Finding Flow (Or Getting It Back)

Working in “flow” feels effortlessly powerful. Time passes fluidly. Inspiration, creativity, and productivity synchronize and energize. Tapping flow, the priorities get done.

Work that aligns with my passion and purpose inspires me to be “in flow.” Also, certain routines and supporting systems help me get into flow. When my environment recently changed, my flow felt elusive. I faced different constraints in implementing my schedule. Incessant interruptions fractured my concentration. New demands challenged my existing workflows.

When routines are disrupted—or simply not working, underlying systems may need reevaluation and change. Three assessments help us adapt and find our flow: understanding the source of disruption, what currently works, and what currently doesn’t work.

Consider the Source

Knowing the source of disruption helps to identify and implement solutions. Disruptive forces source from our environment or circumstances, our self, or some combination of the two.

Environmental or circumstantial disruptions suggest a purely external source. Something outside has changed—such as my coast-to-coast move. My office and workout room are situated differently than previously. Actions at certain times impact others. For those days when I work from home, more people in the home want access to me—where I had no one to contend with before.

Many external disruptions ease with a few technical solutions. My schedule adapted from working out before 7 AM to after my mom is up and eating her breakfast. I make myself available for planning and family decisions at certain times, and signal privacy and focus with how closed my French doors are. Being able to tap flow uninterrupted my not be this simple for you, but start with simplicity in mind. What small changes make a big impact?

When the source of disruption is Self, pay attention. Signals of pure internal disruption might appear as frustration with the status quo, a desire for something more, a sense of overwhelm, a hunger for different performance or achieving a specific objective.

Ask yourself, what—exactly—do I wish was different in my life and work? Why is this important now? What changed? Internal disruption requires greater assessment and consideration to pinpoint strategies to capture or recapture flow. The solutions are often adaptive in nature.

For example, Southern New Hampshire University launched an excellent media campaign. One commercial introduces a father and factory worker, who begins studying into the night with his young son asleep at his side, studying at lunch, etc. Finally we see him driving past his former jobsite and his son’s school. The son calls a reminder about the father’s tie, and we see the father walk into a professional setting, with a tag line “education gives people the power to change their worlds.” We can easily imagine this father recognizing his desire to “break the cycle” and show his son different life and work options. Choosing the path, identifying the steps of application, working through courses, investing effort towards the completion of his degree. We recognize the new routines and commitment to studying to achieve his objective.

If we seek change, even big change, we can implement supportive routines and systems that help us to get there.

A third source of disruption involves a hybrid of external and internal. Ideas for internal or self-based change float around in our head or heart dormant. Something external—a reorganization at work, an incident, a loss, something important dropping through the cracks, a reminder of a former dream, a colleague who achieves an goal that we could also have achieved—triggers the recognition we are facing or seeking change. In this moment, we’re inspired to act. What we may need to do may be technical, adaptive, or both. We may even need to ask for help. The critical issue is to act. Take a step.

Recognize What Works

In addition to understanding the source of our disruption, we need to take a moment to recognize what is working for us, so we don’t inadvertently “design it away.” For me, I have some routines that rock. For example, I integrated Hal Elrod’s Miracle Morning  “SAVERS” into my day in 2015. The acronym stands for Silence (or meditation), Affirmation, Visualization, Exercise, Reading, and Scribing (or journaling).

Amongst other practices, SAVERS start my day on track. The rhythm generated by my SAVERS transitioned me right into a productive day … pre move. Post move, I struggled. Until I changed the cadence to SAV—S, with the ER shifted in time. I moved the Exercise/Reading block to slightly later in the morning, and revisited my Scribing (which includes the key priorities for my day when I return to the office. Small change, big impact. Don’t be quick to toss routines that support you if only a component of the routine can be shifted.

Identify What Doesn’t Work

In addition to reordering my day to re-synchronize my SAVERS routines, the move forced me to deal with interruptions differently. I use a modified “pomodoro” technique to get and stay in flow (or at least assure I focus on my most important activities). My session times before a “big” break vary; generally, after 90 minutes to two hours, I’ll take a long enough break for “planned interruptions.” I’ve helped family and colleagues recognize these breaks as open and flexible for coordinating and collaboration.

Don’t Wait – Act

Whether you discover yourself to dreaming of greater things or find yourself frustrated with what’s happening today NOW is the time to act. Assess the source, determine if this is a new or latent issue, consider what works that you can keep doing and what has to change.

Craft a plan. Initiate. Only steps forward—be they baby steps or great strides—will help you create change. Flow comes when we work within what brings us joy and when we set ourselves up for structural success.

What blocks you from working in a way that serves your passion or purpose? What keeps you out of productive flow?

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