Flow for Leaders

Today we talked with Steven Kotler, who wrote Stealing Fire with Jamie Wheal. Steven is also the founder of the Flow Genome Project, and the best-selling author of The Rise of Superman: Decoding the Science of Ultimate Human Performance.
We wanted to share some thoughts on flow, which is also known as “being in the zone.” This is a mental state where you are fully immersed in an activity and feel energized focus and enjoyment in it. In flow, you get completely absorbed in what you are doing and lose your sense of time and space.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is credited with the term “flow,” which came from his studies of the optimal experience. His research found that everyone, from artists to athletes to CEOs, were fueled by flow to push creative and physical boundaries.
A few thoughts about flow for leaders who want to push boundaries:
Why it matters – you are at your most productive when you are in flow. In fact, flow’s impact on productivity is usually fivefold!
How you achieve it – flow follows focus. Here are a few things we learned from Steven and Jamie:

  • Focus. Flow only occurs in the present. The more you can lock into the present moment, the more easily you can slip into flow. In the Flow Fundamentals class we took, they recommended Box Breathing as a technique to improve focus. It’s used by the US Special Forces to train their ability to focus. Another way to heighten focus is to do things that matter most. Passion heightens focus. Block sixty to ninety minutes without distractions, to do what you are intensely passionate about and get in the flow!
  • Recovery. There are four stages to the flow cycle. One of the often-overlooked stages is recovery. How do you build this into your life? Do you sleep enough? Use a dry sauna or get a massage to speed recovery. This increases your capacity to move into flow.
  • Read. This came from Steven’s research on how dopamine (the pleasure chemical) is released when you link ideas together. You can’t make links or find new patterns if you don’t have new information. Read a book about something you’re curious about but is not in your main area of focus. Add data to feed the pattern recognition flow trigger.

Leaders can be overwhelmed by the tyranny of the urgent. Protect your time and give yourself the gift of flow to increase your productivity and enjoyment of work.

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