Getting my motivation back and going with the FLOW.

“Flow State” and Creativity

Have you ever felt so immersed in a task that everything else fades into the distance? You zone out, losing all sense of time, where you are or what else might be going on around you?

Chances are you have experienced what positive psychologist, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes as a state of ‘Flow’:

 “Flow is a state of complete immersion and focus on an activity in which a person is completely absorbed and engrossed by the task. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost”

Mihaly Csikszentmihaly

As a creative type of person, a flow state is where I do my best work. I often catch myself part way through a creative project, realising that 2-3 hours have passed without me even knowing it. My sense of accomplishment is high and I am confident with the quality of work I have produced as a result of complete concentration and focus.

Where did my flow go?

After a challenging couple of years for us all, many of us have found ourselves entering 2022 hoping for a fresh new year, free of lockdowns and disruption to family and business life, and reignited motivation to get things done.

I don’t know about you, but 2022’s fresh start didn’t bring with it the spark of motivation I was expecting.

I started out the year, ensuring that my business recovered to its full capacity. I worked hard to continue building client relationships and securing new projects for the studio and I’m proud to say, I got my business right back on its feet again.

However, as part of the process, I sacrificed the slower pace that I enjoyed during the years of lockdowns, the time spent with my sketch book, endless hours in the garden, studio time creating new artworks and the joy of spending more time with family. I noticed that my stress levels increased and my general motivation took a dive.

It has taken until this halfway point of 2022 for me to realise that, in my endeavour to ensure the success of my business, I became task and deadline focused and completely pushed aside opportunities to feel lost in the moment, lost in productivity and immersed in creative expression.

It became my goal, to achieve a flow state of mind when I am more present, calm, clear and content.

Benefits of experiencing a flow state

Experiencing a flow state is not just about ‘feeling good’. It’s more about balancing activity and awareness to create effortless momentum. It’s mindfulness with a dash of meditation, blended together to bring about a flow state of mind.

A flow state is achievable when you balance challenge and skill, against stress and boredom. If an activity is too challenging, it will cause you stress. If it’s not challenging your skill level, it will cause boredom. An ideal mix of these key ingredients will see you launch into a flow state where you do your best work.

Whether I’m at work, exercising, painting, drawing or preparing dinner, I find that the flow state has many benefits for my wellbeing:

  • I feel deeply motivated. When I am engaged in an activity that gives me intrinsic reward, the positive mental state I experience is a powerful motivational tool.
  • I can concentrate without distraction. Focusing on a task without distractions leads to increased productivity and higher quality work.
  • Inner peace. My heart rate drops. My frown lines disappear. My body is relaxed. I feel happy and peaceful.
  • I am innately confident about my abilities. In a state of flow, I innately know what needs to be done and how to do it, without having to think about it.
  • Mindless ‘self-chatter’ flies out the window. Those annoying thoughts that often obscure my focus and bring about self-doubt and apprehension disappear as I work in a flow state. I am more able to learn, engage and ‘feel’ what I am doing.
  • Sense of positivity and happiness. Even after experiencing flow state, a feeling of immense satisfaction and purpose can be felt long after I finish a task.
  • Creativity skyrockets! The flow state opens up space for possibility and creative exploration where I am able to lose my self-consciousness, allowing me to experiment, solve creative problems and take risks without fear.

Getting my flow back!

Acknowledging that flow experiences often happen when I am doing something that I enjoy and in which I am skilled, was my first ‘ahhh’ moment.

I am lucky that my work allows me to be creative everyday, so really, I am halfway there. But some days I can get bogged down with phone calls, emails, account keeping tasks, business planning and administrative tasks. None of which inspire my state of flow.

So, I set about making some changes to my working week to ensure I can achieve a flow state everyday:

  1. Hours of power. My ‘hours of power’ are definitely between 9.00am and midday, immediately after I have responded to emails and set up my day each morning. This is usually a time where I shut down my emails, turn off my phone and work on my biggest task of the day or do something that brings me great satisfaction. Some days, I hit the repeat button on this routine for the afternoon if my schedule allows.
  2. Priorities come first. At the start of the week, I make a list of about 5 priority tasks I want to complete by the end of the week. Some of these tasks are scheduled into my morning productive times for maximum flow. However, if a task is highly challenging or mundane, I make sure it is scheduled as a priority, so that thoughts of them do not distract my flow time later.
  3. Make time for what I love. It’s not all about work. Scheduling time in the garden, a workout in the garage, cooking up a storm or spending a few hours at the easel is just as important as getting my work done. However, I am fortunate that much of my work is doing exactly what I love. Being creative! Some client projects are intentionally scheduled into my hours of power so that I can make the most of a flow state of mind and produce my best work.

There is a strong link between a powerful state of flow and our ability to work better, play better and feel better.

My advice to anyone wanting to bring the flow state of mind into their everyday lives, is to take a look at how you spend your time and see if you can make some changes to eliminate what might be getting in your way. Perhaps you are over scheduling your time (like I was)? Maybe you are exposing yourself to distractions? Are you more than often bored or over challenged? Are you trying too hard to force the flow state?

And if all else fails, simply do something you enjoy and the rest will happen by itself!