How I Get into “the Zone”
Do you have those moments when you’re so into something that you postpone going to the restroom until you really don’t have a choice?
That’s how I recognise that I’m in “the zone”. The Pixar movie Soul describes this state as a space between the spiritual and the physical. I like that.
Conversely, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes being in the zone as a state of flow.
“The state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter. The experience itself is so enjoyable that people will do it even at great cost.” – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
In today’s newsletter, I’d like to share some of my own experiences with getting into this state of flow.
Why would you want it? 🤔
Yesterday, after the initial 5 weeks of writing daily articles for my website, I was finally able to sit down and do some work on the actual website. Like the homepage, the search page and a bunch of others.
I started after I woke up at around 8 am and by the time it was 3 pm I thought to myself ‘damn, is it that late already?’. Not for one moment during that time did I feel the urge to procrastinate. I just felt excited to finally sit down and do the work that I’d been wanting to do for weeks.
It felt like something had taken over and I was just 100% focused on doing the task I set out to do. It was great.
✅ I felt happier
✅ I felt more productive
✅ I felt more fulfilled
✅I felt more focused
It got me thinking: ‘why can’t I always feel this way?’.
How to get into a state of flow 🌊
In his book (unsurprisingly) called Flow, Mihaly you can do at least four things to achieve a state of flow.
1️⃣ Set clear and achievable goals
2️⃣ Work on tasks are challenging, but not too much so
3️⃣ Eliminate potential distractions
When I think back of yesterday’s web design day, these all make sense.
First, I knew exactly which web pages I wanted to build and I knew this would be easily doable within one day. The big difference for me here is that I determined my deliverables the day before. If I’d determine them just moments before I’d start working on them… the chances for procrastination are simply too high.
Second, The tasks themselves were not so easy to be boring, but they weren’t so hard either that I’d get discouraged. I know how to build websites, but deciding on what to put on each page in a design that’s responsive on all devices… that’s still a challenge. A fun one!
Finally, I blocked time in my calendar for this until 3 pm. I have all notifications on my phone turned off regardless. But since the work itself was fun to me, I didn’t feel tempted to check my social media or other ways of procrastination.
In addition to the three suggestions above, there is something in Mihaly’s book about the value of turning your tasks into a game – making them fun. To me, building web pages is like that. Because every time I finish a web page, you have that moment of satisfaction that keeps you going.
Even just having a written to-do list and ticking off a task after you completed it creates that ‘gamified’ sense of satisfaction.
Yet, to me, the real fun comes from doing something I believe in.
I believe in the value of building this website. I am intrinsically motivated by it. I want to help others through it and work on something bigger beyond my other projects with a clear start and end. My personal brand I will take with me forever, which is exactly why working on this website feels meaningful to me.
What I will try to do differently 💪
Yesterday’s experience reminded me of the importance of having flow in your life. It creates purpose and fulfilment in a way that few other things do.
When I was reflecting on the moments when I didn’t feel in flow, it was usually because my tasks weren’t clear. I didn’t set them in advance. I just started.
Other moments, I questioned the purpose or usefulness of the tasks. The goal didn’t feel inspiring or meaningful enough to me.
Maybe it makes sense for you as well to think about when you felt in flow and when you didn’t. What can you change in your daily routine to create more moments of flow for yourself?
For me, it’s to keep my bigger (meaningful) goals in mind as I set clear and achievable tasks the day or week before.
Fingers crossed I’ll still be able to make it to the restroom in time 😅🧻
What I Loved this Week ❤️
📘 Book – Perhaps part of the reason why I feel inspired by being in flow is because I’ve been reading about other side of the spectrum in The War of Art by Steven Pressfield this week. The book is divided in three parts and part 1 is fully focused on the kinds of resistance we feel to NOT do the work we actually want to do. It was extremely satisfying to see pretty much everything written down what I’ve been struggling with over the past decade. Recognising and understanding the problem is part of the solution!
📽️ Movie – I just watched The Adam Project on Netflix and it was a surprisingly touching movie about time travel and family. Great for a Sunday afternoon!
🙂 Creator – I saw a LinkedIn post by Amo Kannika this week, saying that she reached her 150th day of daily concept drawings. I don’t know anything about her other than that she’s from Thailand and that people seem to love her work. It was mostly just a beautiful real-life example to me of the principles described in the book Show Your Work by Austin Kleon… and on LinkedIn! Not Instagram. I found it inspiring, which is why I wanted to share.
Article Spotlight ⭐
In this section of the newsletter I share my favourite article from this week and why. This week, I feel most proud of the article about becoming so good they can’t ignore you.
The ideas described in here have played a major role in my own decisions about life and work, so I hope they can help many others as well.