Flow is what happens when you are fully present. When your complete attention is on the present moment, without distractions.
While being in a flow state is normally linked to work productivity, this can also happen when you are cooking, playing football, having sex, or watching a documentary.
The chatter that we all have inside our minds begins to quiet down, and there is just you and whatever it is that you are doing.
Your quality of life is directly correlated to how much time you spend in a state of flow. So, it is extremely important that we conserve the most precious commodity that we have, which is our attention.
A lot of people think that time is our most precious commodity, but as Seneca notes in his “On the Shortness of Life”, we have plenty of time if we just learn how to use it.
After all, it is unlikely that we will be fully present and using our attention well for every second that we are awake, so it follows logically that we will have less attention than we will have times in our lives.
The modern attention economy does us no favors in this regard. Many of us use “free” platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok. Except that these platforms are not really free, you are the product. You are letting the most precious thing you have, your attention, be monetized.
This is actually worse than it first appears because being able to get into a flow state is a learned behavior, but these platforms are conditioning us to never be alone with our thoughts, to never sit alone in silence without a newsfeed.
This means that we are constantly entertained but are essentially learning not ever to pay attention to a specific moment in time.
Our attention spans suffer, and this means that fewer and fewer people are capable of even experiencing a state of flow because they have trained themselves to do the opposite.
The key to achieving flow for knowledge workers is to remove distractions and then to have patience.
Try locking yourself in a room for four or five hours straight with one goal to achieve and no distractions. At some point, you’ll get bored, but if you move past that, you’ll start to take action towards your goal.
But, more importantly, you are starting to build the habit of doing deep work. At some point, you may experience the flow state, where things appear quite effortless and time just starts to go by.
Often hours will seem like minutes — then you know you’re doing it right.