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Finding your flow in times of trouble

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Finding your flow in times of trouble

“The happiest people spend much of their time in a state of flow – the state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience itself is so enjoyable that people will do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it.” — Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

The idea of being ‘in the zone’, where tasks are effortless, and you feel energised by a sense of achievement may feel rather tricky to reach right now.


Happiness, satisfaction, fulfilment… are perhaps feelings that have been in short supply of late.

With constant distractions, uncertainties and tougher lockdown measures, how can we create more meaningful enjoyment in our day-to-day work and even make some space for moments of creativity?


Achieving a state of ‘flow’ can help

According to Wikipedia, in positive psychology, a flow state, also known as ‘being in the zone’, is the mental state in which a person performing some activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energised focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.

In essence, flow is characterised by the complete absorption in what one does, and a resulting transformation in one’s sense of time.

The term ‘flow’ was originally coined by psychologist, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in 1975. He believes that being ‘in the zone’ releases us from our self-consciousness, worries and anxieties and allows us to lose track of time. Csikszentmihalyi claimed that a state of flow combines action and awareness which provides a feeling of control. Ah, Control… That’s certainly something we could all do with feeling right now!


How to find your flow

According to this article, flow is associated with subjective wellbeing, satisfaction with life and general happiness. At work, it’s linked to productivity, motivation and company loyalty.

But reaching flow is not always easy and won’t happen automatically. It’s a delicate process requiring just the right conditions.

Follow these ten steps to help you achieve your flow state:


  1. Timing is everything

If you try to get into a flow state when you are tired and drained, it’ll feel like an uphill struggle. You’ll get distracted easily and have less willpower to stay in the zone. So decide when you are at your best and most energised or enter your flow state directly after a break.


  1. Eliminate external distractions

Only when you can focus with undivided attention for at least 15 minutes can you get into flow. In fact, it’s said that whenever we get distracted it takes on average 25 minutes to gain back our full attention. So it’s critical that you put your phone away and disable all alerts and notifications.


  1. Remove internal distractions

Wandering minds are the enemy of flow. When we’re experiencing stress or have too much to think about, it’s incredibly hard to stay focused on your task at hand. Try a ten minute meditation to clear your mind and daily journaling to get thoughts out of your head.


  1. Listen to the right kind of music

Listening to music with your headphones helps to block external distractions and keep internal distractions to a minimum, preventing your mind from wandering. Choose repetitive or familiar music with limited vocals that could compete with your thoughts or put one song on repeat.


  1. Work on one specific task

Flow is the opposite of multitasking and switching between multiple tasks will stop you getting in the zone. Be very clear about what you’re going to work on and stick to it.


  1. Match your skills to the job at hand

Flow can only be achieved when the task is challenging enough to keep your brain interested, while at the same time you’re skilled enough to tackle the task without it being too difficult, stressful or frustrating.


  1. Have a clear objective

You need to have a specific purpose for focusing on the task, such as finishing a project, completing a piece of content or finalising a strategy or plan, whilst also being mindful of the next point…


  1. Focus on the process and not just the end state

While having a goal is important, flow also allows you to enjoy the journey by not fixating on the end result. Allow yourself to appreciate the moment without worrying too much about the ultimate outcome.


  1. Define a mental cue

Do something special each time you prepare to go into flow state. Whether that’s repeating a sentence or taking a few deep breaths, do that same exact thing every time. In doing so, you’re triggering your brain to understand it’s time to flow.


  1. Stay hydrated and consume caffeine cautiously

Drinking water is incredibly important for concentration and focus. Staying hydrated keeps your brain functioning well, while not drinking enough can sap your energy. And keep an eye on your caffeine intake.

One or two cups can provide a proper productivity boost but any more than that can induce anxiety and reduce your focus.


Go for it!

Now, realistically speaking, finding your flow, even for an hour or two, may be difficult to achieve over the coming months, with additional responsibilities and home-schooling on the cards for many of us.

But getting in the zone to finally complete a task or project that you may have been dodging could actually help to save some time, get that job across the finish line and leave you with a feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment.

So… book the time and set the task, prepare your brain and go for it!

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Emily Stoten — Head of Marketing, Selecta

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Jo Hobbs — Communications Manager

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Sarah Crowdy — Campaign and Media Officer Communications, South East Water

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Sobha Varghese — Tata Consultancy Services

“We had the privilege to work with the Alive team. It was our first time to be involved in creating an animation for our patients within paediatrics. The team were approachable, friendly, creative and very accommodating. Your vision for what you want to create, is at all times acknowledged, appreciated and accommodated by the team. They worked effectively and with great passion towards our project and worked not only alongside health professionals but also our patients who really enjoyed the experience of working with the Alive team. It has given our team the confidence and inspiration to do further projects in the future. We highly recommend Alive and their exceptional team.”

DR ELENI ATHANASAKOS, Lead Paediatric Clinical Scientist — NHS Barts Health

“‘The short animation developed in co-production with clinicians and young people is outstanding! Informative, developmentally appropriate, vitally fun and engaging. We are really grateful for the expertise of the Alive with Ideas team for their innovative approach in building children’s health literacy.'”

Kath Evans — Director of Children’s Nursing at Barts Health

“Our mission was to update our brand visuals to better reflect our innovative and forward-thinking organisation. After receiving numerous pitches from different branding agencies, Alive stood out with their clear passion and understanding of our identity and goals. We thoroughly enjoyed working with the Alive Team to create an engaging new brand that we are immensely proud of.”

Lianne Springer — Communications and Engagement Lead

“Alive wowed us during the pitch process and they didn’t stop wowing us throughout the whole project. Every person we worked with at Alive were so friendly, knowledgeable and clearly passionate about what they do. They have worked with us to really understand what we do and have created a new brand and website that really stands out from our competitors. Thank you!”

Louise Burnard, Head of Marketing and Communications UK — Be | Shaping the Future

“I think the team have done such a brilliant job, particularly with responding to our requests. It's one of the best mental health videos I've ever seen. Very proud to be associated with your exemplary work. Thank you so much.”

Dr Anna Batho — Clinical Psychologist – Critical Care, UCLH

“We have worked with Alan, Caroline and the wider Alive With Ideas team for many years. In that time, they have provided a dedicated service that is second to none. We appreciate their attention to detail and creative approach to bringing our brand, communications and stories to life. And would recommend them to anyone looking for creative communications support.”

Georgia Beech — Internal Communications Specialist, Ocado Group

“This is brilliant. I wanted to give my heartfelt thanks to all of the team who worked on this. You all understood exactly what we wanted to communicate and why, and then managed to do it in a way that was far better than anything I could have imagined. I’m a bit choked up to be honest!”

Sarah Wright, Head of Communications and Campaigns — NEA

“Each time I work with the team, I am always stunned at the effort and creativity that goes into each detail and am always eager for the end result. The team is extremely accommodating and always provide a fresh approach to our projects that elevates our communications materials!”

Alana Khaytin, Communications Specialist — Braskem America

“What I really appreciate about Alive is that they work with us as partners, and care as much about getting it right for our patients as we do.”

Sara Langston, Patient Engagement & Marketing Manager — italk

“Alive are unique in how much they deeply listen and invest in you and your ideas. I have not come across a company that listens as much as they do to ensure your needs are understood and met (actually - they always exceed my needs and expectations). Everyone I recommend Alive to has an equally brilliant experience. When you work with Alive, you are not only getting some genius creativity brought into your life, you are also hanging out with some of the best examples of human beings I’ve ever known.”

Steph Tranter, Hybrid Exec Coach & Psychologist —

“Alive helped us create a video of our response to the floods of winter 2019. Our Chief Officer received messages from all round the country praising us for it and was really pleased with both the video and the response to it.”

Alexander Mills, Communications Manager — South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue

“Alive were professional, friendly and great to work with. Most importantly they were creative, helping us to bring an extremely important safety campaign to life.”

Jack Grasby — South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue

“The (Alive) team were able to creatively pull together and document (in just over 2minutes) everything our service has achieved over the last few months, from thousands of prescriptions deliveries to hundreds of phone calls made to the vulnerable. The final product was so powerful and reflective of what our service has and continues to achieve. It couldn’t have been better received within the service – thanks Alive for once again helping us to communicate our vision!’”

Emma Wright — South Yorkshire & Rescue

“We worked with the team at Alive to create our staff recognition video.
At a time like this, its never been more important to share the amazing work that our staff have done and continue to do on a daily basis under very difficult circumstances. We wanted to shout about this and recognise that when the time came, South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue stepped up to the plate. We didn’t want an ordinary thank you post on social media or a basic email sent out internally, we wanted something special. Enter Alive. ”

Emma Wright — South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue

“This looks amazing - brought a smile to my face scrolling through it :-)”

Jack Ford, Head of Marketing — streamGO

“Our company is fun, we have great brands, but most importantly we’re all about our people – and I wanted an agency who would understand that and help us bring it to life through our website and other comms. Straight away I felt that Alive ‘got’ us and provided the creative inspiration exactly where we needed it, as well as the technical expertise to deliver a well-functioning website.”

Keren McCarron, Head of Corporate Affairs & Communications — KP Snacks

Thank you so much. Incredible work done at incredible speed by incredible people.
Outstanding work as ever and what a turnaround. As for the concepts – wow. These are that good it would be an insult to describe them as just good. It’s a joke, quite frankly. This is exactly the Alive effect I was after. Right now I feel like I am living in an Alive With Ideas wonderland. Thank you!”

Jack Grasby, Campaigns Manager — SYFR

“If you are looking to improve creativity and build teamwork, I highly recommend a session like this for your team. No matter where you are in your creativity journey, a workshop like this can give your team a boost of energy and ideas to invigorate their creative thinking.”

Amy Lilja, IC Manager — Hennepin Healthcare

“Alive were there to help when we were working every hour to respond to the coronavirus outbreak. They gave us the creativity, ideas and support we needed to deliver campaigns which empowered our residents in the most difficult time most of us have ever seen, personally and professionally. The team understood what we needed, worked closely with us and delivered fast without any compromise on quality. Working with Alive has been a joy in the darkest of times and I have no doubt will have helped to save lives. Thanks team x”

Julie Odams, Assistant Director of Communications & Customers — Derbyshire County Council

“We got 'Alive' involved to help us shift mindsets across our organisation and they delivered! Using simple, clear and creative ideas the team have delivered us a campaign which has seen a dramatic increase in idea sharing and development. They’ve also played a significant role in creating a culture of shared success. I wouldn’t hesitate to work with again, in fact, we already are!”

Gavin Buckle — B&Q
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