Have you ever been so focused on something that you felt energised; energised by a sense of being in control whilst also feeling pushed and challenged?
You may have seen it in a musician playing a piece of music, or an athlete who is completely absorbed in running a race.
This peak experience is 'flow', a term first described by Mihayl Csikszentmihayli in 1990 as “a state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience is so enjoyable that people will continue to do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it.”
The concept of flow has been extensively researched by psychologists and has been found to have many benefits, including improved performance, increased happiness and improved emotional regulation.
The good news? Flow can be found in our professional lives, too. You can use what psychologists know about flow to create flow experiences in your working day - therefore increasing your happiness, enjoyment and performance at work.
Here are the key elements of flow according to Csikszentmihayli.
Complete concentration on the task
There is a clear goal or reward in mind
The sense of time is lost
There is a balance between challenge and skills
There is a feeling of control over the task
Take a moment now to consider what tasks you do at work that have these elements. How could you plan your day to ensure you have the opportunity to work on a task that allows you to experience the flow state?
Aside from the task itself, what actions would you need to take to make the flow state possible? This could include blocking out the time in your diary as 'project time', showing yourself as unavailable on your calendar or adding an automatic response to your emails for the project time, advising that you are currently unavailable to reply to emails, however if it is urgent please call.
Jen Smollett is a partner coach with Careering into Motherhood.