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Flow is a state of mind where you’re fully energized and immersed in an activity that brings you joy or fulfillment. Many people find flow by accident, but it's possible to get there intentionally too. You’re most likely to reach flow when you’re working on a meaningful task under the right conditions, and finding the flow state is a skill that can be practiced and perfected. We’ve put together a psychology-backed list of ways to enter the flow state, including how to choose a flow-friendly activity and what you can do to practice getting there. If you’re ready to go with the flow, keep scrolling!

Things You Should Know

  • Approach your work from an angle that you love. It's easier to reach a flow state when you're tapped into intrinsic motivation.
  • Find a sweet spot between feeling challenged while still feeling like the task before you is achievable.
  • Create a situation that is conducive to focus. Stay committed to one task at a time and eliminate external distractions.
  • Build your abilities over time. The ability to sustain a flow state is like a muscle—it needs to be exercised consistently over time to grow.

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Work on something that intrinsically motivates you.

  1. Focus on tasks that make you happy or that reward and fulfill you. Ignore outside incentives like money, compliments, or likes on social media. When you’re aware of the joy that your task is bringing you, you’re more likely to fully immerse yourself in it and achieve the flow state.[1]
    • Experiment with flow by working on things you like to do just for fun—it could be songwriting, coding, cooking, or anything you find pleasurable.
    • Tasks like these are called autotelic tasks. It means you’re enjoying them for the sake of enjoying them rather than to achieve an external goal.
    • Focus on what truly motivates you, even if it's not very common. When you’re doing something that’s true for you, you'll stay focused.
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Choose a task with high stakes.

  1. When a task has consequences, it’s more likely to trigger the flow state. Work on something you enjoy that has long-term benefits for your career or happiness, like public speaking or learning a new hobby. It’s a better use of your time (and flow) than working on things you like that are relatively unimportant.[2]
    • For example, many athletes experience flow because they’re doing an activity they love, and their success will enrich their personal lives and careers.

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Challenge yourself, but not too much.

  1. Flow occurs when you find the balance between skill and challenge. Believe that you can accomplish the task with your skills, even if it’s hard. When you feel capable, you’re motivated to press on and complete whatever you started (and hone your skills in the process).[3]
    • Cultivate flow in areas where you already have some talent or expertise, like a recreational sport you enjoy or a crafting project like knitting or scrapbooking.
    • For example, a musician might enter flow when they’re learning a challenging new piece of music because it pushes skills they already have to a new level.
    • When you’re skilled but unchallenged, you’ll experience burnout. When you’re a novice at something and challenged too much, you might give up on the task.
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Set very clear goals.

  1. Break your long-term goal into achievable mini-goals along the way. For example, "run 2 miles 4 times this week" is more specific than "lose weight by running." You’ll enter flow while you work on these mini-goals because you’ll have a specific task to accomplish that leads to something more important to you.[4]
    • Give yourself deadlines to help your overall goal. Which aspects or tasks need to be completed today? By the end of the week? By the end of next month?
    • Working on mini-goals gives you more real-time information about your progress, which encourages you to stay in the zone.
    • When you’re planning your goals, write them out with a pen and paper instead of making a voice note or text memo.

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Work during quiet times when you have energy.

  1. For most, it’s difficult to get into flow at any random moment. Work when it’s quiet, like in the morning before your coworkers arrive or in the evening when you have time to yourself. Practice flow when you naturally have energy, like after a great workout instead of when you’re craving an afternoon nap.[5]
    • For example, a runner might choose to exercise early in the morning before traffic gets heavy so they’re not distracted by noise or movement.
    • Everybody has different quiet times or peak energy times based on their schedules or personal preferences. Choose what works for you!
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Eliminate environmental distractions.

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Create a real time feedback loop.

  1. Monitor your senses for immediate feedback to keep you in the moment. Acknowledge how you feel, what you see or hear, or thoughts you have while you’re working. This keeps you grounded in the moment and unifies what your body and brain are doing—the essence of flow.[7]
    • Let the information you take in guide your activity so you can make progress. Once you’re aware of how you’re doing, challenge yourself to get even better.
    • For example, a painter might notice a specific feeling in their wrist when they make a brush stroke they like and then try to replicate that sensation.
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Focus on a singular task as long as possible.

  1. Multitasking is a kind of distraction that inhibits flow. Stay focused on one task that aids your overall goal at a time. Deep focus might be draining, so start out by dedicating 30 minutes to one activity. Gradually train yourself to expand that time to be hours long (or however long you need to feel fulfilled).[8]
    • Physically write down what you want to focus on and then prioritize specific tasks to organize your thoughts and keep you on task.[9]
    • Acknowledge when you lose focus, then pay attention to something specific that’s happening now, like a sound you hear in the background or the text of an email you’re working on, to get back on track.[10]
    • Remember, productivity is not always related to how long you’re working. An hour of intense focus is usually more productive than 3 hours of distracted work.

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Keep working until your task is finished.

  1. Check in with your plan to keep yourself on track while you work. Push through mistakes instead of getting derailed by perfectionism. Address and fix errors afterward while you reflect on your work. Part of flow is working without a fear of judgment, and that includes from yourself![11]
    • Keep your goal in mind and stay present to practice ignoring your mistakes until your task is completed.
    • For example, a violinist might play through an entire piece of music to experience a full run through, then go back and work on specific technical errors.
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Take time to rest.

  1. Focus is like a muscle—it needs time to recover to get stronger. No one is in flow 24/7, so give yourself time to do something that takes little to no concentration, like going for a walk or listening to your favorite music. It may feel unproductive, but it increases your attention and ability to get things done.[12]
    • Fresh air and movement help you take a break and reset your mind. Get up and move around outside if you’re feeling lethargic or unable to concentrate.
    • If you tend to be a workaholic, put dedicated rest or leisure time into your schedule so you can recharge before your next work session.

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Keep practicing getting into the flow state.

  1. Achieving the flow state is like anything else—practice makes perfect! Analyze the steps that bring you to the flow state and repeat them to make flow a habit. The more practice you have, the more often or quickly you can snap into flow.[13]
    • After a flow session, ask yourself questions like "Where was I?" or "How was I feeling?" or "What was I doing beforehand?"
    • Learn from your failures too. What did you do that prevented you from achieving flow? How can you avoid those thoughts or actions in the future?[14]
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Work on developing mindfulness.

  1. Mindfulness is a useful tool when it comes to cultivating the flow state. Both practices involve being absorbed and focused in the present moment, and being mindful makes it easier to find flow. Try meditating, look for the "new" in every moment, or do breathing exercises to practice grounding yourself.[15]
    • Use the 5-4-3-2-1 technique to ground yourself. Identify 5 things you see, 4 things you feel, 3 things you hear, 2 things you smell, and 1 thing you taste.[16]

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Practice gratitude for your accomplishments.

  1. Take time to appreciate how good it feels to work on things you enjoy. You may not realize it when you’re in the moment, so acknowledge your progress, passion, and enjoyment afterwards. Make notes in a journal, or quietly reflect on your gratitude or achievements for a few minutes when you’re done working.[17]
    • The more you experience the rewards of flow, the more you’ll want to return. Understanding the benefits reinforces the habits that lead to it.[18]
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      • Everyone gets into the flow state differently and is triggered by different things. Experiment with a variety of tactics to find your individual path to flow.[19]
      • Keep a flow journal. Every time you reach flow, write down what you did, how you felt, and what that led you there to help you reach it faster next time.[20]
      • Try not to push yourself too hard to get to the flow state. When you’re focused too hard on getting to flow, you’re distancing yourself from actually getting there.[21]

      About This Article

      Rachel Clissold
      Co-authored by:
      Certified Life Coach
      This article was co-authored by Rachel Clissold and by wikiHow staff writer, Dan Hickey. Rachel Clissold is a Life Coach and Consultant in Sydney, Australia. With over six years of coaching experience and over 17 years of corporate training, Rachel specializes in helping business leaders move through internal roadblocks, gain more freedom and clarity, and optimize their company’s efficiency and productivity. Rachel uses a wide range of techniques including coaching, intuitive guidance, neuro-linguistic programming, and holistic biohacking to help clients overcome fear, break through limitations, and bring their epic visions to life. Rachel is an acclaimed Reiki Master Practitioner, Qualified practitioner in NLP, EFT, Hypnosis & Past Life Regression. She has created events with up to 500 people around Australia, United Kingdom, Bali, and Costa Rica. This article has been viewed 13,270 times.
      8 votes - 95%
      Co-authors: 4
      Updated: August 11, 2022
      Views: 13,270
      Thanks to all authors for creating a page that has been read 13,270 times.

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