3 min read

Flow State

Flow State
Photo by Milad Fakurian / Unsplash

Hey friends!

In the time I've spent note making over the last few weeks, a topic I keep coming back to is 'flow'.
It made me think about how I've achieved flow in the past and how I can incorporate it into my daily routine.

What is flow?

Flow, also known as being 'in the zone', is a high performance state of consciousness that exists in most mammals. It is universally applicable across an infinite amount of settings including education, sport, music, gaming, art, work, and so on.
The six main factors characterising an experience of flow are:

  • Intense and focused concentration on what's happening in the right here, right now
  • Merging of your actions and awareness: "the people become so involved in what they are doing that the activity becomes spontaneous, almost automatic; they stop being aware of themselves as separate from the actions they are performing." - Mihály Csíkszentmihályi
  • You shut down the part of the brain which deals with reflective self-consciousness, turning off the 'inner critic'
  • A sense of control over the situation
  • In deep flow, your brain is so focused that it physically doesn't have enough processing power to regulate your feelings and emotions - you may not notice if you're hungry, tired, or sore and you might completely lose track of time; 2 hours can go by in what seems to be 15 minutes
  • Experience of the activity as intrinsically rewarding

How can I get into flow?

Flow theory outlines three conditions which must be met to achieve this state:

  • To establish structure and direction the activity must have clear, progressive goals
  • The task must provide clear and immediate feedback
  • As below, balance is required between the challenges of the task and your skills. "If challenges are too low, one gets back to flow by increasing them. If challenges are too great, one can return to the flow state by learning new skills." - Mihály Csíkszentmihályi

Flow triggers

Flow triggers are predominately Dopamine triggers, which set up a positive feedback loop and keep you in a  state of flow.
Some of the most prominent triggers are:

  • Concentration (don't try to multitask; make an effort to focus on one thing at a time)
  • Freedom from distractions (turning off notifications, do not disturb etc.)
  • Novelty (new project, new challenge)
  • Unpredictability (when you don't know what's going to happen, the challenge increases and you become more alert)
  • Complexity (the task should offer some level of complexity)
  • Risk (emotional, physical, social and intellectual risks)

I am trying to implement some of these triggers into my daily routines to spend more time in a state of flow. Why not try it yourself!

If you would like to read more into this topic (it's very interesting!) I would suggest starting with the Wikipedia page, this PDF or this TED Talk by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi . These were also my sources for this newsletter if you were curious :)

Thanks for reading!

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Quote of the week

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Have a great week!
Cheers, Toby