Recently I had the privilege to attend a private recital with Piers Lane (AO), an accomplished Australian pianist. He introduced the program for the evening, some very demanding Rachmaninoff and Schubert, and then finished his introduction by saying: “I’ll see you in 40 minutes or so.” Of course he wasn’t about to physically leave the room, but was about to totally immerse himself in these extraordinary pieces. He really had left us for that time, and his playing was sublime. His ability to be in the moment and totally dedicate his whole being to playing these masterful pieces, to the exclusion of everything and everyone around him, was magical.
Has this ever happened to you in some small way? Perhaps you are working on something that is so absorbing that you have lost yourself in work, so much so that you lose trace of time and you totally forget about the outside world. Another phrase for it is being “in flow” – defined by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a positive psychologist, as the secret to happiness – the creative moment when a person is completely involved in an activity for its own sake. Csikszentmihalyi noted that people who fully live their life in complete happiness were able to achieve a state of flow.
Achieving a state of flow has enormous productivity benefits – flow enables to you focus on the important and challenging projects and getting them done. By losing yourself in these activities, you enjoy yourself more, reduce stress and increase quality output.
So, how do you achieve a state of flow? You can move towards a state of flow through some practical, simple, time management strategies – such as prioritising work and focusing on the important and challenging tasks, and ensuring you have some quiet time and a quiet space to enable you to concentrate fully and clear away distractions. I suggest putting a set time in the diary each day – often the morning is best when your mind is fresh and you have lots of energy, but you will recognise your own high energy levels during the day. At this time turn off email notifications, your phone and any other interruptions, let people know you are unavailable except in an emergency during this time and focus on achieving a challenging priority. Most importantly it should be something you love to do. Multitasking destroys flow so resist the temptation to be distracted by attending to other things simultaneously during this period.
Give it a try. When you practice this routine every day you will notice you achieve more, will be happier in your work overall and at the end of the day feel satisfied that you have achieved something important.