Do you recall the last time you put 100% attention into something?

You might be typing away on a desk, creating art, or doing a household chore. Whatever it is, it makes hours feel like minutes. You enjoy what you’re doing while functioning at peak performance.

This trance-like experience is called a flow state. 

It’s when your productivity is at an all-time high. When you’re in the flow, nothing else matters—your mind balances between sharp focus and mental control.

The big question is, is it possible to be in a flow state intentionally? Can you do it every day? Let’s find out what flow is all about and how you can achieve it, as you read on.

What is a Flow State of Mind?

Focused stare of a man with green eyes

If you’ve been “in the zone” before, then you probably didn’t notice until a few hours later. You step out of the flow, feeling tired yet fulfilled.

Flow is a powerful state of mind. It’s an autotelic experience. You feel challenged, but you don’t feel stressed out.

As Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi stated in his book, Flow and the Foundations of Positive Psychology: The Collected Works of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, “it is a moment when work and leisure merge and working stops being tedious.”

Since 1975, many experts have examined the flow psychology. An observational study found that flow state increases cognitive control without overloading your memory. It’s a training exercise for your brain.

Another research showed how it could affect pianists. As they play, flow affects their blood pressure, heart rate, and overall performance. It also enabled musicians to synchronize flawlessly with each other, leading to a group flow state

The best thing is, you can recreate this experience daily. 

How? Well, there are many flow state triggers you can use, but it doesn’t have to be that complicated. Here are the top curated methods you can try to get into the flow.

How to Induce Flow State in 7 Ways

Woman in sportswear practicing yoga by the large window

Do Something You Love

This word of advice might sound a bit cliche, but it’s true. When you do something you’re interested in, your motivation is through the roof. Time stands still when you’re having fun.

It also “acts as a magnet for learning new skills and increasing challenges,” as noted by Mihali Csikszentmihalyi in Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement with Everyday Life

When you’re in the zone, you’re focused on overcoming a specific task. If it’s too simple, you’ll get bored. If it’s too complicated, you’ll end up feeling frustrated. 

To balance it out, pick up an activity that you enjoy, which also offers room for growth.

Woman rock climbing

Set Clear, Realistic Goals

Okay, so you know what you want to do. You’re feeling motivated. What’s next?

The next step is to set your goals. More specifically, break it down into smaller, realistic tasks you can do day-by-day. This makes everything more manageable and conducive to focus.

When your to-do list is too long, you’ll risk straining yourself. Your energy will run out and break the flow. Disappointment will also set in once you realize that your goals are impossible to achieve in a day. 

To reach a happy, flow state, focus on one activity at a time. Try not to switch between multiple tasks. More importantly, have a clear idea of what you’re going to do today. 

Man playing an electric guitar

Practice Makes Perfect

Getting into the flow might not be easy for everyone. Some people might be easily distracted. Others might not always be in the mood for productivity.

If you’re struggling to focus, how do you achieve a flow state? 

To answer that, think about seasoned athletes. Because they’re used to training, they can switch their focus and immerse themselves. You can also achieve that through consistent practice.

Establish a routine and commit to it. It doesn’t have to be perfect from day 1. Try developing one good habit at first, then work your way up gradually.

You can also do journaling and meditation. These two mindful practices can boost your mood and help keep your focus on track.

Runner pouring bottled water on his head

Give Yourself a Mental Cue

Along with daily habits, there’s a little trick you can do for your brain. Switch into focus mode quicker by creating a mental cue.

The point of a mental cue is to signal your brain to do a specific action. In this case, you’re telling your brain to get into the flow. The more you cue yourself, the easier it takes to focus.

Some people set their intention for the day through yoga. Others go for deep breathing rounds for a calming effect. Small rituals such as making your bed or any other activity also count.

Do the same mental cue every time before you enter a flow state. It might be strange at first, but it can work. A simple signal connects your brain to peak performance.

Man typing on his laptop while sitting in the kitchen

Get Rid of Distractions

Distraction is the adversary of focus. Why? 

It’s because of attention residue. When you try to get back on your task, some of your attention is still on the distraction. It takes at least 25 minutes to get that focus back.

Create a conducive environment by getting rid of distractions. 

Silence your phone. Mute social media notifications. Close unnecessary tabs on your screen. When you’re in a quiet working space for at least 10 to 15 minutes, you can achieve a flow state of mind.

Another suggestion is to listen to soothing, ambient music. According to a recent study, music can lessen stress while amplifying your focus and concentration.

Smartwatch on their left wrist, and sleep tracking app open on the right

Work at your Peak Energy Levels

Quick, answer this one! Early riser or night owl? 

Whatever your answer is, that’s your biological prime time, and you should take advantage of it.

Biological prime time is when your energy is at the highest level. It’s also when you can be the most productive. 

Shift your schedule around to fit your peak energy levels. In doing this, you’re working to your full potential rather than forcing yourself to work. 

It’s also best to take short breaks during the day so you don’t get exhausted quickly. 

Lastly, coffee can help. If you drink coffee strategically before entering a flow state, it’ll be an effective energy booster.

Keep the Momentum Going

Fun fact: Writing this article was a challenge. Why? Because I was sleep-deprived, dehydrated, and couldn’t maintain focus.

Don’t make the same mistake. Eat on time and get at least 7 hours of sleep. Following an exercise program also improves your attention since it raises the serotonin levels in your system. 

Aside from that, a proper diet is vital. Keep track of your diet’s nutritional value. Remember: it’s about quality more than quantity. 

For instance, energy drinks provide a temporary boost. Soon after, your energy level goes down, and you’ll crash and break your flow state. To maintain your focus better, switch to healthy alternatives in your diet and lifestyle.

Woman doing a headstand

Learn How to Achieve Flow State, and You’re Set for Life

Flow state is one of the most sought-after phenomena among peak performers. It’s when you feel the happiest and most productive. With flow, you can harness your full potential.

Imagine if you can get into the zone whenever you want to. Instead of being stressed out at work, you’re up to do more. You feel like you can take on anything, and you probably will.

It’s a useful tool for peak performance, and you can activate it anytime. Try the 7 methods above, and see how going with the flow works for you.

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References:

  1. The Psychology of Flow
  2. EEG Correlates of the Flow State: A Combination of Increased Frontal Theta and Moderate Frontocentral Alpha Rhythm in the Mental Arithmetic Task
  3. The psychophysiology of flow during piano playing
  4. The Interplay Between Chamber Musicians During Two Public Performances of the Same Piece: A Novel Methodology Using the Concept of “Flow”
  5. Go with the flow: engagement and concentration are key
  6. Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement With Everyday Life
  7. Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience
  8. Why is it so hard to do my work? The challenge of attention residue when switching between work tasks
  9. Soothing, minimal music scientifically linked to higher levels of concentration and productivity
  10. Effects of coffee/caffeine on brain health and disease: What should I tell my patients?
  11. Attention Improves During Physical Exercise in Individuals With ADHD

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