Flow Is Created Through Eliminating Distractions, Discipline and Deep Work

Flow is a combination of discipline and deep work.
Flow is a combination of discipline and deep work. (Photo: Tawheed Manzoor/Flickr)

Not only is the distracted present a miserable place to be, it’s also the worst kind of self-handicapping. — Steven Kotler

If you have ever been in a flow state, you know it’s a truly beautiful thing. Your work is easy, effortless, and the quality of it is great. Time flies by. And when you’re done, you feel incredible.

As artists and creators, we’re constantly looking for how to create more flow because our best work emerges from this place. So how exactly do you create more flow? In my experience as both a writer and surfer, it’s a combination of discipline and deep work.

1. Reduce the Role That Distractions Play in Your Life

The way a professional athlete takes their diet very seriously, I take sources of distraction very seriously — Cal Newport

If you were truly honest with yourself, what is the role that you allow distractions to play in your life?

If you answer these questions honestly you might be horrified. That’s good news because now you can actually do something about it. When you reduce the role that distractions play in your life, you take back your time, you tell yourself that you’re serious, and you make space for meaningful, high value, deep work.

If there’s one thing I’ve observed in prolific creators like Ryan Holiday, Neil Gaiman, and others it’s how little they’re online. That’s probably one of the many things enables accomplishments like writing 3 books in 3 years.

2.Discipline Begins with Your Changing Habits

For the purposes of this article, I’ll define discipline as the ability to repeat an activity on a daily basis over an extended period of time. As I said in a previous post, you don’t want to attempt to change more than one habit at a time. And you want to make your initial attempts to change so simple that’s impossible to fail.

Write a sentence a day.
Put your shoes on and walk to end of the driveway.
Drink a glass of water.

By cultivating the discipline to do these really small things, you’ll start to believe that you’re capable of change. You’ll build confidence. That way when you attempt to adopt a more difficult habit you’ll have momentum behind you.

3. Deep Work Results in Flow

I’ve written about how I’ve optimized my life for deep work and why it’s so fulfilling in previous posts. So let’s actually talk about activities that would be considered deep work

– Writing
– Computer Programming
– Playing an Instrument
– Painting

Immersing yourself in any of these activities for an extend period of time, free of all distractions will eventually put you into flow. Before I started writing this article, I was having one of those days where I was giving into my temptation to be distracted.

A few email checks.
A few FB checks.
And a quick tweeted deck browse.

I decided I would block everything for one hour using Heyfocus. The first 300 words of what I wrote was all garbage. But like I’ve said before the secret to becoming a good writer is to become a prolific one. I knew eventually I’d reach a point where my ideas were more lucid. About 15 minutes into my one hour time block that I’d set side to write my 1000 words a day, I was in flow.

4. Flow Hacks

If we want to achieve the kinds of accelerated performance we’re seeing in action and adventure sports, then it’s 4 percent plus 4 percent, day after day, week after week, months into years. This is the road to real magic. — Steven Kotler

The idea that Steven mentions in the above quote is one that I’ve been experimenting with lately. I’ve applied the concept to the idea of writing 1000 words a day. Another way you could do it is in terms of time spent immersed in deep work. Increase by 4% each day.

This one is more of a happiness hack than a flow hack, but it’s been something that had a profound impact on my overall productivity and happiness. Shawn Achor’s research has shown that starting the day by watching something funny like a clip from The Daily Show has an impact on us that lasts the entire day. So I take about 15 minutes to watch a John Oliver segment. If you haven’t seen this one on Trump Wall I’d recommend it for a good laugh

Srinivas Rao the host and founder of The Unmistakable Creative Podcast. Every Sunday they share the most unmistakable parts of the internet that we have discovered in The Sunday Quiver. Receive their next issue by signing up here

Flow Is Created Through Eliminating Distractions, Discipline and Deep Work