One can hardly pick up a magazine or newspaper, go online or listen to the news without hearing about “time” and our relationship to it. How to get more time, how to save time, how to produce more in less time, how not to waste time, how to be on time, how to better manage your time . . . and the list goes on. In fact, with springtime here, many of us just adjusted ourclocks to Daylight Savings Time, gaining us more time with daylight. So with our 21st century near obsession with time and all things time management, I dare to propose that we diligently try to lose track of time!
Now I’m not talking about the “losing track” habit that my dear 2nd son developed while he was growing up (in fact, our neighbor still chuckles over the image of me standing in front of our house, warbling, “Collin, what’s the delay?”). No, I’m talking about deliberately and consistently losing track of time. Yep. On purpose. Now I know this sounds counterintuitive in this fast-paced and demanding world we live in, but it does have merit.
Having studied the habits and strategies of the Master Artists through my whole adult life, I am very aware that losing track of time was one of their keys to success. Their objective was to be able to paint or sculpt in a place we nowadays call “the zone.” To be able to tune out distractions, worries and extraneous thoughts so their complete focus was on what they were creating. While in the zone, they truly lost track of time, they were in the moment, they were in flow.
Go with the Flow
One of the world’s foremost authorities on the topic of flow is positive psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (try saying that with a mouth full of cookies; we’ll call him M.C.), author of the book, “Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience.” M.C. describes flow as a “state of complete immersion . . . being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing Jazz. Your whole being is involved and you’re using your skills to the utmost.”
I am lucky to have several friends who are accomplished artists, current-day Masters, who describe this exact state when they are painting. One, whose studio is in her home, says her husband doesn’t have a prayer of getting through to her when she’s in flow (he has since learned to catch her before or after she hits the zone!). This is no doubt one reason the 19th century Impressionists were ecstatic with the invention of the portable easel—they could leave in the morning for the fields and seaside to paint all day with nary an interruption. They could stay in flow.
What’s in it for us?
So, regarding flow, what’s in it for us? What are the benefits?
• Lowered stress and anxiety. This happens as a result of our loosening the connections of particular neural pathways of the brain.
• Increased creativity and productivity
• Heightened focus, both while in the zone, as well as afterward
• A clearer mind allowing us to see things in a new perspective
• More positive emotions
Sounds good, eh? To help you get some of this, here are:
Six Steps to Lose Track of Time and Be in Flow
1. Focus on a single task with a clear goal
2. As Leo Babauta of Zen Habits says: “Make sure it’s challenging, but not too hard. If a task is too easy, you will be able to complete it without much thought or effort. The task should be challenging enough to require your full concentration.”
3. Remove yourself from distractions and minor interruptions (phone calls, email, etc.) as much as possible
4. Give yourself a good chunk of time to focus on this one thing
5. Ask your family or co-workers not to interrupt you during this time (yes, a sticky note on your door can do the trick!)
6. And then . . . truly go with the flow!
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi says that the ultimate outcome of flow is that
it is the key to happiness, both in work and life.
. . . Who’s going to argue with this result, even if we
can’t pronounce the sayer’s name?
Contact Nancy Noonan at the Mastery Institute at firstname.lastname@example.org or 720-304-3597 for keynotes, trainings or coaching.