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Published on February 24, 2020

How to Improve Focus and Concentration by Mastering the Flow

How to Improve Focus and Concentration by Mastering the Flow

Imagine being totally immersed in an optimal state of consciousness, giving your fullest attention to an activity or task through improved focus and concentration, and heightening all aspects of your performance in the process.

Your mind declutters and the noise of your environment fades away, placing you in a non-distracted zone that creates a sense of uninterrupted fluidity between mind and body.

For those who struggle to concentrate or stay focused, this sounds like heaven.

This is known as the “flow state,” “flow,” or colloquially in sports as “in the zone” or “on a roll.” Surprisingly, you don’t necessarily have to be LeBron James, a super yogi, or a psychology guru to achieve it.

Whether you’re an athlete, an artist, or just a regular person engaged in a simple day-to-day task, with the right know-how, the flow state can be achieved. It may not quite be heaven, but it’s close enough for the easily distracted.

For many of us, focus and concentration have fallen prey to an onslaught of distractions and stimulation, some of which are deliberately engineered to capture our attention. This leaves us with little to no uninterrupted time to focus and concentrate, causing us to feel overwhelmed and helpless.

However, learning how to improve our focus and concentration by getting into the flow could be a silver bullet for the unrelenting distractions.

Characteristics of the Flow

According to psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who recognized and named “flow,” the concept has eight main characteristics:

  1. Complete concentration on the task.
  2. A feeling of control over the task.
  3. Effortlessness and ease.
  4. Clarity of goals and reward in mind and immediate feedback.
  5. A balance between challenges and skills.
  6. The experience is intrinsically rewarding.
  7. Transformation of time (speeding up/slowing down).
  8. Actions and awareness are merged, losing self-conscious rumination.

As a result of its positive characteristics, flow has several benefits.

Research conducted by Harvard professor Teresa Amabile revealed that people who have experienced flow report higher levels of productivity and creativity for up to three days. However, these are just two of the many benefits.

The Benefits of Flow Immersion

The benefits of flow are multitudinous. Here is a sampling of how it can benefit you:

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Improve Concentration

The ability to focus deeply minus distractions leads to higher output and quality work. When in a flow state, concentration becomes so laser-focused that everything else seems to fall away.

When in flow, your body and mind are in unison and know what to do without having to consciously think about it.

Eliminate Distractions

While in flow, the distracting emotions that usually cloud our minds, such as stress, worry, self-doubt, and lack of confidence, take a back seat.

Improve the Ability to Cope

Emotion regulation, a crucial skill when coping with negative emotions and memories, is directly connected to focus, one of the prerequisites of flow.

Flow directs our focus outward on the task at hand, instead of inward on our worries, fears, and frustrations.

If you know how to tune out negative distractions and focus on solving problems, you’ll get better at handling and moving on from major setbacks.

Create Happiness

Flow is said to be one of the most productive and happiest states that humans can be in.

Being fully immersed in a challenging task and feeling at one with it brings a general sense of well-being and a lasting sense of happiness and fulfillment.

Engage in a Positive Experience

The pleasure that comes with being deeply engrossed in something of significant interest or passion is said to result in an intrinsically positive experience.

Enhance Learning

Because it releases dopamine, flow enhances learning. Dopamine goes beyond providing a temporary high. It also heightens attention and decreases distractions, helping to raise our awareness.

Heighten Performance

A study [1] found that top executives who practice getting into the flow report being five times more productive.

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Another study done by Harvard Business school reveals that creative teams are more creative and productive even a day after being in the flow.

According to scientists, the flow of our brain waves shifts from the beta waves of concentration to the alpha waves of rest and relaxation and the theta waves that occur during meditation. Theta waves are said to be prerequisites for moments of insight and the gateway to creative genius.

Improve Productivity in the Workplace

Due to its powerful influence, flow can be a major source of inspiration for employees to perform at their peak.

According to scientific research, the average employee switches tasks every three minutes. Due to the resulting “attention residue,” whenever an employee gets distracted, it takes an average of 25 minutes to regain full attention on the task at hand [2].

Consistently entering a flow state can facilitate employees to increase focus, which will lead to higher productivity and better work. This is music to the ears of not only employers but employees as well as it can ultimately lead to significant advancement in a career.

However, knowing how to improve focus and concentration using flow takes some effort. It is a delicate process that you won’t master by simply reading about it.

With that in mind, here is a breakdown on how to improve focus and concentration by getting into a state of flow.

How to Improve Focus and Concentration by Getting Into Flow

Getting into flow sounds great in theory, but mastering the skill of repeated immersion in flow is not easy.

You won’t achieve a state of flow in every attempt, but you can prime your environment and yourself for flow so that you experience it more often.

Here’s how:

1. Have Clear Goals, Outcomes, and Expectations

Your mind will struggle to achieve optimum concentration and focus if you lack clarity about what you want to accomplish.

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If there’s no clear outcome, you won’t know exactly when you’re finished with your task. This will breed mind-wandering and procrastination and encourage quitting and switching to easier tasks.

2. Work on One Very Specific Task

Just like the goal, if you lack clarity on exactly what you are going to work on, it will be very difficult to enter a state of flow. You will either switch between multiple tasks too quickly or get distracted much more easily – both are serious detriments to achieving flow.

Multitasking creates a web of distractions that can make it impossible to achieve flow, so try to focus on one important task at a time.

3. Eliminate All Distractions and Avoid Interruptions

Research says external distractions must be eliminated to reach a flow state.[3]

Each time you get pulled away from your focus, you’ll be taken further away from flow.

It’s vital that you devote all of your concentration and undivided attention to the task at hand. You can only get into flow when you’re able to keep your focus and concentration for at least 10-15 minutes.

External distractions – Turn off your phone, television, other devices, and objects in your work environment that might distract you from the task at hand.

Try to set aside a time and move to a quiet environment that is conducive to “deep work,” where you won’t be interrupted or distracted.

Internal distractions – You’ll also need to eliminate internal distractions. Stress and an overwhelmed mind will make it very hard or even impossible to get into a flow state.

Eliminating all distractions will protect you from being disrupted and allows you to enter a state of deep focus and concentration, which is one of the most important elements of flow.

4. Do Something You Love

The easiest way to get into flow is to do something you love that is intrinsically rewarding. It will satisfy your mind’s craving for something challenging but doable.

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5. Identify Your Peak Productive and Creative Times

Identify the times where your mind most naturally functions at peak performance. For many people, the morning after a good night’s sleep is the most productive. Focusing on the day’s main task during these times will make flow easier and more effective.

6. Create a Ritual

Try to create a series of actions that you do every single time you’re about to begin a task that requires you to enter a state of concentration.

This could be anything that helps, such as meditation or stretching. Whatever the activity, it will trigger your brain to get ready for what’s about to begin.

7. Focus on the Process, Not the End Goal

While having goals and a specific task are crucial, getting into the flow also requires enjoying the journey and not just fixating on the outcome.

Try to allow yourself to simply live in the present moment without worrying too much about the end product of your efforts. This will allow the experience to be pleasurable, which will encourage you to do it more often.

Conclusion

Getting into the flow is a powerful practice that can pave a pathway to achievement and personal improvement.

Mastering it is also a great way to learn how to improve focus and concentration, which is essential to achieving goals in life.

However, like every skill, it’s going to take intent and practice to master. We hope these tips will help you to go with the flow and develop the laser-like focus that will improve your performance on the job or in your daily life.

More Productivity Tips

Featured photo credit: Avi Richards via unsplash.com

Reference

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Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Last Updated on September 23, 2020

5 Reasons for Your Facebook Addiction (and How to Break It)

5 Reasons for Your Facebook Addiction (and How to Break It)

Facebook is embedded into lives around the world. We use it to connect with friends, share important milestones, and check in with the news. However, what may seem like harmless scrolling can become harmful if it takes up inordinate amounts of time and turns into a Facebook addiction.

The first step to breaking any bad habit is to understand the symptoms and psychological triggers that made you pick up the habit in the first place. Below you’ll find the common causes, and the good news is that, once you’ve identified them, you can implement specific strategies to get over your Facebook addiction.

Symptoms of a Facebook Addiction

Do you find that the first thing you do when you wake up is grab your phone and scroll through Facebook? Is it the last thing you see before falling asleep? You may have a Facebook addiction. Here are some more of the signs and symptoms[1]:

  • You end up spending hours on Facebook, even when you don’t mean to.
  • You use Facebook to escape problems or change your mood.
  • You go to sleep later because you’re glued to your screen.
  • Your relationships are suffering because you spend more time on your phone than you do talking with the people you care about.
  • You automatically pull out your phone when you have free time.

You can check out this TED Talk by Tristan Harris to understand how Facebook and other social media gain and hold our attention:

Psychological Reasons for a Facebook Addiction

A compulsive Facebook addiction doesn’t come out of nowhere. There are often root causes that push you into Facebook, which can ultimately manifest as an addiction once you become dependent on it. Here are some of the common causes.

Procrastination

Facebook can cause procrastination, but many times, your tendency to procrastinate can lead you to scrolling through your Facebook feed.

Facebook capitalizes on your tendency to procrastinate[2] by incorporating a news feed with an infinite scroll. No matter how far down you go, there will always be more memes and status updates to keep you distracted from whatever you should be doing.

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Thus, it might be helpful to change your perception of Facebook. Instead of looking at it like a place to be social or kill time, frame Facebook as the enemy of your productivity and purpose. Doesn’t sound as tempting now, right?

Loneliness or Indecision

Facebook resembles a boring reality TV show that is on full display during every hour of the day. Do you really need to tell everybody what you ate for lunch? I doubt it.

You don’t share such trivial details to add value to people’s lives. You’re likely doing it because you’re lonely and in need of attention or approval[3].

Seeking opinions from your friends could be a sign of indecision or low self-confidence. If you get a bad suggestion, then you can conveniently blame somebody else, thus protecting your ego.

Social Comparisons

Social comparison is a natural part of being human[4]. We need to know where we stand in order to judge our rank among our peers. And Facebook has made this all too easy.

When we get into Facebook, our brains are bombarded by hundreds of people to compare ourselves to. We see our cousin’s amazing vacation to Europe, our friend’s adorable baby, our brother’s new puppy, etc. Everything looks better than what we have because, of course, people are only going to post the best parts.

This extreme form of social comparison with a Facebook addiction can, unfortunately, lead to depression. One study pointed out that “people feel depressed after spending a great deal of time on Facebook because they feel badly when comparing themselves to others”[5].

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People-Pleasing

Facebook takes advantage of your desire for instant gratification[6]. Your brain receives a dopamine hit every time you see that red notification light up. Dopamine is a chemical in your brain that causes you to seek pleasure from things.

Pleasure sounds nice in theory, but dopamine is responsible for self-destructive behavior if overproduced. Thus, becoming a slave to your notifications can destroy your self-control in a hurry.

If that wasn’t bad enough, the human desire to be liked and accepted is at play, too. Every time you get a “Like,” your brain decides that means somebody likes you. Keep this up and you’ll turn into an addict desperate for another “hit.”

Fear of Missing out (FOMO)

Facebook wrecks your focus by preying on your fear of missing out. You check your Facebook feed during a date because you don’t want to miss any interesting updates. You check your messages while you drive because a friend might have something exciting to share.

One study found that “a high level of fear of missing out and high narcissism are predictors of Facebook intrusion, while a low level of fear of missing out and high narcissism are related to satisfaction with life”[7].

Therefore, while you may feel temporarily glad that you didn’t miss something, research shows that FOMO will actually reduce your overall life satisfaction.

How to Break a Facebook Addiction

Now that you know some of the causes of a Facebook addiction, you may be ready to break it. If so, follow these 5 steps to get over your addiction and improve your mental health.

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1. Admit the Addiction

You can’t fix a problem if you deny it exists. Don’t beat yourself up, but do try and be honest enough to admit you’re a Facebook addict. If it makes you feel any better, I’m a recovering addict myself. There is no reason to be ashamed.

Telling a trusted friend might help you stay accountable, especially if they share your goal.

2. Be Mindful of Triggers

In order to discover the triggers that lead you to use Facebook, ask yourself the following questions. It may be helpful to write them down at a journal.

  • What did I do? (scrolling, sharing, notification checking, etc.)
  • When did I do it? (down-time at work, as soon as you woke up, right before bed, on a date, etc.)
  • What happened right before? (a stressful event, boredom, etc.)
  • How did this make me feel? (stressed, anxious, sad, angry, etc.)

Once you’re aware of what pushes you to use Facebook, you can work on tackling those specific things to get over your Facebook addiction.

3. Learn to Recognize the Urge

Every time you feel the urge to update your status or check your feed, recognize that impulse for what it is (a habitual behavior—NOT a conscious decision). This is especially powerful when you complete step 2 because you’ll be able to make a mental note of the specific psychological trigger at play.

Have a plan for when you feel the desire to use Facebook. For example, if you know you use it when you’re bored, plan to practice a hobby instead. If you use it when you’re stressed, create a relaxation routine instead of jumping on Facebook.

4. Practice Self-Compassion

Facebook is an epic time-suck, but that doesn’t mean you should criticize yourself every time you log-on to your feed. Beating yourself up will make you feel bad about yourself, which will ironically cause you to be even more tempted.

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Self-loathing can only lead to failure. You might end up deciding it’s hopeless because you are “too lazy.”  If you want to break your addiction for good, then you need to be self-compassionate.

5. Replace the Addiction With a Positive Alternative

It’s a lot easier to eliminate a bad habit when you decide on a good habit that you would like to replace it with. I applied this idea by choosing to pick up a book every time I was tempted to check my feed.

The result blew my mind. I read over a hundred pages in the first day! Trust me when I say those “few minutes of down-time” can add up to an obscene amount of waste.

Having a specific metric to track is important. If you want to stay encouraged, you need to have compelling evidence that your time would be better spent elsewhere.

For example, download an app to help you determine exactly how much time is spent on Facebook so you know how much of your life you’re losing to it. Then, when you find a healthy alternative, you can feel good about all the time you’re giving to it!

Final Thoughts

Facebook addictions aren’t uncommon in today’s technologically dependent world. In the pursuit of human connection, we’ve mistakenly taken our interactions online, thinking it would be an easier alternative. Unfortunately, this is no replacement for genuine, face-to-face interaction in real life.

If you think you have a problem, there are things you can do to tackle it. Get started today and improve your overall well-being.

More on How to Use Social Media Less

Featured photo credit: Tim Bennett via unsplash.com

Reference

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