Yesterday, I was watching Soul (the new Pixar movie) with my little one. Somewhere the movie touched a chord inside me deeply. It was making me wonder about the spark, purpose, in-zone and finding self. This existential crisis is true for a creative.
I remembered how I turned around the entire universe (cognitive science, behavioural psychology, neuroscience & more) a few years ago to understand the concept of flow, experientially feel it inside, becoming a flow junkie and desperately wanting flow on-demand.
If you are a creative then the word in-zone matters. It matters a lot. In a creative's world input is not directly proportional to output. It is unpredictable and somewhat crazy. Our productivity is dependent upon our in-zone. Whether it is called peak performance or flow or in-zone, that is when we get totally lost in our work (in a good way). The unfortunate thing is by default we can't control the flow. It happens. We must catch hold of it when it happens.
So how do you know when you are in flow and if you are in flow? This is a million dollar question for a creative.
It is a tricky measurement. Before we get into metrics and how to measure, you must understand flow from a neuroscience perspective.
When we are in flow we completely loose track of time. We forget to eat, drink, sleep etc. We are beyond our bodily functions when we are in flow. We can be immersed in the activity for hours together. This is called the state of flow.
You may have experienced it in a game or while playing music or reading etc. We become oblivious to the outside world and we are only focused what’s going on right here and now. When we are in love this happens.
Today as knowledge workers and creatives we crave for this focused state (aka deep work). This is the only path to peak performance.
Neuroscience shows that, a right combination of dopamine, norepinephrine and acetylcholine (neurotransmitters) would do the magic. Your brain doesn’t understand fun as fun, it understands it as dopamine 🤷♀️
So here is a formula to harness the state of flow. The formula is simple. It goes like this.
Flow = Fear + Fun + Focus
Formula Credit: Friederike Fabritius (Neuroscientist & Author, Leading Brain)
When you are in flow the below is what happens in your neurobiology.
For measurement purposes, this is what i did and I propose you do.
In a task log or a your daily journal, next to activity, plot a the bell curve. Depending upon how the activity was place the performance dot on the arousal and performance plot as shown below.
The dot keeps changing on the plot depending upon the activity. This shows you in a day how long you have been in-zone or in flow. My max flow has been about 14 hours. I have had 2-3 in-zone days in a week. The output from that week is just mind-blowing.
Disclaimer: Advanced Apologies for breaking your flow by making you plot this curve. If you do this for 4 weeks, you will know what activities give you the most performance and what doesn't.
🥂 to in-zone!