Finding Your Flow: 6 Triggers that Enhance Creativity and Productivity
If you've done any sort of creative work at all, you've probably come across something called your flow state. Flow state is a mode of work that you enter on occasion (seemingly randomly). You begin working rapidly and with great success. You know the next step before you even get to it. Your mind is rapidly fusing ideas with one another and generating a level of quality and efficiency in your work that seems superhuman.
Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler, in their bestseller, BOLD, describe flow this way:
Research has revealed that flow isn't as random as it might seem. It's triggered by many different variables that, in concert with each other, can help you enter and maintain flow throughout the creative process. It might only take two or three to trigger flow but the more triggers you can incorporate, the better.
1. High Consequences
When you're shooting for a goal that is inherently risky, your brain kicks it into overdrive in a last ditch effort to survive. On the other side of the equation, when the risk is large, usually the opportunity is similarly large. The combination of a risk of failure and high rewards triggers flow. Be willing to look foolish or fail while shooting for the moon. It's very hard to fail completely when your goals are large.
2. Rich Environment
Novelty engages the mind by breaking it out of its routines and patterns. Embracing a new scene, a new task, a new idea or a new person can encourage a creative state because your mind's receptors are taking in new information and making rapid connections with loads of other constructs within your mind. This rapid-firing of your synapses is triggering flow. Novelty may exist within unpredictability, complexity, opportunity, risk or newness.
3. Deep Embodiment
Imagine deep embodiment as learning through multiple mediums at once. A total immersion in what you're focused on. Visual, auditory, hands-on engagement. It allows your mind to fully focus on the task at hand and understand the environment and context of the problem from a deeper perspective.
4. Clear Goals
Clear goals provide both direction and present state of mind awareness. It removes the need to worry about which way to go and allows you to focus on the immediate next step. While goals are wonderful, they're useless unless they're clear.
5. Immediate Feedback
Short circuiting the feedback loop allows you to receive input immediately (or quicker than usual) so that the creative process is rapid iteration based on multiple data points (those giving the feedback) that helps provides a better outcome.
6. The Challenge/Skills Ratio
If you're familiar with the process, you're more inclined to let your mind slip into autopilot. It doesn't engage the creative process. Flow is triggered by pushing just beyond that point - somewhere in between boredom and anxiety. If something is too far beyond your abilities, rather than find flow, you'll become overwhelmed and unable to function at peak performance. Finding that balance of "just hard enough" is key to entering flow and producing your best work!
If you're working in a creative environment, try implementing several of these triggers where possible to help pull you - mind, heart and body - into the work. Even if you can't always control things like rich environment or deep embodiment, you can certainly make strides toward developing clearer goals and asking for feedback sooner. If you're brave, you should also try stretching yourself a bit - go for the moonshot and solve for the impossible. I think you'll find the rewards (even of failure) to be great.