I’m sure you have ever found yourself immersed working on an activity, feeling that there was nothing else around and that the only important thing was to achieve the expected goal, even losing the notion of time. This state of mind is known as a “flow state” and it makes us much more productive.
Although the flow state can be experienced during the performance of any kind of activity, for knowledge workers, whose main tool is their mind, with the task of generating new ideas and solving problems with it, the maintenance of this state of mind becomes even more important, since that will allow the mind to be fully focused on the task at hand.
As a knowledge worker and person who is too easily distracted, I have been looking for the necessary aspects for some time so that, in my case, I can reach and maintain the flow state more easily.
If you want to know which they are, I encourage you to continue reading!
Motivation and value
We all know that, when we are motivated to do something, it is not difficult for us to get down to work. Motivation is a main ingredient to be able to reach the flow state.
Personally, when I feel most motivated is when I understand the value that my work will bring once it is done. This value can come in the form of improvements for the client, or the team, or also of the knowledge that I acquire and that allows me, both myself and the rest of the team, to keep improving. I realized this when occasionally, the fact of not understanding the value provided by some tasks made my motivation to perform them much lower.
To understand the value that a task brings, it is first essential to know what the objective is. As Hyun recently commented in his Working by Inertia II post, we must avoid working like “headless chickens”, without thinking about the goal and without understanding the “why” of what we do. In Kypseli, for each task and before starting to work, we mark a checkbox where we indicate that we have understood the value it will bring when we finish it. It may seem very simple, but the benefits it has are enormous, since it allows us to stop and think before starting to work without understanding the value of the task. I propose to add this requirement to your Definition Of Ready!
On the other hand, we are human and it is normal that we have days in which our mood does not allow us to work motivated. When this happens to me, I communicate it to the rest of the team, and I try, as far as possible, to go back to work when I feel better. For this to be possible, it is necessary for the team to have the confidence and transparency to be able to openly express their moods and offer the necessary flexibility.
I am convinced that it has ever happened to you that, having many things on the table, you end up falling into the temptation of multitasking. By wanting to cover several tasks at the same time, what usually ends up happening is that it becomes even more difficult for us to carry them out than if we did them one by one.
My experience has shown me that with multitasking, due to context changes when moving from one task to another, it becomes very difficult to work in flow state. This gets worse the more different one task is from another.
My advice is to avoid multitasking, doing the tasks one by one in order of priority. For this reason, it is essential that the entire team ensures that tasks are correctly prioritized.
Some time ago I worked in a coworking space where it was quite common for people to speak loudly. This made it quite difficult to focus on what was being done. I finally opted to work with music, although this remedy may not be for everyone.
Although we can sometimes overlook it, the reality is that the workspace plays a fundamental role in achieving the flow state and it is important to ensure that it is adequate. In addition to noise, there are factors such as the comfort of our seat, the ambient temperature and the height of the screens that, among others, influence that we work more comfortably and therefore with greater ease of concentration.
“Give me a second!”, “Just a minute!”. I am sure that we have all used one of these phrases when a colleague has interrupted us while we were immersed in carrying out an activity. When we are interrupted, it is difficult to stay focused on what is being done and reaching the flow state becomes practically impossible.
To minimize interruptions, it is important that each member of the team is aware of the flow state of the others and that it must be respected. At Kypseli, each of us indicates to the rest of the team when we are busy with an individual task, so that nobody interrupts us unless it is really necessary.
On the other hand, it must be taken into account that there are tasks that are carried out collaboratively and that are susceptible to the need for fluid communication between team members. In these cases, it is good to find a balance between communications and individual work time. Resolving common points in pre-planned meetings can help to organize everyone’s work and thus reduce interruptions. It is important that the meetings are productive, to minimize the doubts that may arise later and that can end up becoming interruptions.
Notifications from applications, both from the phone and from the computer, can also easily interrupt and disperse us. To avoid this, I usually enable only the notifications of the applications necessary for the task that I am carrying out at that moment and disable the rest.
A common practice is to keep messaging app notifications enabled with the rest of the team, so you can quickly reply to colleagues if they need something. Initially, I did this too, which ended up leading to frequent interruptions. I ended up realizing that there is nothing so urgent to have to interrupt the flow state and, if there actually is, the person who needs it will end up coming personally to ask me. In the case of remote teams, a good option is to keep a communication channel always active for possible emergencies. For example, the mobile phone.
In this post I have shared with you aspects that, personally and based on my personal experience, work for me to facilitate the flow state in my day to day.
Each person is different, so I am sure that many of you will take into account other aspects to facilitate the appearance of this valuable state of mind. I will be glad to know about them! So I encourage you to share them in the comments section, as well as any questions or concerns you may have 🙂