Flow in the Workplace
To achieve optimal chance for flow in the workspace, we can begin prioritizing a few strategies:
Setting clear goals: when we know exactly what our task at hand is, and we know where we need to go with it, that takes some of the guesswork and mental energy out of it. That opens up our creative brains to do what they do best—bring something amazing to the world. And when we have clear goals, we don’t have any doubts about what needs to be done.
Asking for feedback: again, the more guesswork we can minimize, the better. Part of flow is existing with limited internal dialogue bouncing around in our heads, so if we’re constantly questioning if we’re on the right track or if we should be doing something differently, there’s no way we’re going to find our groove.
Single-task: attending to one single task at a time is key for flow. When we’re able to direct our undivided attention towards one project, one paper, one spreadsheet, one task, then that helps us get in the zone.
Balancing the challenge with our skills: if we have an assignment at work that’s way out of our league, flow will not find us. That’s not to say that we should never aim high at work, or that we shouldn’t ever seek out challenges, but just that those are not the place we find flow. If we have challenging aspects of our job that sometimes outpace our skillset, we can focus on finding flow elsewhere.
Things at work that prevent flow:
Once we know what conditions optimize flow, let’s take a look at two surefire enemies of flow, stress and multitasking. If you’re reading this and you already know you don’t have a great work/life balance, listen up. When we’re stressed, this increases our central nervous system’s “fight, flight, freeze, response,” sending cortisol through our bodies. That gets our hearts pumping, our minds racing, and eventually brings us way, way, way out of our brains and into our bodies. Flow will not be found in this state, my friend.
Similarly, when we’re trying to multitask and keep all of the plates spinning at once, we’ll do exactly none of them well. Our attention is too divided to find our groove on one single thing, and that divided attention fractures our likelihood of flow as well.
Now tell me, how do you find flow in the workplace? If you don’t feel like you’ve got much of it right now, what needs to change for space to open up for “the zone”?
Souders, B. (2020.) Flow at Work: The Science of Engagement and Optimal Performance. PositivePsychology.com