Flow is a theory proposed by psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi when he asked people where in everyday life do we feel really happy? He interviewed creative people asking what made their work lives which made their life meaningful and worth doing when they were essentially spending their life doing things for which many of them didn’t expect either fame or fortune.
Several people interviewed described their experiences using the metaphor of a water current carrying them along, and the term “flow” was born.
How does it feel to be in flow?
- Completely involved in what you are doing
- A sense of ecstasy - of being outside everyday reality
- Great inner clarity - knowing what needs to be done and how well we are doing
- Knowing that the activity is doable - that your skills are adequate to the task
- A sense of serenity - no worries about oneself, and a feeling of growing beyond the boundaries of the ego
- Timelessness - thoroughly focussed on the present, hours seem to pass by in minutes
- Intrinsic motivation - whatever produces flow then becomes its own reward.
In essence, it’s the ability to focus completely on a single task, and find a sense of calm and happiness in your work.
Ideally it’s a state that you’d like in your working life. You’ll not be able to have to be in flow all the time, but working on things that you can lose yourself in is a great way to feel happiness in the workplace
When do you Experience Flow?
Looking at what you enjoy and where you gain your satisfaction.
- What do you do in your spare time?
- Do you have any hobbies?
- Do you do any volunteering?
- Do you have any responsibilities?
- What to you do in the workplace?
For two weeks both at home and at work keep a diary of activities that you’ve undertaken, from writing a project proposal to making dinner, from recording your latest podcast to handing out parcels at your local food bank. Remember that nothing is too small or too trivial.
When did you feel the the most flow? Was it during work or outside the office? Was it for lots of brief periods over the course of the week or did one activity give you the most flow? Did it involve working with others or independently?
Once you know what gives you more flow, now's the time to set aside more time on these activities. If you can work this out for yourself it will make the world of difference to your everyday life, or you may have to speak to your line manager about making some changes to your job description.