By Peter Strella
In this YouTube video, Sylvia talks about her belief that “flow” is the No. 1 indicator that a person is truly in the right job or position. “Flow is when you are so focused on what you are doing, that no distractions short of the building burning down can possibly pull you away,” she says. Sylvia goes on to discuss how flow involves a “blissful sort of joy” and ease of creativity.
As a writer, I’m all too familiar with the importance of flow. I’ve been writing with a purpose ever since I can remember, whether that has meant answering essay questions or writing research papers for school, writing articles for my college newspaper or a local weekly news publication, or crafting press releases and video scripts for business purposes. All told, most of my life has been spent finding ways to let the words flow. As anyone who has experienced writer’s block can attest, finding that flow isn’t always easy.
And that’s what struck me about Sylvia’s comments. Finding flow has been a defining struggle in my professional career. My search for the perfect words has driven me to employ tactics as logical as taking quick breaks and as unconventional as performing my in-office stretching routine. Does this struggle mean that I’m not in the right career?
I wrestled with this question over the next few days before asking two questions that are more specific: Have I ever experienced flow? Do I have this “blissful sort of joy” when I get there? The answer to both questions was a resounding “yes,” so I’ve since redirected my thoughts to an even better question: How can I get there more often?
I’m happy that, since then, I’ve been able to pinpoint a few promising opportunities, ways to break down the dam and allow the river to roll easily into the ocean. Here are a few observations I made:
• Just Do It. As you can probably tell by this blog post, I do a lot of thinking. Sometimes that’s my biggest enemy because it keeps me from getting started. There is value in having a good plan, but there comes a point when simply diving in and getting your feet wet is the best way to find your flow.
• Don’t fight the flow. I’m a recovering perfectionist with instincts that drive me to perpetually search for something better. At work, I’ve succeeded because of this drive, but it has also prevented surrendering to the flow and letting it take me to where I need to be.
• Achieve Balance. I’ve realized that I could probably benefit from having more “flow” in my life away from work. My career is very important to me and I want to put my best foot forward at every moment. But there are many times when I’m so exhausted from work that I’m not up for doing much when I get home. Finding constructive outlets – such as writing creatively, playing guitar and exercising more frequently – has helped me recently to find flow at home so that I can find it more often at work.
What ways can you think of to help find flow at the workplace?
Pete Strella works in Rite Aid’s Creative Media Services department, based at the company’s corporate headquarters in Camp Hill, Pa. He manages the retail pharmacy chain’s employee newsletter and supports internal video and web communications.