How to boost your productivity and get into a flow? A powerful performance coaching technique.
Updated: Jul 11
Have you ever experienced a state of flow? The time when hours were turning into minutes when you were losing a sense of self when you felt like you were under total control of the situation. Athletes call it getting into a zone.
Have you thought about how that happened and what contributed to that? Have you ever thought of figuring out how to transfer this feeling to other aspects of your life? Things like: projects, conversations, exercises, home chores, etc.
A psychologist, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, dedicated his life to studying this notion. He interviewed thousands of high performers and spent countless hours researching about a state of flow. He wanted to know the main ingredients of this experience and how to duplicate it. He successfully demystified the process, and this information had a considerable impact on the psychology of performance, including performance coaching.
After getting familiar with this concept and his literature, I came up with a simplified version of his idea to be more user-friendly. I use this structure with my clients during my performance coaching sessions.
Here are five steps to get into the flow:
Have a clear and specific goal. This goal has to be important for you. You must care about this goal. This goal needs to be essential for you specifically. Make sure that it was your decision, not your friend, spouse, or parent.
Example: To run 10 miles under 10 minutes.
Have a feedback system, some type of landmarks that can tell you that you are getting closer to your goal and making progress.
Example: Every half of a mile, a notification on a fitness tracker.
#3 Just enough Challenge.
Set a goal that is not too easy and not too challenging.
Example: Is this 10 minutes goal too challenging for you for now? If so, increase the time, so it is still a stretch, but it doesn’t overwhelm you. And on the other hand, if 10 minutes is too easy, make it a bit more challenging.
#4 Concentration and focus. Let go of all other problems and worries. Make the activity number one priority and put your full attention on this one activity at the moment.
Example: When you run, you can focus on your pacing, breathing, speed measurement and adjust your pace accordingly.
Let go of self-consciousness, which means the perception of yourself and connect with what surrounds you. Focus on the skill that you are trying to build, not yourself. It might be beneficial to take three deep breaths and dive into the activity. Repeat if needed.
It might take time to get into the state of flow, so do not get discouraged too quickly.
Warning, many of my performance coaching clients experienced some side effects: improved performance, greater happiness, greater enjoyment, greater fulfillment, more motivation, and more creativity. There is a big chance you might feel it too.
As a performance coach, I always say that once you nailed the goal keep stretching yourself. Otherwise, it will get boring, and went that happens, you lose the sense of flow.
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Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990). Flow: The psychology of optimal experience. HarperPerennial.
Dennis Guyvan, a life coach. He provides individual life coaching sessions in Denver and Chicago, and worldwide via video and phone calls. Schedule your free 20-minute coaching consultation with Dennis Guyvan.