Have you experienced or heard of “the flow”? Psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi describes flow as a state of complete immersion in an activity. While in this mental state, you are completely involved and focused on what you are doing. “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,” Csíkszentmihályi said during an interview with Wired magazine.
In our AV Yoga practice, our instructor often guides us through what flow refers to — the dynamic move from one posture to another. Surfers, skiers, and snowboarders talk about the flow and how powerful it can be, emotionally, physically, and spiritually.
In Montana, where I live, snow can start falling as early as Labor Day. It doesn’t stick around long, mind you, but it’s the proverbial knock on the door that reminds us winter is coming. Red Lodge Mountain ski resort is within sight of our home, and, as the ski runs start to fill in, it’s only natural to start thinking of the ride down. The swoosh of the snow beneath you, the subtle shifts your body makes from left to right, the delicate balance between the front and back of your feet. The flow…
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During a beautiful fall day this past October, I experienced the flow at work in an incredibly profound way. I woke up early, as I often do, but this time I was wide awake and oddly energized. I decided to change up my routine and start my day with a very on-trend “well” morning routine: Rather than grabbing my latté and diving right into work and feeling pressured for time from the start, I quickly scanned texts and email for anything urgent and then put my phone on Do not Disturb. I drank a tall glass of water, then opened Spotify and selected a Chill playlist as background music for some sun salutations and core exercises. I meditated for a bit afterward and set an intention for the day: focus.
I still grabbed my latté and jumped on my computer afterward, but when I got to my desk that day, something was different. Sure, I had my diurnal shortage of time before the onslaught of Zoom meetings and barrage of deadlines. Yet, I had a surplus of other things. More Inspiration. More Ideas. More Energy. More Creativity. More Focus. I had visions of what I wanted to share with clients that I was meeting with that day, fresh ways to spin their message, and what to capture during meetings to make the most of that message. My meetings were on-point, and the clients not only appreciated it, they were also energized. For KMB, I was struck with new ideas for ways we could operate more efficiently. I wrote down those ideas, some of which would take root only a few weeks later and already have the KMB team saving time and better serving clients. I was in the flow.
When I went to bed that night, my to-do list was still as long as it was the day before. I had many tasks that didn’t get done, but they were far less daunting than usual, because I surrendered to the flow of where my thoughts were taking me and inspired my team and my clients in doing so. It wasn’t that I was dismissing those things, I was just prioritizing them more appropriately and giving myself the space to do great work.
As I look back on this day and others like it, I realize that when we seize the moment we can create both moments of brilliance, and potentially, life-changing experiences. You may have heard of or read the best-selling The Power of Now, by Eckhart Tolle. He talks about going with the flow to reduce stress and live better. “Enjoy the flow of energy, the high energy of that moment. Now you are no longer stressed, no longer splitting yourself in two. Just moving, running, working — and enjoying it.”
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I’ve been trying to tap into the flow more consistently and re-create days like the one I shared above, and it is not easy to do, but I will say that the following tips will help create an environment where it is much easier to get into the flow:
- Silence alerts on your phone and step away from email, Skype, and other chat platforms for structured chunks of time. You can’t be completely immersed in a task if you are getting pinged by your colleagues or interrupted by phone calls. Those distractions are creativity killers and time-gobblers.
- Take the time in the morning to think — intentionally. Think about your day as it relates to your big-picture goals and intentions for your business and your work-life balance. Make sure your daily work activities are aligned with these goals. Sitting and thinking, or even journaling, can help you focus and flow.
- Don’t mercilessly behold yourself to a to-do list. We all have them, we all make them, we all dread them. Deadlines are deadlines, but to-do’s usually have wiggle room. If you have a flow moment, seize it and shift things on your schedule and let yourself stay in that space.
- Block time off on your calendar to do what you need to do — whether for your business or yourself, personally — and don’t give that time up. Try allocating two or more hours of “flow time” and you might just find you’re more creative and productive.
- Hit pause. A positive mental state is crucial to getting into the flow. If you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed, take a moment to hit pause and tend to your own mental health with a walk, a snack break, a short meditation, or some other respite. Nothing is more important.
- Shake up your routine. If you normally work at your home office, go to a coffee shop or somewhere else and knock out some mundane tasks that you can do without being at your desk. Workout in the morning or late afternoon instead of during lunch. Go for a walk. A change of scenery or routine can be a catalyst to flow.
I’m enjoying my flow moments immensely and my biz is better for it, as is my personal life. Take the time now to encourage your flow and seize the moment when you experience it. You’ll reap the rewards of less stress, better living, and what I call “calendar freedom.” The holidays are here, so why not make that change and gift yourself a little extra go-power this season?
Katye McGregor Bennett is the CEO of KMB Communications and founder of #avyoga, #avfoodies, and #avwineclub.