“You know that what you need to do is possible to do, even though difficult, and sense of time disappears. You forget yourself. You feel part of something larger.” Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi on the concept of flow

Flow: that perfect intersection of heightened focus, creativity and happiness.

What if you could tap into flow more often? What might be possible?

Think of it this way: flow is short-term concentration coupled with long-term purpose. You need both. Not ready to tackle your purpose in life today? Try these as starting points for increasing flow in your work.

Block distractions. This means shutting off your devices. Closing the real or virtual door. It doesn’t have to mean silence—your iTunes playlist or the happy cacophony of voices at Starbucks might lift you. You want to ditch the energy-zapping clutter around you—happy creative stimuli are one thing, stacks of to-do’s are another.

Establish rituals. Discover the set of habits and practices that make creative thoughts literally course through your veins. Think back to when you were last in flow mode. Were you alone? Where? What contributed to the experience? I pour a fresh cup of tea and head for the balcony with my laptop, email turned off. Stepping over that threshold signals creative time.

Overlearn. Dig deep. Stoke your curiosity daily. Think broad concepts to the arcane stories and details of your subject. Take Judy Snyder, an international award-winning waterfowl carver (and my step-mom). She immerses herself in the birds she carves: borrowing the stuffed versions from the museum; learning their feeding, nesting and mating habits; making expeditions to their natural habitat, binoculars at the ready. When she carves (to a continual music feed), time stands still.

Flow. Short-term concentration applied to long-term purpose. When are you in flow?

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8 Responses to Flow

  1. Jane says:

    Hi Rochelle, So much to think about but perhaps we need to halt thinking and as you say , let it flow. I know that I do this best when I go for a walk, not necessarily a long one. I live in the country and so this is a daily habit and I find that invariably as I let go, creativity flows.

  2. Hi Jane,
    Thanks for adding to the thread! Your country walks sound perfect for inspiring flow…

  3. Cynthia K Cuyjet says:

    Hi Rochelle, I ALWAYS stop what I am doing to read your missives and I am richer each time for doing that. I’ve learned to be still and let it ‘flow’ because it really works! Thanks for the reminder to do it more often…..even if it’s just closing my eyes and breathing deeply. Blessings, Cynthia

  4. Cynthia, you are the bomb! Stillness is so hard these days–you are so wise to go there….

  5. Thanks for this wonderful article, Rochelle! I particularly liked the bit about thinking back when you’re in flow mode in the past and contemplate about what did the trick…

    Personally, I’ve a small ritual of having a rough idea about what I want to write about, get up early, have a morning shower (which for unknown reasons acts like an idea catalyst!) and then afterwards sit with the morning coffee for a few hours and capture/crystalise the ideas on paper.

  6. Hi Kenneth, thanks for stopping by. Great creative ritual you’ve perfected–what is it about showers that give us great ideas? Is it the last bastion of solitude??

  7. Good question, Rochelle! It may be because of the solitude and you can be fairly confident that you’ll not be interrupted (hopefully!), so I guess it’s a version of the “block distractions” tip given in your article?

    It’s probably also due to it being a semi-automatic activity where your mind is not really needed, so it’s free to wander around… This is probably also why people, like Jane in the first comment, tend to get great ideas while walking, cycling or running…

    But in my case it’s probably mostly due to me being very “groggy” in the pre-coffee part morning, so the mind is still close to the “dream state” where getting creative thoughts is usually not a problem:)

  8. Dan says:

    Hey Rochelle,
    Great site! Keep it up,

    Let us know if you ever feel like doing a guest post. We’re always looking for new writers.


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