The flow state is not a mysterious character with its own will. It’s something you can control and create. This is how.
Writing is hard.
This blog post was born from a true need. One day, I was sitting in front of my laptop feeling I had finally run out of words.
I had some half-ideas and quarter-of-topics in my mind and I dabbled first in one, then in another, but nothing quite took off. The flow state which I can usually access with ease felt evasive.
Before succumbing to frustration and giving up, I reminded myself: the flow state is not something with its own mind and will. It’s something I can invite in and create when I need it.
It was time to summon the tested and proven strategies to craft my flow state when I needed it. You can try these as well to create the flow state whenever the time is right for you.
Prepare for the Flow State
Getting to flow is divine: even difficult tasks progress easily and creativity is bursting.
Fortunately, it doesn’t just arrive, you can prepare for it. Here are some things I do when preparing for a focused working session:
- Schedule your working sessions to your diary. It makes sticking to them easier.
- Exercise before an important working session. It gets your endorphins flowing, and inspiration follows.
- Start by blocking out enough time for your working session. If you have a task at hand that requires an hour to complete, reserve at least 15 minutes buffers on both sides, e.g. 90 minutes. Flow is scared of time pressure, so book rather too much time than too little.
- Give yourself at least 10-15 minutes to get into flow. You can meditate, read articles relevant to your task or listen to an audiobook or a podcast to get in the right mood.
- Block out potential distractions, such as notifications. Close your email and block all the websites except for the necessary resources.
- Create yourself a rough work plan for the working session. What are you working on and what kind of results would you ideally like to accomplish?
- Give yourself time to find the right formula! Over time you’ll see how much time you need to get into the flow state and which are the disruptions that will keep you from getting there.
Leave Enough Time for the Flow
With some preparation and allowing yourself time to land in the flow state, you’ll be off to a good start! How to ensure your flow state lasts so you get the results you were looking for?
- You can use a timer to guide you through your flow process and set it to go off after the first 15-30 minutes to remind you that it’s time to jump from warm-up to the actual work. You might still feel unready and that’s completely okay.
- To create meaningful results, such as writing a full article or content for a social media campaign, usually takes at least one to two hours. Allow enough time for these results, including some detours, as flow is typically very afraid of being rushed.
- Allow detours: if a new article idea pops up in your head, write it down. Learn to recognise when you’ve discovered a brand new idea and when it’s just something you need to note and move on from.
- Don’t panic if you don’t reach flow each time you try. The less you force, the more likely it becomes to get to the state of flow.
- Don’t get disappointed if you don’t reach your goals during your working sessions. You’ve still made progress.
Move on from the Flow
When you really find flow, that effortless, inspired and focused state where work almost does itself and you merely assist, work is enjoyable, fast and leads to good results.
However, flow can not last forever (and creative work is draining, so you need a break, anyway). With these tips, you get out of flow effortlessly as well and can move on to your next task with inspiration and energy.
- To securely enjoy flow, you’ll need a reminder to get you out of your flow. Use your cell phone, laptop calendar or any other application that won’t tempt you out of the flow during the process.
- Set the timer at least 15-20 minutes before the end of your dedicated working time. Flow can be an intense experience and turning your attention into something new will require some time.
- When your finish timer goes off, start wrapping up. List unfinished tasks and update your notes for the next working session. Note also things that worked well: preparations, articles, breaks, and what could be improved for the next time.
Then, the last thing to do: make sure you have your next flow time scheduled in your calendar and enjoy work again!
Summary: Flow Session Timeline
Before a flow working session
- Eliminate distractions
- Ensure you have all the notes and resources you need to complete the task
- Ensure you have a timer, water and snacks and everything else you need
- Turn your phone on a DND mode or leave it outside your working space
15-30 minutes Warm-up
- Read articles, listen to a podcast episode or something else inspiring that’s related to the task at hand
- Review your notes about the task at hand
- Review your work plan
- Set up a timer to alert you when your warm-up period is over
60-90 minutes Flow session
- Dive into the work!
- Use a timer to alert you in 25-40 minutes to take a short break
- During breaks, drink, eat, stretch
- Don’t scroll news sites or social media
- Ensure you have an alert set up to tell you when it’s the time to start wrapping up
- If you don’t find flow, keep calm. You’ll get some decent work done in any case!
10-20 minutes Wrap-up
- Set up an alert to let you know 10-20 minute before your next appointment
- Use the time to wrap up your thoughts and take notes to the next session
- In the first few working sessions, set aside a few minutes to take notes of what worked: what helped you get to the flow state and what hindered you from getting to your goals.
- Enjoy the feeling of spending time in a focused, enjoyable and productive state of flow!
Is flow escaping from you?
If you find it hard to find flow on your own, join me in the monthly Content Circle events for virtual coworking and the Autumn Content Challenge for fresh content tips, strategy update and support from your fellow entrepreneurs!