Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Flow is an optimal state mind between boredom and anxiety where you perform your best and feel your best. Flow is the experience of being so engaged in a task that you lose track of time.
In this book Mihaly talk about the 4 Flow factor.
To access flow, “a person must concentrate attention on the task at hand and momentarily forget everything else…Flow‐producing activities require an initial investment of attention
before (they) begin to be enjoyable.” ‐ Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Enter flow at work by starting each task with a focus exercise to cultivate single‐pointed attention. Close your eyes and pay attention to music or your breathing for a minute. When you open your eyes, direct that focus on the
task at hand. Think of your focus exercise like a warm‐up routine before a
workout. The purpose is to make the transition from scattered focus to single‐pointed focus smoother.
“Flow‐producing activities require an initial investment of attention before (they) begin to be enjoyable.”Mihaly Csikszentmihaly
“In flow there is no room for self‐scrutiny.”Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
A rock climber Csikszentmihalyi interviewed said, “You can get your ego mixed up with climbing in all sorts of ways…But when things become automatic, it’s like an egoless thing…Somehow the right thing is done without you ever thinking about it…”
I find the best way to activate an egoless, judgment‐free state of mind is to set permission timers. Throughout the day I start 10‐30‐minute countdowns and give myself permission to work without editing my work or critiquing my ideas. I generate ideas freely and trust my ability to execute tasks on autopilot. The goal is to get into a Zen‐like state and watch yourself
produce results automatically and effortlessly.
“The climber inching up a vertical wall of rock has a very simple goal in mind: to complete the climb without falling. Every second, hour after hour, he receives information that he is meeting that basic goal.”Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Chess players in flow have the clear objective to mate the opponent’s king before his king is mated. “With each move, he can calculate whether he has come closer to this objective.” To determine if your actions at work are moving you closer to your objective, you must give yourself feedback throughout the day.
I do this by setting an hour alarm. When the alarm goes off, I ask myself, “What did I accomplish in the last hour?” and “What can I accomplish in the next hour?” This hourly check‐in helps me clarify my goals and determine if
my actions align with my goals. These brief check‐in’s help me find the flow sweet spot (the four percent challenge).
4. Four % Challenge
If you’re playing chess, you should play chess against players who are rated just 4% higher than you. If you play a weaker player, you’ll win too easily and be bored. If you play a Grandmaster like Magnus Carlson, you’ll get crushed and find the experience frustrating and hopeless. But if you compete against people who are just slightly better than you (rated 4% higher than you), you know you can win if you dig deep, dedicate your attention to the task at hand, and experience flow.
If you adjust the difficulty of work tasks to be slightly harder than what you can do comfortably, you might find flow.
If you can comfortably write 1000 words in 25 minutes, push yourself to complete 1000 words in 24 minutes.
If you can comfortably clean the kitchen in 20 minutes, push yourself to do it 30 seconds faster.
You’ll know if your challenge is in the 4% zone if half the time you meet expectations and half the time you don’t.
“Most enjoyable activities are not natural; they demand an effort that initially one is reluctant to make. But once the interaction starts to provide feedback to the person’s skills, it usually begins to be intrinsicallyMihaly Csikszentmihalyi
I highly recommend this book to all highly achievers.