Most of us want to achieve our most productive, creative, and powerful state but are unsure how to make that happen. Have you ever been at work, watching the minutes tick by as you try to rack your brain to focus on the task at hand? Do some things feel impossibly hard and painstakingly tiresome? Then there are those other days that seem to fly by, where the end of the day nears and it feels like no time at all has passed.
Well this all stems back to your work flow, and relates to why certain tasks are in tune with our abilities and interests so much so that it doesn’t even feel like “work”. You may call it being in the zone, superfluidity, or flow, but each one of us knows that feeling where we are completely dialled in and immersed. In fact, it was famous psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi that came up with this term. He describes being in the zone as:
"There’s this focus that, once it becomes intense, leads to a sense of ecstasy, a sense of clarity: you know exactly what you want to do from one moment to the other... Sense of time disappears. You forget yourself. You feel part of something larger.”
When you’re not in this flow state, problems arise. Work becomes increasingly challenging; often, people experience much higher levels of stress and anxiety and find it hard to get anything done.
This can also happen when things are too easy and undemanding that you are completely bored and uninspired, where you become disinterested in work at all. In fact, lots of jobs and workplaces today aren’t designed with flow in mind — most jobs don’t have clear goals, feedback can be elusive or unhelpful, and there is often a lack of control over your work environment.
But even if your find these things to be true in your life, you have the power to change them. Finding your work flow is possible in ALL workplaces. The question becomes how do you find that balance between challenging work but not too challenging on top of trying to figure out what suits your natural skills and interests?
It can feel super overwhelming (and impossible at times) to go about figuring out what work puts you in that flow state.
However, I truly believe it is super important to your success if you want to feel more satisfied yet still challenged. Use your boredom as a barometer for flow — when you feel bored at work, it’s either because you’ve gotten super efficient at a task, or that you need more of a challenge. But there are many ways to get out of your comfort zone at work, such as by speaking up at a meeting, sharing a creative idea, or making adjustments to find more purpose.
The only way to understand your strengths and weaknesses is through trial and error, which you’ve likely experienced a lot of by now. You’ve probably had lots of different jobs, tried lots of different tasks, and have a pretty general understanding of what you love to do, what you don’t mind doing, and what you absolutely hate.
Reflect now on these things and be honest with yourself. Are you pursuing what you love? Do you make concerted efforts to play to your strengths and structure your job around those things you are good at? Finding your flow will only happen if you actively pursue your skills and interests. Because let’s face it, none of us ever feel inspired or motivated when we feel like the work we are doing is boring and useless.
Another important aspect of finding your work flow is learning to take risks and not let yourself get too comfortable. I took a huge risk when I stepped out on my own as an entrepreneur, but despite these risks I knew it was the best decision for me. I could have stayed in my stable, boring, and limited-flow corporate job and done well for myself and my family. But I knew that it didn’t challenge me or ever make me feel excited. If you fail to take risks, you are missing out on the opportunity to truly find what you love.
By getting comfortable tasking risks, that state of flow will come much more often. And when that risk starts to feel too comfortable, figure out what your next risk will be. This is not to say that every opportunity pays off, but you will never know unless you try.
Playing it safe is no way to find your flow. Especially as a mother, I understand the allure of financial comfort, but staying in a job that is unfulfilling is just as harmful to your psyche. When possible, avoid too much comfortability when you know you are pursuing something that isn’t right for you.
Ultimately, finding your flow state will give you momentum to feel more satisfied at the end of the day. Find what meaningful work is to you by pursing what you love based on your skills and interests, by tapping into your boredom, and learning to take risks.