Productivity is one of the biggest challenges for multipotentialites. Having so many projects on the go can be downright overwhelming and paralyzing. How do you tackle everything you want to get done and still satisfy that curious mind that thrives and grows from wandering?
This month that I’m spending in LA is really testing my ability to be prolific. I am trying to write an album, revise a book, launch a few new projects, and see Los Angeles all at the same time. It’s been difficult, and I’ve had to really revisit the most potent tools in my productivity toolbox.
In this article I’ll share four techniques I use to induce a flow state very quickly when I need one.
1. Remind yourself that hard work actually feels good
The lizard is sneaky. He fools us into believing that Hard Work is painful. We forget that when we are in a flow state, allowing our art to come through us, we feel alive and unstoppable.
Time stops when you are in a flow state. The world dissolves and you are focused on only what matters, unaware of the things like judgement, praise, the future, the past. It’s the best feeling in the world. Yet every time it ends, it’s like we are hit with a wooden 2×4 and then we forget how good it feels the next time we sit down to work.
2. Create rituals and cues around your flow state
To induce a flow state, you must have rituals. Create a set of cues that your body can associate with being in a flow state. Things you do regularly around your work time. Once your brain has made the association, you can use these cues to signal to your body that it’s time to go into that hypnotic state. For example, my body associates flow with morning, tea, coffee shops, and earbuds. At this point, if I get some, or preferably all of these cues in place, I’m usually able to dive into a flow state fairly effortlessly.
Interesting observation: I say earbuds, not music because I noticed once when I was working that I had my earbuds in, but had forgotten to turn on my music. And yet, I had sat there for two hours, in a total trance, pumping out great work without even realizing that I had forgotten to turn on my music. I hadn’t become distracted by the conversations around me.
This taught me that my body only needs to feel the earbuds in my ears to produce the same result and go into that trance. Knowing this is helpful. I usually listen to (lyric-less) music, but sometimes I’ll just put my earbuds in, particularly if the cafe is already playing loud music.
3. Set low expectations for yourself
Agree that if you get a good chunk of work done on one of your projects, you will be done for the day. If you finish more than one thing, that’s fantastic, but striving to accomplish too many tasks in one day will only leave you feeling anxious and unproductive.
A lot of people are surprised when they hear me say that I aim for one thing per day. One thing? Blasphemy! But the truth is that having low expectations is one of my biggest tricks for being prolific and making progress on multiple projects at once. I usually end up working on more than one project anyway, but there’s nothing like a small win early in the day to build momentum, and help you appreciate your dabbling time.
I am living/working with a good friend of mine right now and we have very different mindsets around this. I notice that I will often say, “we should try to finish this song today,” and she will reply with, “we should try to finish this song AND finish that other one, AND write another one AND work on the website.” I usually just nod my head, but I know that if we finish one song, I will feel very happy. That is concrete progress. However, if we aim to finish three songs and only finish one, I will feel like a failure, forever playing catch up.
4. Do a Pomodoro
If you are still having trouble getting started, do a Pomodoro. Set an alarm for 25 minutes and tell yourself that you can stop if you’re still fighting with yourself after that. But go crazy during those 25 minutes. Separate your Cs (no Connecting or Consuming when you are Creating), and go full speed for 25 minutes. Sometimes you just need to break the seal for your body to remember that it actually feels good to be in a flow state.
When I open my co-working space one day, I’ve decided that I’m going to start each day with two (optional) office-wide pomodoros. We’ve done group pomodoros before in the Puttytribe and it always really helps to know that other people are going hard for a short period of time too. You’re in it together.
These are some of my most powerful tools for inducing a flow state and I use them all the time. But now I want to hear from you.
How do you induce a flow state? I’d love to hear about your techniques in the comments.