These days, it’s harder than ever for creative people to achieve that elusive feeling of “flow,” defined by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi as being “so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter.”
Of course, we’d all love to experience that sort of total creative absorption in our work. But in today’s hectic hybrid workplace, is it even possible anymore?
The answer is yes – if you know some tricks for getting “in the zone.” GG LeMere, designer and creative director at Smidge Design Studio, gave a Creative Mornings talk in which she shared four ways to reach a flow state more consistently:
Shut it down
Zoom, email and an endless array of messaging apps: the modern office is full of distractions that vie for our attention when we’re trying to create.
Many of us take pride in our ability to do it all – but LeMere says if you’re trying to reach a flow state, constant multitasking is one of the worst things you can do. Instead, she suggests shutting down sources of distraction in order to “give your brain the space it needs to ‘get to the good work.’”
We might feel guilty about doing this, but it’s a sign of commitment to the creative process. “We owe it to the work to shut it down,” says LeMere, “and I’ve never had a client get upset at me for saying, ‘I’m going underground, please call me if you have anything urgent, but I’m working on a creative project.’”
Embrace the ebb
If the last two years have taught us anything, it’s how to roll with the punches – and how to accept the changing rhythms of our work and life. For creatives, that means realizing we can’t operate at peak creativity 100% of the time (especially when working from home with a toddler in the house!).
In our new normal, embracing the ebb – and actively planning for it – is one of the best ways to lay the foundation for a flow state. LeMere says that her own ebb, for example, requires about three days before she gets to “the good work.” As she explains, “I go through the brief, do some research, center myself, start thinking about it … And I don’t fight it, I plan for it. I make sure that I give myself those three days.”
It’s only human to want to measure our work against others’. But LeMere says nothing kills a flow state faster than “comparisonitis.”
“It makes us feel any number of emotions once you start to compare, and that’s sabotaging yourself. Remember that you are the only person who can create your work. A different person would create different results.”
If you need a confidence boost, LeMere says to keep in mind that “clients who hired you or hired your team did it based on the work they’ve already seen from you.”
Plan for fun
We live in extremely stressful times. But if you want to reach a flow state, you have to have some fun with your work!
LeMere suggests planning for fun in each and every project that you take on. For example, she tries to set a challenge for herself on every job: learn something new and/or give clients “something new that they never knew they always wanted.”
That kind of creative challenge makes the work fun again – and helps us remember why we got into a creative field in the first place! In addition, it helps keep clients engaged with the work.
As LeMere puts it: “If I’m not having fun working on it, you’re likely not having fun interacting with it. So make it into something that’s fun for you. You’ll be more passionate and get into that flow state a lot quicker – and actually be excited to go get away and work on it!”