Some days, the smallest distraction sends me down deep rabbit holes from which I never recover. It’s not just the external distractions. Almost every minute I think about something I want to research or check online. I struggle to focus for even 20 minutes, and feel lucky if I can get a solid hour of work in my day.
Mind work can be exhausting and my brain is easily depleted.
Other days, I am able to maintain my focus on a topic or project for hours. Slight interruptions don’t phase me; I get right back on track. On these days I don’t even think about the distractions that await me within my phone. Curiosities can wait; I’m zoned in. And after working for several hours, I emerge on the other side with more energy.
Those days, I’m in flow — that state where things just seem to move forward with effortless ease.
Obviously I want more of those days. So part of my practice is to document the conditions that seemed to contribute to them. Once I see the patterns, I do what I can to recreate the conditions.
Researchers have identified many criteria for attaining a flow state. One of the most important factors I’ve noticed for myself is that I stay in flow when I stay in my body — when I am attuned to it’s needs.
- drinking water regularly
- eating when I’m hungry
- regularly getting up from my chair to move around
- taking breaks that involve stepping away from my devices
- pausing to rest — sometimes physically laying down or reclining
- pausing to breathe
- taking short mini workout breaks
These may sound overly simple and obvious, but check in with yourself the next time you’re working. Notice whether you’re all in your head or if you’re also attuned to your body.
Researchers have discovered that many of us hold our breath when checking email. They call this “email apnea.” For years I’ve noticed this pattern in myself when I’m working on something challenging.
If your work primarily involves thinking and communicating, it’s easy to get stuck in your head and forget about your body.
Your body isn’t just a pedestal for your brain; it forms an essential feedback loop with it.
One of the critical factors that blocks flow is the michigas of the mind — the comparisons; judgments, and stories the mind likes to spin.
When we are using the mind for judgment or comparison or second guessing, we can’t be focused on the project at hand, so we can’t be in flow.
Staying attuned to the body keeps my mind free to focus on what matters.
The more I move my body, the better I can focus my mind. Flow comes from flow.
Flow is physical
To find flow in your ideas
Stay in your body