The Concept of Flow

Have you ever woke up feeling motivated to start working on your studies but after an hour or two of continuous studying, you hear you phone ring because of a notification. You think to yourself “Hmm should I take a peak? should I not take a peak? what harm can it really do?” so you decide to check your phone and that initial “peak” turns into scrolling through twitter, then scrolling turns into some conversations with friends by the end of that you find yourself in bed watching Netflix, getting nothing done for the rest of the day. This sometimes happens to me more than often, where I set the day to get work done only to find myself distracted by something.

But there are also times where I do the complete opposite. Like when I started my coding bootcamp, I would be in class and studying for over 10 hours a day without losing focus. I would get so caught up on coding I wouldn’t notice how quick time was flying by. It’s such an intense time of focus and drive to complete the task at hand.

This is actually pretty common. Everyone in every profession or hobby has moments where they only focus on the task at hand. It’s how professional athletes can break world records, or how a marathon runner can run for such long distances . Also like Artists who are inspired to paint all day without moving away from their canvas. This is the concept of flow.

What is Flow

The concept of flow was discovered and studied by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in the 1960s. He wanted to know about this phenomenon where one gets so involved in an activity that it is all they immerse themselves in for overs hours and hours without losing any focus or concentration. So he went on to interview and ask Athletes, Artists and Musicians ect. When were these times when they would experience these optimal times of performance. Then he went on to define the concept of flow as “ A state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else matters, the experience is so enjoyable that people will continue to do it even at a great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it.”

Four steps to flow

Flow can’t be forced but you can set goals and avoid some distractions which help you enter a state of flow.

  1. Clarity of Goal — There are two levels of your Goal: Macro and Micro . In the Micro, create a goal on what you would like to achieve in a specific session. -In the Macro, create a goal on what you would like to achieve in the next few weeks. Creating goals will help mitigate distractions.
  2. Challenge — The task must be challenging enough. If the challenge is really low and the skill is really high, the task will become boring. If the challenge is really high and the skill is really low, the person can become anxious. There’s a positive feedback loop where the task is challenging enough for the skills the person have. If the task is challenging enough, the skill will increase. If the skill increase, the more challenging the task must become. The more challenging the task becomes the more the skill increase and so on.
  3. Distraction is the enemy of flow — Keep phone away from you as much as possible. Don’t fall in the youtube trending category. Stay away from Netflix.
  4. It takes time — At first, you will experience a certain degree of resistance. Flow becomes easier as you keep practicing it everyday.

Resources for more Information

Currently Studying to be a Software Engineer At Flatiron.