Finding Flow in Business

I started listening to Flow on my morning run with the kids. Here is how Mihaly describes flow:

Flow tends to occur when a person faces a clear set of goals that require appropriate responses. It is easy to enter flow in games such as chess, tennis, or poker, because they have goals and rules that make it possible for the player to act without questioning what should be done, and how. For the duration of the game the player lives in a self-contained universe where everything is black and white.

I’ve been very intrigued by the concept of flow recently. I’ve written about the concept of flow in the past, and is the best word I can think of when describing the days when I feel most productive.

The last few weeks I’ve found myself largely out of “flow.” As mentioned in the Growing Pains post yesterday on Tend’s blog, the last few weeks I’ve been working on the massive infrastructure update to Tend. These were updates that I knew needed to be done, but I was unsure about the decision to do them now. I was often doubting my decision.

Looking back, I think that there is a strong correlation between days when I am confident in what I’m doing, that were moving in the right direction, and the amount of flow that I experienced.

The trouble with flow when starting a business, is that rarely is the appropriate response (or best next step), black and white. As with our decision to move forward with the infrastructure updates, how does a business founder even hope to have a chance at entering flow, and ultimately build a successful thriving company? Here are some of my thoughts, and things I’m going to try to pay attention to moving forward…

Have Confidence

Like with chess, tennis or poker, flow in business would be to know exactly what needs to be done to accomplish your goals, and what the best next step is. And once you have your goals and road map in place, to move forward without questioning what should be done. That, obviously, is easier said than done. Rarely will the appropriate response (or best next step), be black and white. So use your intuition, and the information you have in front of you, make a decision, and move forward with confidence.

Create Bite-Sized Goals

I use Omnifocus to create several bite-sized goals every day. Bite-sized goals are tasks that take 5 minutes to 1 hour to do. These goals are tiny steps to accomplishing your goals, and help to keep you feeling productive and encouraged.

Stay Focused

Get rid of the distractions. When my mind is wandering, I sometimes find myself randomly clicking on the open browser tabs, completely forgetting what I was trying to do next. Clutter in the form of open browser tabs, or physical workspaces can distract from getting the bite-sized goals accomplished. And don’t forget to practice focusing.

Be Patient

Know that nothing happens over night. Or even over the next months or years for that matter. Gaining confidence in your business decision takes time. Chess, tennis and poker players are only able to enter the state of flow because they have lived and breathed the game for years. The same will hold true for attaining flow in business.


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