I’m sure you’ve heard of people “getting in the zone.” Often, athletes describe themselves as being in the zone during a tough game. It’s this magical feeling when you’re focused like a laser on the task at hand and everything seems effortless and natural. Everything just flows.
Dr. Csikszentmihalyi (Cheek-sent-me-hi) is the pioneer academic and expert on “flow.” His work describes flow as an optimal psychological state that occurs when someone’s skill level is matched to the challenge at hand. This results in immersion and concentration/focus on the task.
I’m guessing most people have experienced flow. Maybe you were reading a great book or working a busy shift at the restaurant. You didn’t have to struggle or give anything much thought and time just seemed to fly by.
That’s flow, or being in the zone as many people call it, but it doesn’t have to be reserved for professional athletes. In order to live more joyous, fulfilling lives, we should be seeking flow states whenever we can get them.
Here are five ways to try to find flow in your everyday life.
1. Remove All Distractions
In order to have any chance of feeling the flow, you have to focus on one thing at a time. This means putting down the smartphone, turning off the TV, and finding a space that’s conducive to whatever task you’re doing.
A ping from your cell phone can literally ruin your flow. And smart phones were designed to compete (and win) for our attention.
So, remove all distractions in order to have any hope of getting in the zone and finding that flow in your daily life.
2. Do One Thing at a Time
Studies have shown that no one can actually multi-task. Our brains are made for focused, one-thing-at-a-time concentration.
That means, you need to close all those windows on your computer, turn of the TV, and, once again, put that smartphone down. Better yet, put it in another room.
Engage in just one activity at a time to increase your chances of getting in the zone. If you’re writing, only write. If you’re cooking, just cook. Exercising? You guessed it. Don’t check emails between sets. Do one thing at a time to increase your odds of finding flow.
3. Take up a Hobby
Hobbies can give you a unique opportunity to increase your skill level and really challenge yourself. Since flow requires our skill level to match the task at hand, a hobby can give you the chance to practice one thing over and over, eventually letting you experience that effortless flow.
Whether it’s sewing, swimming, or writing that novel, as you challenge yourself and your skill level increases, your chance of getting in the zone will also increase.
Keep in mind, if the activity is too challenging, it will be more frustration than flow, so either keep practicing or find a new hobby.
4. Challenge Yourself
Our daily routine can quickly become monotonous. This can put us on autopilot as we go about our day, the opposite of finding flow.
To shake things up and increase your odds of getting in the zone, you need to try new things. If work is becoming too easy and repetitive, you may need to push yourself by asking for a promotion or taking on new responsibilities. If your kids are off to school and your days are easy and quiet, you may need to set some tougher goals for yourself by taking on a remodeling project or cooking more ambitious dinners.
By adding challenge to your everyday routine, you’re much more likely to feel the optimal focus of flow.
5. Make Time for Play
Play naturally has all the ingredients of flow. When we’re playing, our focus is on the game, we are absorbed in that one activity, and we are enjoying ourselves.
So if all else fails, make room for play during your day to make getting in the zone more likely.
Final Thoughts on Getting in the Zone
Getting in the zone, or finding flow, in our everyday lives requires us to challenge ourselves. It requires us to focus on just one thing at a time. If an activity is too difficult, we will be frustrated. If it’s too easy, we’ll be bored. And if an activity is no fun, we obviously won’t have any fun.
So, we need to try activities throughout our day that are fun, challenging, and engaging or make what we’re already doing more fun challenging, and engaging than it is today. Then, we need to put everything we have into that one activity. No distractions or multi-tasking allowed.
Only then will we find the flow in the everyday.
Good luck getting in the zone. May you find flow today and every day after.
Clay Drinko is the author of Theatrical Improvisation, Consciousness, and Cognition and “The Improv Paradigm.” Clay is a certified English Language Arts and Drama teacher with a doctorate in drama and theatre studies and a Master’s in Education. Enjoy his writing about improv and play in everyday life at his website and follow him on Facebook , Twitter, and Instagram.
Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books–written by men–barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.