Sound familiar? You have been working for a while on something you enjoy working on. It’s challenging, but you know you can do it. You lose track of time. You you forget to eat and even to go to the bathroom. You are completely emerged in your little world. You look up and suddenly four hours have past since the last time you consciously noticed the time. You have been in flow!
What is flow? It can be described as “being in the zone”, the feeling of utter concentration, where there’s no sense of time and creativity is at peak levels. This phenomenon is popularized by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, one of the co-founders of positive psychology (If you’re not sure how to pronounce his name, here’s a phonetic guide: “Me high? Cheeks send me high!”):
“The best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times . . . The best moments usually occur if a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile” (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990).
The 8 Characteristics of Flow:
Csikszentmihalyi describes eight characteristics of flow:
- Complete concentration on the task;
- Clarity of goals and reward in mind and immediate feedback;
- Transformation of time (speeding up/slowing down);
- The experience is intrinsically rewarding;
- Effortlessness and ease;
- There is a balance between challenge and skills;
- Actions and awareness are merged, losing self-conscious rumination;
- There is a feeling of control over the task.
In this episode of the MTI KnowHow Coffee we welcome John Paul Atkinson and speak about how this flow principle, achieving flow, can faciliate the productivity and success of agile teams. Why are agile work structures a perfect setting for achieving flow and can you learn to “summon” the flow state on purpose?