What Is Flow? Flow is feeling fully immersed in what you are doing.1
It’s not so much “going with the flow” as it is finding your own flow! The key to a flow exercise is finding the right balance between challenge and skill – if the balance is just right, you’ll be “flowing” in no time!
Football receiver, Lynn Swan of the Pittsburgh Steelers, describing long catches he made en route to winning the Most Valuable Player Award in Super Bowl XXV.
We feel flow when:
If the challenge of a task is much more than how much skill you have to do it, you will feel some form of anxiety instead of flow. For example, imagine having just learned to play the guitar and being able to play a couple of simple songs. Now imagine that your friends sign you up for an open-mic session that night. Despite having some skill with a guitar, the challenge of a live performance is too great and causes anxiety.
In addition, if the skill you have for a task is much more than the challenge the task presents, you are most likely to feel bored. Now imagine that you are an excellent guitar player but are asked to play very simple songs. Of course, you are much more likely to feel boredom than flow because your skill is much greater than the challenge of playing easy songs.
However, flow can happen if challenge and skill have an equal balance. This means that a given task gives just the right amount of challenge to make you draw upon all the skills you have.
DH Factoid Employees who regularly experience flow while working (compared to those who do not) are seven times more likely to report that their culture had kind, supportive relationships between employees and is open to new ideas and projects.2
Do it on your own, with a coworker, or as a team. Start by brainstorming a list of work activities that you find hard to concentrate on. Maybe they are too boring, or too taxing, or you just plain dislike them. From your brainstormed list, select one activity that you would most like to find more flow in. Based on what you’ve learned about flow, approach the activity with new eyes, gamify it, reframe it, create a reward or point system, make it more challenging...have fun and think creatively to bring in more flow.
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1 Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990). Flow: The psychology of optimal experience. New York: Harper & Row.2 Salanova, M., Bakker, A. B., & Llorens, S. (2006). Flow at work: Evidence for an upward spiral of personal and organizational resources. Journal of Happiness Studies, 7, 1-22.