For those who don’t know, I keep a pretty bizarre sleep schedule now; I usually wake up around 11 in the morning, and stay up until 3 or 4 the following morning. I think my brain likes the late night hours; for some reason I’m able to focus late at night in a way that just doesn’t come without a serious fight during the day. I try to devote an hour and a half, maybe two to each article I write, and can usually get a decent amount of writing done before heading to bed… Last night was not one of those nights.
I’ll admit, I started at 3:30 AM, which was really late, but at 9 AM the gears were still turning, the words were still flowing, and I found that I simply didn’t know where the time went. I found flow.
It’s now been two months since I left my last job, and in many ways I feel like I’m just hitting my stride. My calendar has 33 stars on it (with another coming after I finish this post) from 33 days in a row of writing and posting, and I’m starting to feel writing become a habit instead of a forced project. I think more people are reading the writing, and I feel like my writing is improving over time as I practice more and learn what I really mean to say and not say. But it’s not frequently that I hit flow state, that moment where time seems to just run by as I work. Now that I know it’s possible though, I want more of it. Flow is an addiction.
Marelisa Fabriga writes in her blog Daring to Live Fully (which you should read) writes about the Flow state and lays down a set of criteria to trigger flow: it’s a balance between taking on a challenging project and working within your high levels of mastery. It requires time and focus, but eventually, it just happens: time slips away and you wonder what why you feel so good. A friend told me about flow state a couple of weeks ago, and though I’d experienced it before, I didn’t really think about trying to trigger it repeatedly. Flow state puts us in a state of peace and productivity with our work, but it takes practice, balance, and passion.
I think we’ve all reached a type of flow state in various situations, some of which aren’t work-related: spending time with family over a good meal that ends too quickly, a night under the stars with a new lover, or time sunk into a good book or game that quickly becomes double or triple what you’d planned. Flow feels good because we’re doing something inherently right for ourselves, not selling our time to people that don’t appreciate it, not dragging ourselves through yet another set of mundane tasks, but instead working towards fulfilling a piece of our potential. Though I don’t think we can achieve a constant state of flow, we can try to create more opportunities to reach flow in our lives.
The creator of the concept of flow state, Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, gave a TED talk goes into detail about flow state and its potential benefits on our lives. Check it out, check out Marelisa’s blog, and think about the different ways you could channel flow state in your life and work. We could all stand to have a bit more happiness in our lives.