Creative activities feel more natural and fluent when you are in a flow state. When you are in a state of flow, you are completely absorbed in what you do, and you are [fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus]. When you are in a state of flow, you are not doing things automatically, but you are not consciously thinking about every action. Something happens at a different level.
But how can we get into a state of flow? Can we increase the chances of entering and maintaining this state to achieve better results?
In this issue, we explore three ways to help us “be in the zone.” None of them guarantees we enter a state of flow, but together they increase the chances of finding ourselves in the flow and being able to hang on to it longer.
Find the Optimal Setup
Flow is a mental state, but it starts with the physical environment.
Maybe the most critical aspect of creating a setup that enables flow is killing all potential distractions. We cannot be immersed in what we are doing when random distractions keep stealing our attention. It starts with turning off the phone, but some distractions originate from the environment.
Find the setup that works best for you. Some people prefer to work in nature, while others prefer a crowded coffee shop; some prefer the privacy of their home, and others will find the best place to flow is a co-working space. In my photo walks, for example, I walk in busy urban streets. Some will consider it a highly distracting setup, but I feel I am blending in the crowd, looking around me and not at my phone, and fully attentive to my surroundings.
Experiment with different setups and stick with the ones that allow you to get into a state of flow more often.
Engage in Something Important to You
Most creative activities have some technical aspects to them. It’s true for painting, photography, writing, dancing, and more. But you will rarely be in a flow state when you are focused solely on the technical aspects. You can only be immersed in a creative activity when deeply connected to its essence.
When your creation is connected to your mission, and when you are being authentic, it is much more likely to experience a state of flow. If you create just to fill a quota or can’t find meaning and value in what you make, you will rarely be able to focus on it for long periods.
Don’t Wait for the Muse
We often associate creating things with waiting for some mythical muse. Many assume this is a precondition to being in a state of creative flow. In reality, it is the other way around.
We can get into a state of flow simply by doing, even before we have an amazingly creative idea. Starting to write associatively, for example, can get you in a flow of writing, and from this semi-conscious writing, new creative ideas can emerge. The same applies to drawing, moving, or observing the world: it starts with the sole intention of being present and doing something, and then something meaningful often follows.