In the flow: Getting high off activity

the flowToo much pressure, boredom, feeling out of depth.

These are not the feelings we enjoy when we’re at work.

We enjoy things when they are the right amount of challenge. When they propel us forward and give us a sense of achievement, but don’t threaten to overwhelm us. Nor can we stomach stretches of inactivity where we feel underutilised and pinned to our desk without anything to do.

We need to feel useful and activated in the work place. Purpose and fulfilment propel us forward towards job satisfaction. They satiate the desire for accomplishment. They make us happy.

It’s the right amount of pressure and challenge coupled with enough room to feel as though we’re in control that really creates the best scenario.

But flow isn’t always freely available. We have to answer to deadlines, bosses, customers, suppliers- you name it, there’s always someone who wants a piece of you.

So how do you encourage flow in the workplace? Try these ideas on for size.

If you’re feeling under pressure…

Forget The Little Book of Calm. If you have too much on your plate and are heading to Overwhelm City, here is what you need to do:

  • Take some time out- leave the office, go for a walk, sit in the park, look at the water- do something that gives you a little bit of sunshine, fresh air and the opportunity to recalibrate. The work will still be there, and will probably get done faster after you’re refreshed.
  • Set up boundaries – the customer isn’t always right, you don’t always have to do what the boss says, and that red exclamation mark next to an email may just be someone else’s hang up. Be nice about it, but establish how you want to be treated and how much of other people’s shenanigans you will take on.
  • Push back – practise saying no gracefully. Take some time to breathe and get some perspective. Lose the guilt. It’s not worth it.
  • Don’t allow the tail to wag the dog- if you are responsible for the project, person or predicament, it doesn’t call the shots- you do. Own the situation and take control.
  • Get organised- take on your TO DO LIST. Use MoSCoW (Must, Should, Could, Would) to sort out your priorities, and pick things where a small win is available so you can rebuild your courage.
  • Ban extraneous communication- get rid of the social media, stop looking at your phone, and leave the send/receive button in your email alone. Shut it all down until you get 45 minutes of work under your belt. Keep it shut down until the feeling of pressure abates.
  • Use music to help soothe you- limit the distractions, enter your own world, and choose sounds that soothe, not irritate you.
  • Pick something you can tackle and get stuck into it- most of the anxiety we have on any given day is because it seems like the tasks we need to complete won’t quit. The truth is, the list will continue to grow until we knuckle down and chop out great big sections of it. So if you are under pressure, the best thing you can do is get things done. In isolation, without interruption, in a controlled and orderly way. Once you start getting high off the work again, you’ll feel better for it- and be more capable of doing more.

If you’re feeling underwhelmed…

Death by 480 minutes of nothingness truly is the worst. But if you have a working day and the spare minutes are creeping in, you can attack boredom (or panic in a freelancer’s case) and build your own flow by…

  • Keeping a list of things you put off until later- Then, when you finally have that lull, get stuck into them.
  • Clean out things- clean out inboxes, old files, your computer’s hard drive, things that are hanging around in your workspace, old invoices – and clean your workspace. Close off projects, settle the banking or whatever you need to do to have a clean space and prepare for the next deluge.
  • Have a nasty day- a nasty day is a day where you do whatever tasks you’ve put off before because they are just plain nasty. Clean the work BBQ, email all the bastards who are behind in their payments, fix all the niggly stuff on your website, get back to the emails you dread- whatever you usually avoid like the plague. You’ll be surprised how great you feel once all the nasties are taken care of.
  • Reporting – is the most useful yet most under-utilised tool in business. If you have a spare half day, do it! Crack open databases, social media and Google Analytics, and anything else that has some vague metric and check where your business is going.
  • Planning- once you’ve done your reporting, you can plan next steps. Marketing, content, training, you name it. Or you can spot problems and let people know based on data and insight.
  • Experiment- whether you have a half day or half a week, there’s always something you can experiment with in marketing or content to test your customer reactions in a small way. Make use of it.
  • Learn- catch up on new techniques, those blogs and TEDX’s you were ignoring, and see where you can take the practical knowledge with the free time available.
  • Offer to help other people- we feel very productive and happy when we help others. So if you honestly have nothing you can do in your own work sphere, volunteer to help someone else.
  • Latte day dreaming- take the opportunity to move yourself and your un-entertained brain to a coffee shop with a pad and pen, and see what you can cook up.
  • Take the day off- go refresh yourself. Call it a “mental health day” and go count clouds instead.

  The art of thriving, flow style

Humans get a big kick out of being useful. We get a sense of accomplishment and joy from crossing finishing lines, seeing things grow, and putting our creative talents to good use.

When we’re constantly over-challenged or under-achieving, we lose a little bit of our happiness. And the more it happens, the unhappier we will get.

Just remember, how you manage your time is ultimately up to you. Not the deadline. Not the boss. Not the guy who won’t stop interrupting, or the person who loves having a problem they expect you to fix.

So keep control of how you feel by making sure you and your brain, emotional state and intellect, are all working together.

And enjoy the difference!

 

 

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