougher time staying in our flow state. And some days, we simply may not reach it at all. Even if we find our flow, the quality of work we produce will also vary. Especially if we are new to whatever task or project we’re working on.
It’s important that we don’t let our worries get in our way. If we struggle to reach our ideal flow state, we need to have the self-awareness to evaluate our mentality going in to help us identify what went wrong and why. It takes courage to face the areas we may be lacking and to build our discipline so that we can reach flow state faster and more frequently. And finally, we have to embrace the possibility that what we produce simply won’t always be great. Like anything worth doing, it is the process and progress that matters.
Lack Of Conviction
Nothing will prevent us from finding our flow faster than doubt. And like all of these obstacles to flow, doubt comes in many forms. It could be that we aren’t sure we’re up for the task at hand. Or maybe we’ve been at a task for so long, we’ve become ambivalent about it.
In order to find flow, we have to believe in our skills. This doesn’t mean we know we’ll succeed, because we don’t. Or that we’ll product the results we want, because we might not. Instead, we have to know that we have the ability to finish and that whatever the outcome, we know we have the ability to improve.
However, if our doubt stems from apathy, we need to step back and re-evaluate. We don’t have to only pursue projects that we’re absolutely in love with in order to find our flow. But it is important to be able to harness a reasonable amount of interest. If we’re doing something because we have to, and we aren’t able to see the benefits or find enjoyment while working, we’re going to have a difficult time finding flow.
Whenever we feel doubt creeping in we have to ask ourselves three things. Do I have the skillset? Do I have enough information? Do I have the desire? If the answer is no, we need to set the task aside until we have the skills, the information, and the desire to complete it. But if the answer is yes, we need to find a way to clear our mind and eliminate our doubt.
Harnessing the power of the flow cycle is one of the most powerful productivity tools we can add to our arsenal. But that doesn’t mean finding our flow will always be easy. No matter how much we practice, things like fear, stress, doubt, and distractions will always be there, trying to hold us back.
Part of practicing the flow cycle is constantly being able to use self-reflection to adjust to our progress. We will ebb and flow, sometimes needing more discipline to push through obstacles in our endless pursuit of mastering motivation and productivity. However, by being proactive and willing to learn and adapt, we can use the flow cycle as a vital tool in unlocking our limitless potential.