So you already have an idea what Flow is. Now this article will give you a more in-depth understanding of the benefits of Flow. Especially the benefits for Entrepreneurs and Business Professionals which I summarized from the works and studies of the leading experts in the field. At the end I included my own experiences with Flow states at work.
#1 Peak Performance & Thriving in the New Economy
Cal Newport writes in his book Deep Work that there are two core abilities necessary to thrive in the New Economy:
- The ability to quickly master hard things
- The ability to produce at an elite level, in terms of both quality and speed
You need Flow / Deep Work for these two (What Cal describes as Deep Work to me is basically the outer circumstances that create Flow states so I kinda use those two terms interchangeably here).
Csikszentmihalyi found by studying tens of thousand of people that those people were in Flow when producing at an elite level.
McKinsey conducted a 10 year study and found that senior executives in peak-performance states were five times more productive in Flow than outside of Flow.
Myelin for your brain
Focus intensely on a specific skill and the relevant circuits in your brain fire repeatedly in isolation. The repetitive use of specific circuit triggers cells (Oligodendrocytes) will wrap layers of myelin around the neurons in the circuits cementing the skill. The only way to isolate the relevant neural circuits enough is to trigger useful myelination. In low concentration or distracted states too many circuits are fired simultaneously and too randomly to isolate the group of neurons you actually want to strengthen.
#2 More Productive in Less Time
It’s important to understand that busyness does not equal productiveness. If you are writing emails, checking your messenger 376x and attend two meetings a day – What do you get done at the end of the day? Probably nothing that is really deep. Flow is all about solving the deep hard stuff.
You can’t be in Flow 24/7. You can be in two Flow session a day, each ca. 90 – 120 minutes long. Which also means the amount of minutes you work is not necessarily linear to the outcome you produce. Cal found that the Best students are not the ones who study the most but the ones who study most focused. Cal defines the Law of productivity: High-Quality Work Produced = (Time Spent) x (Intensity of Focus)
#3 Increased Creativity
You don’t need to take psychedelics or do action sports to achieve Flow states.
Though according to Tim Ferriss a lot of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and billionaires use external tools like psychedelics regularly to get into altered states of consciousness and Flow to tackle big challenges and create disruptive ideas.
Steven Kotler & Jamie Wheal wrote in Stealing Fire that Elon Musk had the ideas for two companies at Burning Man. The renewable energy company SolarCity (which he gave to his cousin and which was bought by Tesla in 2016) and Hyperloop (whichs concept he gave to the public for free).
#4 Relax Deeply
When you finished your 1 to 2 Flow sessions on a day you feel that you achieved a lot and can relax more after work. You can be more present outside of work with friends and family. It is also vital to relax deeply after work to be able to achieve peak performance the next day again.
#5 Happiness & Fulfillment
For some that may sound esoteric but science proves that you actually are way more happy and fulfilled when you are regularly in a Flow state.
Most people assume that relaxation makes them happy. We want to work less and spend more time in the hammock. But the results from Csikszentmihalyi ESM studies reveal that most people have this wrong:
Jobs are actually easier to enjoy than free time because like flow activities they have built-in goals, feedback rules and challenges, all of which encourage one to become involved in one’s work, to concentrate and lose oneself in it. Free time, on the other hand, is unstructured, and requires much greater effort to be shaped into something that can be enjoyed.
Cal Newport in Deep Work
The Benefits I personally experienced from Flow
On most days I get into two Flow session of each 90 – 120 minutes.
Through my morning routine I usually start the day with one Flow session from 06:30 to around 08:00 AM. On good days I finished my second Flow sessions before 12:30 PM and already achieved more than in 3 days without Flow. The afternoon I can then spend to do communication tasks, meetings and shallow work that needs to be done. Overall I became more happy & present – Also outside of Flow. The quality of work that I produce is subjectively way better than the things that I produce outside of Flow.