The Flow — 8 Ways to Achieve That Amazing Feeling
Mar 29, 2018

Paula Montgomery
Core Spirit member since Dec 24, 2020
Reading time 4 min.

Imagine that you are immersed in a task, completely absorbed by the process of executing it. Your mind is one with what you are doing. Complexities of the task are clear and all aspects seem connected in well-understood ways. Your body appears to be floating and only exists to support your mind. You are only vaguely aware of a broad sense of aroused serenity. Hours pass by in minutes, and you are in full control of your thoughts and emotions.

What is flow?

I am not describing the effects of some illegal drug or wild mushroom. I am representing a state of mental flow. Known as “the zone,” Flow is the mental state of operation in which a person is immersed in a feeling of energized focus, complete involvement, and enjoyment in the process of completing a task.

Anti-flow emotions

To reach a state of flow one has to rid themselves of any and all the six anti-flow emotions:

  • Anxiety

  • Worry

  • Anger

  • Apathy

  • Boredom

  • Relaxation

Flow lingers in a consciousness zone between mental arousal and control. It is an active state that takes ten to fifteen minutes to reach. Anti-flow emotions or sudden distractions can break it in seconds. Losing flow due to external causes is like being punched in the face.

It is tough for us to reach a state of flow and peak performance if we are distracted by anti-flow emotions. Some typical examples of causes of such feelings are:

  • Worry and anxiety due to having concerns about work situations such as deadlines or unreasonable expectations

  • Being upset by personal or professional issues. For example, having unhealthy internal friction with colleagues, or operating in an organization that is not being fair or understanding of the needs of the employee

  • Not being interested or enthusiastic about an activity or its goals. This can happen when the activity is far too easy or far too difficult

  • Feeling too relaxed. To reach flow we need to be excited about work we are doing and must have a feeling of control of their thoughts. Relaxation does not co-exist with excitement and causes distracting reflections.

An unhealthy culture is a flow killer

People who belong to a group that feels unsafe or judged can be negatively affected. For example, I am convinced that the recent Google debacle, caused by the employee who published an anti-diversity manifesto, caused an enormous distraction and loss of productivity at Google in the past few days. It affected most women in the organization and a significant percentage of men.

Bad sentiment toward a group is a toxic self-fulfilling prophecy. Members of minority groups who feel unwelcome or unappreciated will struggle to concentrate and won’t be able to reach a state of flow.

For example, imagine a female programmer working with a group of men who make it clear that they do not believe women can be good coders. How can she be productive and achieve a state of flow in such an environment? The mental overhead of having to deal with bias creates an invisible barrier to success. It fulfills an unfair prophecy without giving her a chance to prove herself.

How to Promote The Flow

To create an environment conducive to flow, consider the following these eight suggestions to optimise your work environment:

1. Do not commit to impossible tasks

If you know that something is not achievable, make it clear. If that is not acceptable, consider a different employer.

When you must commit to a body of work, make sure that you believe it can be achieved. If you are convinced that the goal is impossible, you are going to lack the confidence necessary to enter a state of flow.

2. Create distraction-proof time on your schedule

Growing up, I used to spend entire nights coding. It wasn’t rare to have 10 hour non-stop sessions. I did it at night because I knew that I would not be interrupted. Having that confidence is very powerful as it eliminates the worries of getting interrupted.

As a busy adult, you can control some of your time by blocking your calendar with time you need to focus on the task. If your co-workers respect it, you should be able to establish some level of non-interruption confidence.

3. Understand your goal and why it is important

Without a clear goal and without believing in the importance of that goal it’s hard to reach the zone. Do not underestimate this mental preparation; it is vital for peak performance.

4. Remove distractions in your control

You blocked your calendar, but if your phone notifications bring you back to reality every 10 minutes, you will never be able to achieve and keep up a state of flow. Turn off devices and applications that send you notifications.

Ideally, your work environment allows for your desk to be the place where you can focus. If that is not the case, hide in a conference room or the local Starbucks. If you go to a noisy environment, bring your headphones and pump some white noise in your ears.

5.Collect all the information you need ahead of time

If you are in Flow and you need to get up to talk to somebody, you are going to slam back to reality like a ton of bricks in free-fall. It hurts! Collect the information you need before a coding session.

When you start working on a task, you should not be concerned about having to hunt down information. I found that surfing the web to look for information doesn’t immediately knock me out The Zone. It does after a few minutes if I get irritated when I cannot find what I am looking for.

6. Make a list of problems that are upsetting you or causing anxiety

Any sense of concern needs to be put away before you start a coding session. Flow is tough if you have concerns polluting your mind. I found that worries and anxieties go away for the duration of a coding session if I write them down with the clear intent of getting back to it later.

7. Focus on the process, not the result

In flow, the process is king. Focus on it, entirely. Be aware of the end result, but don’t dwell on it. If you can do that, time starts changing speed, accelerating to the point where hours go by in what feels like minutes. Stay in the moment, stay in the process.

8. Do not relax

It might sound counterintuitive, but flow is not a relaxing state. It is an exciting state of mental arousal and confidence. If you become too relaxed your mind starts wondering, you lose touch with the process and the magic disappears.

If you are drowsy or relaxed, get up and work standing up. Having a desk that can go up and down is ideal to follow your body needs.

By Lorenzo Pasqualis

Leave your comments / questions for this practitioner

To write a comment please
Category filter
Concern filter
Type filter

All categories

Personality Psychology
$80 USD
therapy session
Individual Counselling Session (60 minutes)

I offer a compassionate counselling service that is unique to every woman and her situation. Allowing you to feel heard and understood in a safe environment free from shame and judgement.

My aim is to support and empower women through periods of change and emotionally difficult times. Empowering women to navigate their life and the mess that it can sometimes feel like it’s in with insight, respect, hope and strength.

I believe you have the desire and the capacity to grow towards fulfilling your true potential, and that you’re the expert on your own life. Counselling is a way of assisting you to identify and define your emotional issues and to help you better understand yourself.

Therefore, I don’t give advice. I will work with you to help you understand yourself more fully and to find your own inner resources. With greater self-awareness and trust in yourself, I hope that you will be able to make constructive changes, leading to a more satisfying and meaningful life.

I apply an integrated approach to counselling, meaning that I combine different but complementary counselling methods that have been taken from different models of therapy. These are Person-Centred Therapy, Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and Solution Focused Therapy. Using an integrative approach allows me to be flexible in providing a service that suits your situation.

I offer face-to-face and online individual counselling sessions, allowing women to openly talk about their emotional challenges.

Hayley Fualau
Personality Psychology
$150 USD
therapy session
Individual Psychotherapy

Are you seeking a therapist that sees you as a whole person - mind, body, and spirit, in the context of your lived experience and culture? Do you need someone to meet you where you are, without assumptions? Are you seeking help in your personal growth and healing?

All clinicians and support options are not the same. I am guided by a core philosophy that all human beings have an innate desire for balance, healing, and growth. Your definition of these concepts and your journey to achieve them is unique to you, your child, or your family.

Contact me to discuss scheduling.

Maybe you have specific complaints, stressors, or goals that you would like help navigating; perhaps you feel ready to strive for the next level of personal growth. Holistic Psychotherapy can offer the comprehensive tools and support you need to overcome personal challenges, interpersonal challenges, and to reach a healthier state of being. With the help and support of your therapist, you will be able to utilize your innate strengths to find yourself reaching the goals and understanding you seek in a safe and nonjudgmental space.

Stacey Wright
Personality Psychology
$750 USD
healing session

Finding it hard to get over that last relationship? Loving someone who is bad for you? These 4 hourly sessions will help place you into a mentally healthier place leaving behind the negative relationship and its lingering thoughts.

Jane Nash
Personality Psychology
$15 USD
therapy session

Facing difficulty in concentrating, relationships, academics, emotional concerns, stress etc. Counselling helps resolve these by aiding you with the necessary skills and cope up with these. Get in touch with our expert and professional counsellors/ psychologists.

Emotional well being helpline

Related Articles

View All
Registered individuals enjoy all the possibilities of Core Spirit.