How To Reach Flow And Momentum - Working Focused While Traveling
In flow we get fully immersed in a task and consequently the chatter of our mind disappears. It seems that we don't need much effort either.
In this state our consciousness shifts from thinking about ourselves, our performance or how others might see us to the mere action itself.
We lose our sense of time, outside distractions can't reach us while our creativity, productivity and motivation are at their peak.
Table of Contents:
I. Flow In Surfing
I personally find this particularly true in surfing. Mostly I'm completely immersed in the action and I don't think of anything that's happening around me, especially when I'm riding a wave.
I'm just present in the current (moment) - pun intended.
Apart from surfing I experience flow mostly when I'm working on my computer.
So how do we get into flow?
II. How To Reach Flow
I think the most accurate metaphor to describe flow is the image of a river. I mean, a river is literally flowing. It is always in motion, never stopping, not even for a split second. It is not caring about anything, just moving towards the sea...
So, to put it short: Let's be like a river. If you succeed in that, there's no need to read further.
In any other case, here are some more practical tips on how to reach flow, especially while traveling:
1. Working on something that's perfectly challenging
What do I mean by that?
Well, if we want to reach flow it is essential to work on something that has the right degree of difficulty.
Is the task too easy, we might lose focus and get bored. Is it too hard, we lose motivation and might get anxious.
Therefore, it is crucial that our abilities match the challenges we are facing. The more they are in balance, the more likely it is to get into the zone or into the flow channel.
2. Eliminating External Distractions
This one might seem obvious, but minimizing outside distractions is extremely important to get into flow and stay there. This means, putting our phones away, disabling notifications and closing other tabs like e-mail or social media.
It's best to work in a quiet environment where we're not distracted. If our attention shifts, it takes some time to bring it fully back and immerse into the task we were working on. Especially while traveling this sometimes can be a bit challenging, so I always try to book a hostel with a quiet area. If there's none, I usually go to a café.
TIP: I often listen to music while working in a hostel. Putting on my headphones helps me not only to shut off outer distractions, it also heightens my focus.
However, it is important to listen to the right kind of music. I personally can concentrate better when I listen to classical music or techno/trance music. Music with vocals or a high variety of different songs can have the opposite effect and distract us even more from what we're working on.
3. Eliminating Internal Distractions
Equally important as eliminating external distractions is to minimize internal distractions. No matter what we are doing, sooner or later our thoughts will wander and we can't keep our focus anymore.
The best way to train our focus is by meditating. Sitting quietly with ourselves and trying to calm our minds, can do wonders! I've been meditating now for a few years almost every day and I can say that it helps me to remain calmer and I can maintain deep focus more easily.
Another thing that helps clearing my mind, is journaling. I do it every morning as part of my morning routine.
I write down five things I'm grateful for. After that I write down my goals for the day. This helps me a lot to get clear on what I want to do with these 24 hours I have.
Sometimes I write about other things, for example how a certain situation made me feel or whatever comes to my mind...
4. Setting A Clear Goal
What is it that you want to achieve? Setting a clear goal in our minds that we are working towards helps a lot in staying engaged in the task.
Otherwise our focus can easily shift from one task to another. Or we'll end up procrastinating, because we will find excuses to do other things that we tell ourselves are more important.
So, in the case of writing this article I clearly defined my goal for creating a draft version of it.
5. Habit Stacking
I love this technique. I got it from James Clear's book Atomic Habits. He suggests to connect a habit you already have with one you want to develop.
So, think of things you do every day and use them as a cue to start getting into deep focus or flow. You can use this tip to basically develop any habit you want.
For example, when I brush my teeth in the evening, I always think of one special moment that day I’m truly grateful for and relive it in my mind. I never forget it since I never forget to brush my teeth.
It is really powerful, so you might wanna give it a try!
III. The Magic Of Momentum
One action often triggers another one of the same kind.
If we go out drinking and partying, the next day we probably will be tired and hungover, not motivated to do anything.
One the other hand, if we decide to go to bed early, it's easier to wake up early and get ready for the day. If we work out, we will feel more motivated to eat healthy and vice versa.
There are many examples of this...
My point is that we need to build momentum in order to go in the direction we want to go. We need to get the ball rolling. The more speed it will catch, the easier it will be.
Why do I write this here? Well, I think the best way to get the ball rolling is to get into a state of flow.
At one point, it will feel that we need less effort to do the right things, because momentum supports our efforts.
However, momentum can also work against us.
Back to my surfing example... If I start comparing myself to other surfers in the water, or how I might look like, this often results in me falling over or not catching the wave in the first place. Not uncommonly I end up in the "washing machine" rolling and tumbling around - swallowing a lot of salt water.
In this case momentum works against me. One bad action (or thought) leads to the next one.
So, the best way to prevent all this from happening, is to get (and stay) in flow.
IV. Other Tips
Having A Coffee
Caffeine can boost our productivity and improve our focus.
However, if caffeine is beneficial for our health or not, is still a bit controversial. I think in moderate quantities it's fine, but of course some people are more sensitive to caffeine than others, so it can't be generalized.
Personally, I am a coffee lover and it helps me a lot to focus more intensely and get into a writing flow.
Drinking Enough Water
Staying hydrated. Probably the most overlooked tip is drinking enough water. If we don't do so, it can affect our ability to maintain focus and concentrate immensely.
After a big fast food meal, it will most likely be harder to concentrate than after a light meal. So, before a challenging task that needs lots of concentration and attention eating an apple instead of a burger might make the difference!
Knowing Our Biological Prime Time (BPT)
I am usually more energetic in the morning, so I can work most efficiently from roughly 8 to 12 am.
During this time it's easier for me to get into flow and to work on more challenging tasks.
However, you might have the most energy to accomplish tasks late in the evening or even during night.
If for any reason you can't work during your biological prime time, it helps to take some high-quality breaks to recharge your energy and refocus again.
By high-quality breaks I mean not scrolling social media, but engaging ourselves into things that really relax our minds, for example taking a short walk, looking out of the window or doing some stretches.
While I typed down all these words, I'd say I was in flow for about 2 hours. Writing is certainly challenging for me, but not impossible. To get started I made myself a cup of coffee, put on my headphones and dived deep into writing. I set a clear goal and I felt motivated the whole time.
Now I'm gonna close my laptop, and take a little break...