5 techniques to help you find your ‘flow state’

One of the biggest challenges in business is finding time to get everything done. Following through on strategic goals requires time, and time can often seem in short supply. There are plenty of productivity tools that profess to help you work more efficiently. And some of them do help, but there are also things you can do to without turning to tools. 

Managing distractions is critical if you’re to get everything done that you need to. Unfortunately we live in a world filled with interruptions. Smartphones might be very empowering but they can also be incredibly distracting. One of the unfortunate by-products of having a computer in your pocket or on your wrist is it can feel as if your mind is being pulled in a thousand directions at once.

Getting into a ‘flow state’, where you become so absorbed in a task that time seems to evaporate, improves your productivity hugely. The secret to maintaining this state is to put a stop to interruptions so that you can keep the flow going. Carving out time for flow helps hugely. Identifying potential interruptions and then establishing strategies for managing them is key. Here’s how to get started finding your flow state.

01. Switch off your notifications

Develop a strategy to help compartmentalise notifications. You can begin to build a barrier around your productivity by managing alerts, wherever they occur. A good place to start is switching off vibrations, silencing audible alerts and removing those ever-present little red badges that annoy you with their ‘something’s urgent’ calls to action.

02. Don’t start the day with email

With your notifications tamed, it’s time to turn your attention to email, messaging applications and social tools, all of which are equally drawing your focus. Of course, these communication tools are vital to keep everything flowing smoothly, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t compartmentalise their usage.

If at all possible, try not to start the day with email. Dealing with email first thing in the morning has the potential to derail your day, destroying your productivity. Checking email – even if you don’t reply right away – can play on your mind, overtaking your subconscious, rendering it very difficult to get anything worthwhile done.

03. Don’t check email all the time

Setting aside ‘do not disturb’ time for email – not just for evenings but during the day too – can help you focus on core goals without your mind being interrupted. Checking email mid-morning and mid-afternoon gives you uninterrupted periods you can use to get things done.

04. Take care of critical tasks first

Set aside timeboxes for critical tasks at the start of the day. This gives you the mental space to focus on important goals, before distractions creep in. If you can hit a milestone early on, so much the better: this will give you a welcome morale boost.

05. Try ‘timeboxing’

Timeboxing is a time management strategy that compartmentalises activities, ensuring you make the most of the time you have available and maximising your chances of achieving flow. This technique can help you build a schedule that defragments your day, giving you space to focus. By timeboxing activities you can manage time more effectively and maximise your productivity.

This article was originally published in net, the world's best-selling magazine for web designers and developers. Buy issue 308 or subscribe.

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Christopher Murphy is a writer, designer and speaker based in Belfast. He's a passionate educator, mentor to creative entrepreneurs, and the author and publisher of Tiny Books.