* Not my usual subject matter, I wrote this article for one of my employers 🙂 *
(and finding happiness in the workplace)
Have you ever lost yourself in your work? Became so entirely focused that you lost track of time?
Being consumed totally by what you are doing, is a state of mind called “Flow”.
Flow is the mental state of operation in which a person in an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity. Source Wikipedia
Whilst being in the state of Flow you are able to:
- Lose track of time
- Focus completely on the task at hand
- Forget about yourself, others, and the world around you
- Feel happy and in control
- Experience a merging of action and awareness – action with awareness fades into action alone
- Maximise your creativity and productivity
Being in “Flow” means focusing completely on a single task.
Say no to multi-tasking
In recent times, it has become clear that multi-tasking is overrated.
It’s a misconception that you cannot be productive if you are not multi-tasking.
Multi-tasking is more stressful, leads to less concentration on each task, and in the end results in more errors.
Single-tasking means quality instead of quantity (the opposite of which is true of multi-tasking).
By focusing on a single task at once, you will become more effective at what you are focusing on.
So how do you achieve “Flow”?
Achieving Flow in your employees
In author Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, Csikszentmihalyi outlines one of the key steps to achieving flow: finding the perfect balance between challenge and skill on one axis and anxiety versus boredom on the other.
Managers need to step back and take a look at each person’s job to identify where that person falls in relation to these four elements.
If your employees are bored, they are not in flow. There is no tension, nothing new, and nothing exciting to keep their interest.
On the other hand, you don’t want them to be under so much pressure that it turns into anxiety.
So have conversations with each of your employees regarding their own appropriate level between those two extremes.
Check regularly to see if any of your employees are on the “bored” side of this scale, and might need help becoming reengaged.
Keep in mind that most people become bored because they’re doing boring tasks, not because of a character flaw.
Instead of moving away from a person you might see as a complainer, see that person instead as someone who is not really “in flow” and work with him or her to find out what the right mix could be for them, to get them back into Flow.
Achieving personal Flow
- Schedule yourself an important task. Pick your most productive time of the day. For some people that’s in the morning. Whilst things are still relatively quiet, and before you get the mid-afternoon sugar low. For others it’s after lunch, once the small and urgent tasks have been taken care of. Find a time when you have lots of energy and you can concentrate.
- Pick a task that has clear and immediate feedback. So that you can adjust your performance as necessary to maintain the state of flow.
- Be passionate about you are doing. If you find that you are struggling with most of the key elements of your job, then it’s probably time to consider if the job is really right for you.
- Minimize distractions. Turn off your phone. Shut down your email. Even tidy up your desk if that helps you feel more concentrated and in control.
- Train your mind. If you are used to multi-tasking, and constantly juggling multiple things at once, it can be hard to focus on a single task for long periods of time. But over time you can re-train your mind. If you feel the urge to check your email or switch to another task, stop yourself. Breathe deeply. Re-focus. And get back to the task at hand.
Flow and happiness at work
Being in Flow is one of the key components in being happy at work.
Flow is associated with achievement, so it naturally increases workplace satisfaction and accomplishment.
And it not only reduces stress, but increases productivity.
Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand. The sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus.
–Alexander Graham Bell