I have to be careful and not allow my creativity to take over my life. But I love when I am in my flow state. Athletes, artists, and others often work from this center.
If you’re serious about writing or any other creative endeavor, you can’t count on inspiration to do the work for you. You usually don’t wake up with brilliant ideas pouring out of your brain. It happens — it’s just not the rule. A far more reliable and effective way is to create flow triggers.
Flow triggers not only help you get in the mood, but they get you in the zone. They’re mechanisms that stimulate your creativity in ways your willpower can’t. It’s more convenient to rely on a specific set of little nudges rather than on discipline and semi-strong willpower.
So, what’s a flow trigger? It’s different for everyone, but here’s are a few suggestions to try for yourself:
- Re-opening a draft and read through what you’ve written. It’ll make you want to edit and add some more to the story.
- Opening a “New story” or document and just start typing a bit. I don’t know what to write works just fine. You’ll get to the good stuff eventually.
- Sitting at your favorite spot with your laptop and a hot beverage of choice. This might be a coffee shop, your workspace or even your bed.
- Putting in your headphones and listening to a relaxing playlist. Music can induce a deep flow state and even lyrics can act as inspiration.
- Writing early in the morning. I personally enjoy the 7 a.m. feels, but I can get into a good flow at night, too.
In fact, most people are at their happiest when they are in a state of flow. It’s when they are fully immersed in a challenging task, almost feeling one with it, that they’re at their happiest. Human beings, it seems, are at their best when immersed deeply in something challenging.
Flow State Trigger 1: Eliminate All External Distractions
It’s been proven by research that in order to reach flow state, you must eliminate all external distractions. Every time you get pulled out of your focus, you’ll be taken further away from flow state. Only when you can focus with undivided attention for at least 10–15 minutes you can get into flow state.
Therefore, it’s critical that you put your phone away and disable all alerts and notifications (as this is the biggest source of distractions nowadays), close all social media & email tabs, remove all unnecessary files and objects from your workspace and preferably go to a quiet environment.
This will protect you from being disrupted and allows you to enter a state of hyperfocus, which is the most important element of reaching flow state.
In fact, whenever you get distracted it takes on average 25 minutes (according to research) to gain back your full attention on the task at hand. This is because of something called ‘attention residue’, which implies that some of your attention is still left behind at the previous task or distraction that you were dealing with.
Jobs and chief designer Jony Ive were often seen taking regular “brainstorming walks” around the Apple campus. Pixar employees told Schlender that Jobs “was always big on going for walks with people.”
A recent batch of neuroscience research proves that Jobs was on to something. Walking really does spark our creativity.
According to the research, taking a walk is the best way to trigger cooperation between the two modes and unleash your most creative ideas. “If we had to choose one single mindless activity for you to do, it would be walking,” Cabana and Pollack conclude.
According to a Stanford study, walking boosted a person’s creative output by 60 percent. The subjects were given “divergent thinking” tests, which measure creativity. They were asked to think of alternative uses for a particular object and they had four minutes to come up with their responses for each set of objects. Responses were “novel” if the other participants in the group had not thought of the idea.
The Stanford researchers measured the creativity of subjects while they walked and while they sat. The majority of participants were far more creative when they walked. Movement was the key. “The act of walking itself, and not the environment, was the main factor,” according to the Stanford research.