Flow and the Success of Entrepreneurs / Executives

Flow and the Success of Entrepreneurs / Executives

Flow Performance Skills Tips and Training

Arguably, one of the most attractive features of working as an entrepreneur is the freedom that comes with it. The ability to choose your own schedule, work as much or as little as you like, and make your own decisions can result in amazing output or lead to disaster depending on the individual approach. One of the most important elements in how this freedom is used appears to be productivity.

In the entrepreneurial world, efficient time management and the ability to delegate or collaborate is well documented to yield great effects. There are countless productivity hacks, and tools to help you organise every second of your day. Yet there is an important element missing in all of this. What do you do in the actual moment you are supposed to be productive? It’s all planned out, the calendar is set up, the to-do list notifies you what needs to be done. But in the moment of execution, are you being as productive as you could be? Is your actual output in the moment at it’s full potential? In addition, as an entrepreneur we constantly face curve balls almost daily, which make our previously well organised plans redundant – what happens then? And how can we make the most of our time in these situations? business

How we perform during these periods is critical. Thankfully, for all entrepreneurs listening there is a way for us to maximise our potential for success through the improved productivity that comes with flow. Flow, is a concept that can provide some of the answers. Hungarian professor of Psychology Mihali Csikszentmihalyi initially described the notion of flow in his seminal work, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, where he describes it as a state of complete absorption with the activity at hand and the situation, a state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter. Since his initial description and exploration in the 1970’s, flow has been utilised in elite sports and in the offices of top executives alike due to the profound effects it has on performance. A 10-year McKinsey and Co. study on flow and productivity found top executives 500 % more productive when in flow. Let’s just take a moment…..that is five times more productive. Meaning if we worked all day in flow on Monday we could take the rest of the week off. Any takers?

Being in a flow state or “in the zone” allows for deep concentration and ultimate immersion in the task at hand. This allows for complete attention on a subject and maximises productivity and output in a given time frame. This is important for the entrepreneur or CEO who must not only manage what they do with their time, but also maximise the benefit of the actual time allocated to various tasks.

Time management is about prioritisation and what you do when. But flow is about the how you do what you do. Using flow in your day-to-day means devoting 100% of yourself to the task at hand. Flow is about doing one thing, doing it undistracted, and doing it well.

Productivity is not only vital for the individual but for teams, and entire organisations. In Forbes magazine, James Slavet of Venture Firm Greylock Partners suggests a new metric to measure a great start-up team. He calls it the ‘Flow State Percentage’, which is the proportion of the day employees are in flow as a measure of performance. He argues that every team comprises of jobs that require a lot of brain power and that our current work scenarios are not providing the optimal platform to maximise efficiency and output. Ideally 30-50% of a productive day should be spent interrupted. Things such as emails, phones, meetings, colleagues all snap us out of flow when we are really starting to get things done. Studies show that getting back into flow once interrupted takes 15-20 minutes, if possible at all. James Slavet challenges us to measure this in our teams. How much time is spent interrupted and in flow in a day? Divide this by the number of work hours and this is your flow state percentage.

So, how do we minimise distractions when you are in productivity mode? John Reed, the former CEO of Citigroup kept his office door closed from 7am to 10am every day, refusing to take any calls or visits until he opened his door. Follow Reeds lead and get creative. Set up your working environment for yourself and your team to achieve maximum output and flow. Look to find flow on a daily basis or get a flow coach. The difference between finding flow frequently or not whilst working, not only is the difference that makes the difference to success, but also makes the job a whole lot more fun.

 

 

joos-small  Aucamthor: Dr Joos Meyer – Flow Seeker
Editor: Cameron Norsworthy – Performance Director

 

When Did You Stop Being in Flow?

When Did You Stop Being in Flow?

Flow Performance Skills Stories

An artist was once asked in an interview, “when did you start drawing?” He responded: “That’s not really the right question, the real question is, when did you stop drawing?” We all drew pictures as children and expressed ourselves creatively in one way or another. At some point however, many of us stopped. But why?

This sketch is a great analogy to our ability to access flow. Believe it or not, kids are in a small state of flow when they are drawing. They are in the moment, immersed in the task at hand, completely uninhibited and fully expressive of who they are at that particular moment. So when asked, “when did you start accessing flow?”, the real question is, “when did you stop?”

As we grow up and are influenced and shaped by our differing life stories, there is often a common thread. Many people loose the ability to let go and just be in the moment – in flow. What causes this? Underlying most of the obvious answers are a series of mental constructs that end up acting as barriers to flow.

The same reasons that caused you to stop drawing are quite possibly the same barriers stopping you from accessing flow. Perhaps at some point you thought you weren’t good at it. Something or someone projected that being good at something is important. Perhaps it became evident that you could not make a living off drawing. The reasons for your enjoyment might have become tied up in a multitude of factors other than the enjoyment itself. It is different for everyone, but at some stage we create a mental construct (belief/value/mindset) that prevents us from playing for the sake of playing – we tell ourselves to get on with the ‘real world’. play

When we were drawing as kids we were not seeking outcomes, results, or comparing ourselves to others, We were not seeking validation, trying to impress, trying to be good, labelling the action, or assigning value to our work. We drew or played for the sake of playing because we enjoyed the process. This enjoyment of the process and outcome independence is vital in flow.

Being in flow doesn’t magically make you an expert in your arena. Yes we can learn faster in flow, but it’s the rehearsal and work that goes into your practice that ultimately determines our skill level. Being in flow does however, provide the platform for the ultimate expression of your skill or task. The state of mind of the child drawing, where nothing but the experience of the moment matters, is the same for an athlete about to break a world record. The difference is their life experience up until that point, and the practice and training that has gone into their work. Should this child keep exploring drawing in this free, uninhibited way, there is no reason why they couldn’t produce amazing works of art in the future. But what usually happens? External factors get in the way. The child is often forced to question what they do and frame it in the context of what society values: socially defined outcomes, validation, skill, and monetisation.

So what does this mean for your own flow? Try to identify your own mental barriers. Do you still draw? Why not? Answering these questions could give you an indication of some of the barriers that exist for you. Think of the reasons that you are doing something. If you surf, it’s likely you do it for the love of the sport and not much else. It’s just so enjoyable that you just do it for the sake of doing it. It’s this attitude that can help you get into flow. You can do this when giving a presentation at work, or studying for an exam. You just have to remove all the other reasons you might be doing it, which are acting as mental barriers, and focus on the one. Find a reason to enjoy it. There’s always at least one.

 

joos-small  Aucamthor: Dr Joos Meyer – Flow Seeker
Editor: Cameron Norsworthy – Performance Director

 

Find an anchor you can use to remind your self to have fun and play. Whether it is jumping up and down like a chicken or doing an impression of the cartoon character, Tasmanian devil, find your own meaningful anchor that you can quickly do in 20 seconds or so, that physically and mentally shakes you up, changes your state and gives you a clean canvass to play from.

Its that simple, give it a go!

 

For more info please get in touch or purchase our book on flow.

Play and Flow

Flow

When we play we engage the subconscious and react instinctively, our minds and body become seemingly hard wired. We often do things without thinking about them or say things things without thinking about what we are saying, only to find ourselves questioning it afterwards. Our minds are not full of this conscious thought that occurs during post questioning, or when we think about our actions, we simply play.

Playing when we are young is natural, and almost essential, yet when we get older it becomes refreshing and sometimes scary. Our conscious minds become serious and full of control, belittling the act of play as something without purpose or value. How does it help us pay the rent? We should be training instead! How does it help us with our career? and so on. The older we get the more we activate the conscious mind through education, demands of society and the desire to act with the ego to keep us socially safe and of values to others. We become more and more attached to the self image of ourselves, that we project to others, which is generally made up of what we believe others want us to be. We start changing the clothes we wear to meet the projected self image we have made up, and even change our friends, our jobs and our hobbies to keep this self image intact and climbing the social ladder.

During all this time we loose the value of play and connection with our true self. We become obsessed with our self image and become to see this image of ourselves and actually who we are. Meanwhile every minute we spend on this self image we live in the conscious mind and loose connection with the subconscious. We build the ego, a sense of control, and a fear of loosing control as the conscious mind takes controls of our thoughts, our being, and our identity. Before long we are attached to our thoughts as if each thought represents who we are. We spend most of our day on our own heads entertaining the thoughts that fleet in and out. When we train and practise for our performances we order and expect the body to react and perform. We approach our training and performances with this egoic self image we have created, which is full of fear and self doubt, yet we expect our body to perform without nerves or self doubt. When we play well we congratulate the self image for being so good, when we perform badly, we tell ourselves we are rubbish or start blaming external factors.
We all share this pattern to some extent or another, it is part of being human and having an egoic conscious mind. The question that needs asking is, does it help our performances? Although the rational and logic of the conscious brain can help with structurally changes in our training regimes, debating different strategies, or analysing what we could do better, when it comes to the actual performance and we want to be in flow. Learning to use the mind as a tool rather the who we are is critical in obtaining flow more readily. When we learn to value play and prioritise it over our conscious thoughts during training and performances we become very close to being in flow. When we are playing we become attached to being in the moment, we start experiencing life in the here and now, and open up the opportunity for flow. When we play we do not think of the pressures around us, we simply play. When we play we do not focus on our weaknesses and doubts, we just play. When we play we do not demand or expect the body to do anything, the body simply plays willingly. When we play we do not question our motivation or worry about our energy levels, we simply are engulfed in play.

 

For more info please get in touch or purchase our book on flow.