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Flow at work is that feeling where you move through your day easily without any resistance. You take action when inspired and make big progress on your goals without seemingly exerting substantial effort. While this may seem impossible to some, you may have experienced this in brief glimpses from time-to-time.
For me, sometimes those experiences have been a fluke. Something that clicked into place without me really thinking about it. But because I’ve experienced how much better work can feel when I’m in a state of flow, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how to create those experiences more often. As I’ve thought about this, I’ve found that there are three key building blocks to Flow at Work:
Building Blocks of Flow at Work
Clarity of purpose:
When you try to achieve anything and everything, you are likely to achieve nothing. Instead, the key is to focus on an essential purpose in your work. If you don’t immediately know what this is, that’s okay. If that’s where you are, your purpose is that moment is to gain more clarity in your purpose, which is still a focused goal. Look for what sparks your interest and motivation and what feels more like a chore or distraction. The best match happens when your personal purpose aligns with the purpose of your company as a whole.
Getting into alignment:
This one is tricky because it feels so antithetical to so much of what we are taught about work. But the quality and intent behind your work will be more effective if you come from a place of alignment. Alignment is the feeling of steady high vibe confidence. It is also the feeling of being fully present. I can often feel the difference in meetings when I am aligned or not.
When I’m in alignment while walking into the room, I’m fully present. I listen better to others and have more interesting ideas and contributions. When I am not in alignment, I often feel frustrated. My energy is low, I don’t want to hear what others say, and most things start to annoy me. I shut down and no further expansion of my thoughts or work happens.
A strong routine can help you to get into alignment in the morning. The truth is that then there are a lot of forces during the day that will test your alignment. Some things you can avoid (like checking email first thing in the morning) and other things you will need to learn how to experience them without triggering a reaction.
Letting inspired action guide the way:
This can be challenging to wrap your head around, but the goal here is to work from a place of inspiration and not force yourself into action. When you don’t have the first two elements of flow in place (alignment and clarity of purpose), you might not ever really feel inspired to take action and end up just pushing off your work. But procrastination is not actually what we’re going for here. The goal instead is to release forcing action. You want to release expectations and move from a place of inspiration. If you feel stuck, take a minute to focus back on the purpose you have defined for yourself and ask yourself, what is the next best action right now?
Transitioning into working with more flow:
These three pillars will guide the way to more flow at work. Eventually, in any given moment, you should be doing one of these three things: getting clarity, getting into alignment, or taking inspired action. But it can be challenging to start working this way as it feels so different from so much of what we learn in school and in the office. So how do you start to transition into this way of working without all of a sudden seeming like you are not doing your job?
You don’t have to do it all at once.
There may be areas of your work where you work with others and can’t control the timing of the project. In that case, you can still find smaller parts of your work to start testing some of these ideas. For example, if you are responsible for creating a report for a bigger project, set aside some extra time in your day to work on it. Schedule time blocks into your calendar in advance. Get clear on your purpose for that project. Then set up the conditions to make the work as easy as possible.
Learn about the 80/20 principle and how it shows up in your life.
This principle states that 20% of our efforts typically create 80% of the results. So of all of that work that you are cramming into your day, really only about 20% of it is actually making a difference. How mind-blowing is that? By getting clear on intent, you can start to identify the 20% that really moves the needle and focus on those things. This should help clear up time for you, allowing you to focus on these flow activities, while still completing your most important tasks.
Build in breaks.
Breaks will help you to refocus and re-center yourself and get out of the hustle grind. When you are getting started these can be micro-breaks. A quick walk to the water fountain, or a three-minute pause in your day. Avoid the temptation to use social media on these breaks, and instead use them as alignment time so you can return to your work with your best energy.
Most of us have been taught to work with a hustle and grind mentality. We think that work is hard, and we need to push through it. Persistence is a great quality to cultivate but finding flow at work can help you complete hard, big projects with far less angst. It can be difficult to find your flow every day but tapping into even in small bits can make a big difference in your enjoyment and quality of work. So, the next time you find yourself feeling drained at work- remember the three pillars: Purpose, Alignment, and Action. Pick one to focus on at that moment and start tapping into your own flow!