Find Your Flow: Advice for Your Best Workday Ever

We’re regulars at Seattle Creative Mornings. The monthly presentations allow us to network with professionals beyond AEC, learn from creatives, consider new perspectives, and expand our thinking. We leave feeling inspired, excited and challenged every time.

October’s theme, “Flow,” really resonated. “It’s no secret that our modern-day world is full of distractions: Glowing screens. Notifications. 24-hour news cycles,” the Creative Mornings introduction states. “At times, it can feel exhausting to try and get things done with all the bells and whistles competing for your attention.”

Psychologist and researcher Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi inspired the theme. In his book, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, he describes “Flow” as the experience of completely immersing yourself in a singular pursuit and effectively applying your skills to it. Inspired by this concept, we’ve assembled our top tips for defeating distraction and achieving productivity.

Start Your Day Right

Yes, we subscribe to the adage “breakfast is the most important meal of the day,” and we’re believers in the power of a good cup of coffee. (We’re Seattleites after all!) But this start-your-day-right tip goes beyond a nice omelet and morning jolt. Here, we refer to a morning routine.

While a morning routine should be individualized (with a workout, walk, meditation, breakfast with the kiddos – whatever is the right fit for you), we believe every routine should include a few quiet minutes for creating a “most important things” list. Taking the time to set goals for the day and prioritize your tasks sets you up for success. Your list allows you to move forward with purpose (and without pesky to-dos bouncing around in your head!). You’ll be a better teammate, too — clearheaded, better able to communicate your progress, and even able accommodate last-minute requests (and understanding how they affect your big picture). So, while it’s tempting to jump directly into your inbox, delay your workday ten minutes, build a list, and see how you feel come 5 p.m.

Tackle One Task at a Time

You may think you’re good at multitasking, but the truth is, you’re probably not. Studies on the subject continuously reveal that while we may think we’re being more efficient when multitasking, we’re actually just attempting to do things quickly (and really just doing them poorly).

Think uninterrupted time is a luxury you just don’t have? Try small increments. Even twenty-minute windows of work toward one, dedicated task can yield results. Dive into tasks with intentionality. And defend your time when you’ve achieved “flow” and are making great progress!

Experts even extend this principle to emails, recommending blocking time to check and respond. “Don’t leave your email program open all day long,” Entrepreneur recommends, “Alerts and beeps from incoming messages can interrupt your work flow and leave you unfocused. Instead, schedule specific blocks of time throughout the day for checking your email.”

Don’t be Scared of the Ugly First Draft

When you sit down to do a task that feels daunting, you may find yourself employing delay tactics. Suddenly you’re in the kitchen hunting for a snack, striking up a conversation with a coworker, or doing a quick email check…

Our advice: Look that task in the face and start. Without overthinking or putting too much pressure on perfection, just begin. It’s a tactic borrowed from novelist Anne Lemott. In her popular book about writing, Bird by Bird, she describes the process of creating ugly first drafts. “Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere. Start by getting something — anything — down on paper. A friend of mine says that the first draft is the down draft — you just get it down. The second draft is the up draft — you fix it up. And the third draft is the dental draft, where you check every tooth, to see if it’s loose or cramped or decayed, or even, God help us, healthy.” We believe this philosophy can be applied universally – an act of intentionally silencing the inner critic, getting started, and churning out a first draft.

Eliminate Distractions

There’s arguably no greater disruption to flow than your cell phone. Give yourself a fighting chance by eliminating your phone as a distraction. When trying to focus on a task, set it to airplane mode, or dock in a different area entirely. Even in less demanding moments, understand the power that little device has to derail your flow and disrupt your rhythm.

Another sneaky place distractions hide is in your headphones! Jamming to your favorite tune and singing along in your head require multitasking (or, attempting to multitask). Music without lyrics competes for less of your attention. We recommend sourcing one of Spotify’s many focus-friendly playlists!

Little things make a big difference in this category. Whether it be making an appointment on your calendar for focused time, de-prioritizing your phone, finding a quiet place to work, or thoughtfully choosing your background music, we’re sure you’ll see a big difference!

We’d love to see you at the next Creative Mornings! See all Seattle Chapter events here.