Have you ever been working on a project and completely lost track of time? Have you ever forgotten to eat because you’re engrossed in your work? You may have been experiencing what Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls flow, a state of “heightened focus and immersion in activities such as art, play and work” that is essential for happiness.
Flow is sort of like love: you know it when you feel it, and it feels good.
For an activity to make the leap from mundane task that must be completed to something that makes you feel more alive, a few elements must be present.
- Measurable progress
Challenge yourself to learn something new or perform above your pay grade. Take on a project that scares you a little bit.
Measureable progress means you can see if you’re doing well and what adjustments need to be made. When knitting a scarf, you can see the rows of stitches adding up, for example. When giving a presentation, I can see, hear, and feel feedback from the audience. What are the benchmarks of progress for your work?
The purpose behind your project will determine how you measure progress. It can also help push you into flow. Before jumping into your next to-do list item, take a minute to ask why this work matters. What larger goal are you working towards?
You don’t need to spend all of your time in flow to have a happy life. However, injecting your work with challenge, feedback, and purpose will let you experience flow and a sense of accomplishment more often.
What activities get you into flow? Do you experience it at work and at play?
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