Episode 68: How to achieve greater creativity and productivity by tapping into your 'Flow' state:

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This is actually a topic I am super passionate about for many reasons.

First and foremost, the name of my company - The Creative Marketing Zone - is based on the concept of Flow.

Funny story, but when I first started my business, The Creative Marketing Zone was not the name.

The name of my business was EK Creative Marketing - EK being my initials.

Not so creative, right?

I had business cards made with this name and attended networking events handing these out. I came across a few of these cards when cleaning out one of my drawers the other weekend and had a chuckle.

One night, however, I was laying on my couch and suddenly the name Creative Marketing Zone popped into my head. And this became the name of my business as I knew that I produced and still do produce my best creative marketing work when I am in the zone - also known as a 'Flow' state of mind.

I first learned about the concept of Flow in 2013 when I read the popular book, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by the legendary psychologist, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Here is how to pronounce Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (I had to look it up, lol) -> https://www.youtube.com/watch?reload=9&v=j0cMiX4sMvI

This was an eye-opening book for me as I totally grasped the concept of Flow, the benefits of tapping into Flow, and how to go about tapping into the Flow state.

If you think about it, chess players, prolific artists, and ultra-marathon runners, all have one thing in common. They repeatedly and consistently nail the flow state - the optimal experience of being "in the zone." This is where amazing feats happen where you are totally disconnected from the outside world - free of distractions. You are just super immersed in what you are doing.

Characteristics of Flow

There are several characteristics of the Flow state, which are covered in Csikszentmihalyi's book. And these are:

1) Complete concentration on a task

2) Clarity of goals, immediate feedback, and a reward in mind

3) Transformation of time (speeding up or slowing down of time)

4) An intrinsically rewarding experience

5) Effortless and ease

6) A good balance between challenge and skills

7) Actions that merge with awareness - a loss of self-conscious rumination

8) Feelings of control over the task at hand

What happens when your brain experiences Flow?

What's interesting is that neuroscientists at Bonn University in Germany initially discovered that when you enter the flow state a cocktail of endorphins or feel-good hormones release into your bloodstream. I am feeling those endorphins actually right now as I talk about this J

Other researchers discovered that specific neurotransmitters norepinephrine, dopamine, anandamide, and serotonin are involved. These are pleasure-inducing and performance-enhancing neurochemicals that enhance your attention to detail, relax muscles, help problem-solve, and also help you feel good.

American University in Beirut neuroscientist Arne Dietrich theorized that there’s another process at play during the flow state, called transient hypofrontality — decreased activity in the prefrontal cortex, the portion of your brain responsible for higher cognitive functions like consciousness and memory. This temporary inactivation of the prefrontal cortex triggers a sense of time distortion, loss of your ego-based self-consciousness and inner-critic. When this occurs, Dietrich hypothesizes in “Introduction to Consciousness,” and this is when it’s likely that other brain areas free up to communicate in creative processes.

What about the benefits of being in the flow state?

These are some of the main benefits when you are in the zone:

  • Greater creativity

  • An increase in productivity and accelerated learning

  • Overcoming fear

  • Improved athletic performance

  • Better sleep

  • Enhanced happiness

And here is a bonus one for you, which is what I experience when I am consistently in a state of Flow, and that is I lose weight!

Yes, ironically, I get so immersed into what I am working on that I forget to eat - lol.

No, actually I am just kidding here. I actually do eat, I am just more conscious about the foods I do eat - I am not stressed and emotionally eating.

So how do you tap into your flow state so you can start being the best version of you?

Well, there are a number of things you can do. For starters, I always recommend some form of meditation, Yoga or breathing practices to kick things off.

I actually do yoga from home in my living room - Yoga with Adrienne on YouTube is who I enjoy practicing yoga with - definitely tune in to her channel and subscribe - tons of good stuff there.

But just taking breathing for instance - taking full, deep breaths and fully exhaling helps to create a gateway into a greater connection with the self and what you are doing.

Unfortunately, most of us don't breathe properly, and to make matters worse - we have poor diets, which further hinders our breathing.

Start cleaning up your diet and incorporate some more breathing, yoga and meditation practices to help you achieve greater clarity and an overall sense of well-being.

Practicing also makes perfect flow - especially when tackling a fear.

In my line of work, clients often have a hard time doing video. I often coach them on thinking that the camera is not there and we are just having a conversation. I also recommend practicing each day in front of a camera to get better – the more you practice, the better you get!

I had this experience with podcasting. I often joke about this on here, but if you go back to my earlier episodes you can tell how nervous I was. I was sweating underneath my armpits for goodness sake!

But now that I am almost 70 episodes in and I have been on other people's podcasts, this is almost becoming second nature for me it seems.

Athletes, musicians, and artists definitely benefit from this as well. My kids love playing basketball, and growing up that was my favorite sport! I used to play every day after school, often times alone as I felt like I was in the zone when working on my ball-handling skills, jump shots, layups, etc.

A few more ways in which you can tap into your flow state. These all come courtesy of an Addicted 2 Success article (copied below), which is covered in Csikszentmihalyi’s book :

You want to set the stage. Whatever task or work you are engaged in, create the optimum environment for flow to happen with an organized and tidy area free from ANY distractions. Some of the world’s greatest writers have a special room or space where they will only engage in writing- that becomes the place they enter into their flow state.

Where is your flow space? It could be in your attic, basement, or the quiet corner of your favorite coffee shop – heck, maybe even the bathroom!

Intrinsic Motivation. Flow happens when what you are doing becomes worth it for its own sake. You need to value and enjoy your work ultimately and above anyone else; regardless of how others may profit or be affected by what you do.

Here is a great flow question: if you never received any recognition for what you’re doing, would you still love doing it?

A Trigger. This is where physiology meets psychology; a physical trigger to set off an emotional peak state.

Tony Robbins is known for jumping up and down on an exercise trampoline and clapping his hands before walking out to a conference. A great technique is to squeeze your middle finger and thumb together and then think of an ecstatic flow experience in the past- a previous victory, accomplishment, or pinch-yourself moment. Then release and bring your mind back to an everyday mundane experience. Practicing stepping in and out of a heightened state.

From now on, every time you squeeze your fingers together your mind will immediately be taken to a flow experience.

No Destination. Once you have your mind primed and in flow, engage in the task at hand.

A crucial key for being in flow is to cast away any expectations. Flow cannot be put into a box. Don’t cut flow off by only getting a certain amount of work done, and don’t try and force flow by continuing to engage when the state is over.

Too Deep, Too Shallow. Flow is the perfect balance between skill and challenge. If your skill level is too high for the task, then you don’t have enough of a challenge to be in the flow. You fall into a state of “comfort.”

On the other hand, if the challenge is too high, you go into a state of “arousal.” This leads to frustration because you don’t have the skill to accomplish your task.

Whatever work you engage in, make sure that you are not over-qualified, nor under-qualified. The challenge should be just a little beyond your skill- to stretch you, but not break you!

Time-Out. The stages of getting into flow can be broken down into struggle – Relaxation – Flow – Consolidation. The final stage of consolidation is crucial for your brain to absorb and remember the new skills it was able to learn. The temptation will always be to chase after that next flow state. But you need to take a break and let your nervous system recover from the immersed experience.

Lastly, flow states must be incorporated in a holistic manner. You do not want to become dependent on a flow state to function regularly. Flow addiction can be very detrimental. This is what turns a person into an unhealthy workaholic- continually chasing the flow experience. Be engaged in a number of different creative tasks. This will allow you to enjoy the flow state without becoming dependent upon a single one that dominates your life.

That’s it, folks! Now turning over to you? Have you ever found yourself in a flow like state? Are there additional tips you can share?

Thanks for tuning in, and don’t forget that on Tuesday I will be back with another awesome interview with a marketing guru sharing his or her ninja marketing secrets to help you creatively grow your business!

Enjoy your weekend!


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