As if to pull me out of my long-weekend-induced relaxed mental state and back into “work mode,” an article I read during my return trip to New York this week pondered the problem of achieving “flow” in a world where technology allows, if not invites, nearly constant interruption in our work days.
According to the article, it can be tough to achieve flow -- defined as a state of mind that creates electric connectivity between us and our work -- when the phone is ringing, the fax machine is beeping, and an avalanche of e-mail is pouring into your inbox, all demanding immediate attention. I think I can relate. Anyone else?
The article, which appears in the latest issue of American Way magazine, notes that flow may be “the secret to significant gains in both performance and enjoyment on the job.” Haven’t we all had those moments when we are so focused on the task at hand that our work just seems to spring forth effortlessly and we look up from our completed work, only to realize that an hour -- or two, or maybe eight -- have passed. Likewise, most of us have also faced those stretches of time when no matter what we do, we just can’t seem to concentrate on what’s in front of us. Some days, my blank screen seems to mock me as I stare at it, with the clock ticking away the minutes until my next deadline.
During this, the busiest time of year for many members of the accounting profession, I thought the article’s tips for achieving that sometimes-elusive thing known as flow were worth sharing – especially with those of you counting the days until April 15th (if you can find the time to finish reading this). They might come in handy. Personally, I’m hoping they’ll help me find “flow” as we settle in for day two at our new offices. Nothing disrupts flow like trying to keep up your normal routine at the office when you’re not quite sure where your desk (or anything else, for that matter) is.
According to author Robert McGarvey, one of the keys to achieving flow is to concentrate on one task at a time. In other words, fight the urge to multi-task. Step two is to define a goal or an outcome for each task. He recommends choosing activities with built-in goals to help lay the groundwork for flow. Third, get feedback – the more, the better. If an activity doesn’t have any easy way to keep score, invent your own system and keep score yourself. Then try to achieve a personal best. Finally, if none of the above works, adhere to the cliché about the watched pot that never boils and stop thinking about it. Just do your job, and let flow eventually find you.
So what are you waiting for?
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