Working from home means constantly having to avoid distractions and temptations. You are surrounded by all your own things and offer endless opportunities to deviate from the task. For many of us, this leads to a situation where we do not get much done. Unless you expect to catch Pokémon …
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But what if there was a way to turn off these distractions and go into a hyper-focus state that lets you burn through tasks like Bradley Cooper in Limitless .
There it is, and you've probably experienced it before: it's called a flow state . This is how you get into a flow mode when you work from home, so you can really optimize your time.
What is a flow mode?
Flow status was first described by psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, who observed them occurred over a wide range of disciplines and even sports.
The term describes a state of extreme focus, which is accompanied by changes in the brain. In particular, the individual experiences something called "transient hypofrontality." The neat term is to say that they experience a decrease in blood flow to the cerebral cortex, followed by a decrease in activity in the region.
Why is this a positive thing? Because while we associate the cerebral cortex with higher thought and planning, it is also responsible for things like anxiety and our inner critics.
In other words, if you think you are thinking things like "I should check Facebook to see what Jeff said about my photo," or "I'm not sure if I do this right, I should just stop "then it comes from your prefrontal cortex.
What we are looking for is the kind of intense focus on just one task that you experience while going to film. You have to be so focused on what you do that you don't even entertain any other thoughts.
This is where you lose time and tasks become almost meditative. It is at this time that the real work is done, and often it is also the most insightful and useful.
It is at this point that the real work is done.
There are subtle differences in play here, but different brain areas are played depending on the type of activity. The point is, however, that at some point the brain is "locked in" to whatever you do and you can blast 10 times as much work. Most people have experienced this at
Now the next question is: how do you get into a flow mode?
The first thing to understand is that flow states require a period of constant, focused work. By definition, a flow state requires that you focus on only one thing so that anything that breaks your concentration or forces you to switch assignments will pull you back to reality.
Estimates indicate that it takes about 30 minutes to get into a flow mode, and in my experience, it's about right. This means that you have to avoid distracting emails or notifications for at least as long.
Flow permits require a period of continuous, focused work.
It also means that you have to fight the temptation to open Facebook, or otherwise move on to another task. An excellent video from BetterIdeas explains how this will often seem harder at one point: almost like hitting the wall when running a marathon.
The key is to be determined enough to push through that barrier and to stay focused anyway. It may be boring now, but eventually you will reach a point where everything else disappears. Just knowing that it can be enough to help you take advantage of much greater productivity.
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The second issue is to make sure that the work you do is challenging without demoralizing, and that in itself it is engaging and interesting to you.
When playing a computer game, it is extremely easy to completely forget everything else you do. Computer games are perfect to create flow states in fact!
There are some reasons for that.
The first is that computer games are action packed, constantly new and ideally cool too. We find it easy to play computer games because we like play computer games!
The second reason is that computer games have a feedback loop with lots of rewards. When you get something right, you hear a pleasant bell or see explosions all over the screen. This sets up reward centers in the brain and releases large amounts of dopamine (which is the brain's motivating hormone).
Finally, computer games are set at the perfect level of difficulty: just hard enough to provide an engaging challenge, but never so unreasonable as to completely tear down your motivation.
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Now compare it to your work: often it is extremely boring and repetitive (really not cool), there is no continuous reward and the difficulty level is often extremely low with occasional nails.
This is also why some tasks are much easier to focus on than others during a work day. I personally think that video editing is extremely addictive while writing articles on topics I am not interested in can be a real problem. This is because video editing is often more creative, but also because it contains an immediate feedback loop. The same goes for programming.
So if you want to know how to get into the flow, you have to do the following:
- Preferably choose information that is intriguing in itself
- If that is not an option, try to either make the assignment interesting or find something about what you can relate to
- Create shorter goals so you get more smaller "gains" during the day
- Track your work so you can see progress  Ask for more responsibility if your work is too easy  Or make it more difficult by increasing your own sand
Like all things, however, it is something that takes practice and time to learn how to get into flow status. Agree, you will eventually find it easier and easier to achieve maximum focus!
What do you think? How do you get into a productive flow mode?