How to Get in the Zone and Be More Productive Every Day

Enter the Flow.

(Photo: Getty)

(Photo: Getty)

You know that certain feeling of being completely in the zone, of losing yourself in whatever it is you’re doing, and absolutely conquering your day?

That’s called “flow,” and it’s one of the most important things to know about learning to be more productive and successful.

Simply put, flow is the most optimal state of consciousness. All attention is focused on what you’re doing. You’re fully absorbed in an activity and everything around you and in your mind disappears.

In his book called Flow, famed psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi explains that once in this state, you feel “strong, alert, in effortless control, unselfconscious, and at the peak of their abilities.” He describes it as:

“A state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience is so enjoyable that people will continue to do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it.”

Sometimes, though, it just doesn’t happen. It’s a struggle to accomplish the simplest of tasks—there’s no breezing through the day like a boss. 

Luckily, there are ways to trigger the flow. 

Currently, there are 17 identified triggers of flow. Below are four worth trying today. 

1. Complete Concentration

To have complete concentration and enter a state of flow, purge your environment of distractions. Turn off the phone, go somewhere quiet, and maybe even use an app that disables email notifications and blocks distracting websites for a certain amount of time.

Men’s Health says that 90 to 120-minute intervals of uninterrupted concentration work best. You should also “prioritize flow by making the first 90 minutes of your day a time for blocking out the world and prioritizing your most critical task.”

2. High Consequences

This may be the most commonly used trigger for athletes — surfers riding massive waves, for instance. The risk doesn’t need to be physical—it can be emotional, social, or intellectual, too. What matters here is embracing the challenge and committing to it. Even if it’s something like approaching someone attractive at a bar, it can push you into flow.

3. Altruism

A third trigger is “altruism,” which incites flow through acts of goodwill. In the 1990s, Big Brother/Big Sister founder Allan Luks discovered an altruism-backed flow state called “Helper’s High,” and it shows up through altruistic hands-on acts like volunteering.  

4. Challenge-Skills Balance

Lastly, the “challenge-skills balance” trigger, also known as the golden rule of flow, is the most important one. The activity at hand should neither be too easy nor too difficult and should be slightly more challenging than your skill set. This pushes you to excel and challenge yourself without burning or bumming yourself out.