By Melissa Gratias, Ph.D.
Are there days where magical things just seem to happen at work? Days where you feel energized, focused, and productive? Among other parts of my job as a productivity psychologist and consultant, I experience these magical states when I’m delivering keynote speeches. As I start my talk, I get fully and completely “in the game,” and I feel a sense of joy and satisfaction. That means I’m absolutely thrilled to be speaking at PPC’s Fall Meeting this October! I’ll be offering many tips for increasing productivity and focus then, but I thought some of you might want to get started early.
Getting in the “Flow”
In psychology circles, this state of energized focus I’m referring to is called “Flow.” Flow occurs when we are fully involved in a task, overcoming obstacles with ease, and producing results that give us personal satisfaction and contentment. Sound too good to be true? Research shows that 20% of people achieve Flow every day, while another 15% say that this has never happened to them.
If Flow is truly a state of effortless action, how can we make it happen more in our day-to-day work? Here are three steps:
1. Set Goals
Flow is most likely to appear when you have clear goals to achieve. Make your goals challenging but not impossible to attain. Goals will inspire you to action and increase the likelihood that you will achieve Flow.
2. Gather Relevant Resources
Flow can be disrupted when you do not have the tools you need to accomplish your goal. Keep a file of notes, articles, and thoughts that you have gathered on a goal you need to achieve. When it comes time to sit down and start working on a goal, this file will be a treasure chest of information that will help you achieve and maintain Flow.
3. Create the Environment
Flow is about focus. To successfully achieve it, structure an environment that is conducive to Flow. Schedule a block of time on your calendar to focus on your goal. Minimize interruptions by shutting down your email, turning down the volume on your phone, and closing your office door (and/or posting a “Please Do Not Disturb” sign). If you struggle with procrastination, set a timer to give yourself that deadline-based adrenaline rush that can be so motivational.
Nothing is Flowing at all!
If Flow seems to continually elude you, ask yourself some questions:
Are my goals aligned with my values? Do the goals need to be changed?
Do I have the skills needed to achieve my goals? How can I develop myself further?
Is there someone else who can help me achieve this goal? Should I delegate this goal to them?
What barriers, real or perceived, are keeping me from focusing on this goal? What do I need to do to remove the barriers?
If you buy into this concept of Flow, then the enjoyment of your work comes not so much from the specific responsibilities of your job but rather an internal feeling of commitment and achievement. Happiness that is a result of external circumstances, like a raise or promotion, quickly fades. Happiness that is a result of Flow comes from an internal source and leads to increased self-knowledge and growth.
Commit yourself to your goals for a designated time, and you may be amazed at what “Flows” from you.
I look forward to giving you even more ways to become productive and focused at Fall Meeting!
Dr. Melissa Gratias (pronounced "Gracious") is a work psychologist who helps overwhelmed and underappreciated businesspeople be more focused and effective. Since 2007, thousands of people have graduated with honors from her onsite sessions, distance coaching, productivity seminars, and corporate consulting projects. To learn more, sign up for her free monthly e-newsletter or visit melissagratias.com.