When it comes to productivity, flow is the holy grail all those who wish to become productive (productivists?) aspire to achieve. The thought of flow-on-demand, as @keni describes in her post, would be a wonderful achievement. While I don't claim to have achieved this, but there is something I do that increases my chances of achieving flow.
But first: what is flow?
Flow is the state of being immersed in the task you're doing that you lose all sense of time and self. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (pronounced: cheek-sent-me-hi) popularized the notion and has shown that it is achieved based on two factors:
1- Our skill level (Competence)
2- The difficulty of the task (Challenge)
If a task is too difficult, we feel Anxious.
If a task is too easy, we feel bored.
If a task feels challenging but doable, we enter the state of flow.
Flow is feeling confident and being competent.
You don't doubt your abilities. In fact, you don't entertain thoughts about yourself. One of the biggest challenges we face is silencing our incessant minds, which constantly question and doubt our abilities.
Flow is experienced in the now. It is not about examining the past or expectations of the future.
All that exists is you and the task. Nothing else.
To increase your chances of flow, it helps to:
- Abandon thoughts about yourself
- Immerse yourself in the moment (this is why music can help)
- Adjust the difficulty of the task so that it's challenging, but doable. You can adjust up (making it more difficult or challenging), or adjust down (making it easier to achieve, such as focusing on a small part of the task or learning before doing)
We have to realize that flow is a state of mind, and the better we are at cultivating this positive, present mental state, the better we will be at achieving flow.