In Flow

Maximizing Productivity Through Improved Focus

© iStockphoto/beklaus

What is focus?

Let's take an example. Have you ever seen a hassled mom trying to get her young daughter to leave whatever she is doing and do something else?

It's a common enough sight: Young children can get so wrapped up in whatever they're doing that it takes a lot of persuasion to get them to switch their attention.

This ability to focus totally on one thing comes naturally to young children, but it's one of the biggest challenges that most of the rest of us face. We struggle to concentrate and, because of this, fail to get on with the work we're doing.

Some people, though, seem able to focus intensely on what they're doing, and perform exceptionally well as a result. Modern psychologists refer to this state of absolute absorption or concentration in what we are doing, as being "in flow."

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who first described the concept, suggests that this state of being able to achieve total focus applies to almost every field of activity. According to Csikszentmihalyi, flow involves "being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you're using your skills to the utmost". So how do we enter this "ecstatic" state?

Creating the Right Environment

Flow is easiest to achieve when:

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