As I watched the Super Bowl last night – where, I must admit, I was cheering for the Colts – I couldn’t help but marvel at how well Drew Brees was playing.
To be sure, he was in the zone from the 2nd quarter through the end of the game. The Colts simply couldn’t stop him.
The fact Brees seemed to be “in the zone” is actually referred to as being in the state of Flow.
Lean practitioners often speak about flow, or making material and information flow smoothly without interruption. And while this is great stuff, it’s not the same Flow Drew Brees experienced last night in the warm Miami air.
The Psychology of Flow
The phenomena we call Flow was first proposed by Hungarian psychology professor Mihály Csíkszentmihályi.
There are many formal definitions of Flow with most of them explaining that Flow is a mental state of being whereby a person is completely immersed in the task at hand. And during this immersion the person experiences a sense of laser focus, energy, and extreme satisfaction.
The question now becomes how non NFL football players of the world, like most of us, can consistently achieve this same, or similar, state of Flow in our daily life.
Here are my thoughts on 5 specific things we can all do. And, as always, I look forward to learning from your thoughts and comments.
1. Unplug From the World
In order to experience Flow you must do your best to unplug from the world. This means, gasp, closing down your email, Twitter account, Facebook page, and Internet browser in general.
It also means turning your phones (cell and landline) off since nothing will break Flow faster than either of these devices doing what they do best – make noise and distract.
2. Stand Up
There is more and more research explaining how detrimental sitting for extended periods of time is to the human body.
As such, standing is a far better option. Initially it will be hard, and finding Flow might be difficult as your legs ache for the first week or so, but eventually you’ll find yourself far more focused and productive as you stand and work.
3. Know Your Stuff
Athletes like Drew Brees are so good at what they do (since they’ve practiced for thousands of hours) they’re often able to perform on a completely different level than most.
And so it is with us. Once we become extremely good at something, by practicing, we’ll have a much better chance of finding Flow while doing this type of work, or slight variations of it.
For example, while I’m not a professional blogger by any means, I have written a few things in my life. I’m comfortable writing. And since I try to write like I talk… once I get an idea in mind I’m often able to pound out 750 words in no time at all.
Psychologists often refer to this concept of “knowing your stuff” extremely well as overlearning, meaning you’ve practiced a particular task so much it leads to something called automaticity.
4. Work on What Matters
You’ll have a much better chance of achieving Flow when you’re working on things that really matter.
While I’m sure he competes hard no matter what game he’s playing, I’m quite confident the fact Drew Brees was playing in the biggest sporting event of his life assisted him in achieving the level of Flow he experienced last night.
So, while we all have to take care of the menial tasks in life… do your best to work on the tasks that matter most to you.
5. Find Work You Love
If you hate your work it’s going to be difficult to experience Flow.
So, while it’s not always immediately possible, you should strive to find work you love and are passionate about.
When I first sat behind a Gemba Academy video camera I was a nervous wreck since I wasn’t very good at it. But there was something intriguing about it. So I persevered.
Now, after lots of practice, there are few things I love more than sitting behind those cameras while waxing poetic about all things lean.
There’s no doubt about it… I love what I do and, as such, often find myself in a state of Flow while the lights are on and camera’s rolling.
What about you?
So these are a few things you can try as you aim to find Flow in your daily work.
Do you agree with my list? Do you have any additional ideas for how you find the zone and enter into the state of Flow?