There was a time when everyone seemed to be so busy. Maybe you too are living in an ever-present maelstrom of chatter and distraction, trying to keep up with one immovable thing after another.
It’s easy to get caught up in this fast pace. But try as you might, you simply cannot keep up in today’s environment. Too much noise and distraction clogs your mind, impairing your ability to do a few simple tasks – like, say, stop being distracted by everything around you and focus on what really matters.
It’s hard to get control of time, your energy, and your ability to focus. Resolutions like “I’m going to get everything done by the end of the day” simply do not work. Saying “I’m going to get everything done in one weekend” is a better suggestion.
And “I’m going to set up checklists, manage my to-do list…” is pretty much the same as “I’m going to take a few minutes every day to just do one thing.”
The trick to a good flow is to get into it.
Which brings us to what I like to call the 24-hour flow, a sound, uninterrupted rhythm of thinking, doing, and processing. In order to achieve flow, you must first get into a regular rhythm: During the day, spend most of your time not doing something, choosing to rest and regain the mental energy you need for action the next day. This isn’t so much about being idle as it is about slowing down and taking a break.
And the rest you do must become a constant part of your everyday life. On the weekend, for example, you might take a long walk. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a hot or freezing morning. You can sit quietly and contemplate the world around you. And whenever you feel like it, you can dive back into work without much preparation, simply being in the flow.
Is this advice from a book? No. You can already practice this every day. The key is to get into a fast, consistent flow. From a flow perspective, everything that gets into your head, to your heart, and to your muscles is nourishing. It’s only in flow that we can actually do our best thinking.
There are three core habits that jump-start flow:
Commit to do something positive with your time every day. Get your act together and adjust your workflow to become flow-friendly. Before you left on vacation, you already bought some books and a lot of in-flight movies. Be sure to read them while you’re on vacation. If you like them, consider an entire vacation trip based on them.
Taste and experience new things. You can do this in several ways. For example, catch some sunrise at sunrise. Be amazed at the beauty of the world. Feed yourself a big bowl of pistachio mousse cake while you watch it fall down in a manner reminiscent of cascading waterfalls.
Bring your senses into the workspace. One way to get into flow is to practise focusing your attention on the objects around you. This might be eating something that’s scrumptious, or smelling something great. Or even just mindlessly thinking about a sentence that comes to mind.
It’s all about exposure. Enjoy your time with the people around you, the places and things you visit. Create your own schedule, not just rigidly stick to someone else’s, so you know what you should be thinking about in any given moment.
We all know what it’s like to get stuck in one particular flow – like trying to organize a box of dirty clothes when you’re stuck in the middle of an energetic meeting with someone you don’t particularly like or spend a lot of time with on a daily basis. And it’s possible to pull out of it again if you’re fortunate enough to have support from those around you.
So this isn’t about getting into a good rut of forever being productive. This is about getting into a comfortable flow of just doing the things that matter to you. Your mind will let you know if you’re in a flow. Try it. After a while, you will start noticing the details around you, more calmly and completely.