Flow State – Goods & Bads

I love to sit down at my desk and start doing some very productive work, especially coding. When I’m coding and developing something totally interesting to me, you will find me soon in a state where I’m not very responsive to surroundings. In my opinion, this state is called flow. You can read more on flow in the recommended book “Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience” by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi*. I’m totally focused on the current task and really get something done. There are not many situations when I’m in the flow state. I feel myself in flow in the following situations:

  • Coding
  • Cooking
  • Gaming
  • Sports (maybe)

Writing is not one of them yet, but I’m doing my best to let my thoughts flow. I love when I’m in the flow. It has a lot of positive characteristics, but in addition, it’s combined with some negative ones. Let’s have a look at the good and bad things about the flow state.

Good things about the flow state

Some of the good things about the flow state are:

  • time is flying by as if it stands still
  • the feeling of productivity is overwhelming
  • I’m feeling I really get something done

Bad things about the flow state

With the good things about the flow state, I’m feeling there are still some disadvantages when being in the flow state. Bad things are:

  • when you get disturbed for just a moment, you need around 15 minutes to get back into the flow
  • sometimes, time is flying by more quickly – for me, everything else I don’t mind. This results in getting late or even forgetting to eat. 
  • when I’m not able to finish what I started while in the flow state, I’m getting frustrated

Solution approaches

The first disadvantages could be overcome with closing the door or putting on some headphones to signalize everybody else “I’m working”. You can also block notifications. The other two disadvantages of time and getting frustrated are a little bit trickier to overcome. Here are some approaches I tried to resolve those disadvantages.

A simple timer

At first, I tried to use a simple timer to keep myself in the flow state for, let’s say, 1 hour. After that, I want to tackle the next task. When the timer rings, I shut it down, refocus, and just in a second I’m back in the flow state, forgetting the time. Another problem to the simple timer approach is, that I’m not getting my work finished in the predefined time and potentially getting frustrated about it. 

A pomodoro timer

Another approach I tried, was to use a Pomodoro timer. The Pomodoro method instructs you to tackle your task in 25 minutes packages, called Pomodori. Between those Pomodori, you take 5 minutes off your task and after 4 pomodori you have a longer break of about 30 minutes. This approach is a little better, but I have to interact with the timer again and again, and I don’t know if I’m in a Pomodori or in a break. Therefore I’m not taking the breaks and just going with the flow. Also, you have to be really disciplined with yourself and I’m not when I’m in the flow state.

A new approach

I needed a new approach to use my flow state time more effectively and less frustrating or problematic. So I come with an Idea to get gently reminded about being in the flow state.

Right now I’m working on a new app, which helps you exactly with this approach. I’m in early development with the app and have nothing to show at the moment. I’ll get back to you soon to tell you more about the idea and development process. 

How and when are you getting in the flow state? Do you want to know more about my new app? – Tell me in the comments, write me a mail at julian@teachandco.de or contact me on Instagram.

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