Do you remember the last time that you got so focused on a task that you’ve already lost track of time? Maybe it was something that you enjoyed doing or was very eager to complete that you didn’t notice that hours have already gone by while you were on it. Maybe it was when you were writing a blog, painting or drawing a portrait, baking some pastries, or maybe even doing some handicrafts. You might have not realized it, but those were the times when you were in the state of flow. But what exactly is flow? And how do you know that you already have achieved this state and how can you achieve it again when doing other tasks? You’d be glad to know that achieving the state of flow is actually easy. All you have to do is know more about the 4 Fs of Flow.

What is Flow?

The flow state is a mental state wherein a person gets fully immersed in an activity he is currently doing, that he momentarily forgets everything else around him. When someone is in the flow state, they are “in the zone”. This means that the person feels very focused, intent and motivated to the point wherein he enjoys what he is doing, that at that moment, nothing else matters. And to be in the zone, you have to understand the factors of achieving it. This is where the 4 Fs of Flow comes in.

What are the 4 Fs of Flow?

According to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Hungarian-American psychologist and the author of the book, FLOW, the 4 Flow Factors can help one achieve the state of flow. By achieving the flow state, you can be at your most productive state and be able to accomplish your tasks without feeling burned out. According to Csikszentmihalyi as written on his book FLOW, “Most enjoyable activities are not natural; they demand an effort that initially one is reluctant to make. But once the interaction starts to provide feedback to the person’s skills, it usually begins to be intrinsically rewarding.” So if you would like to find out how you can be in the zone, you should first work on your 4 Fs of Flow.

1. Focus

The first among the 4 Fs of Flow is focus. Before achieving the state of flow, you should first understand the importance of focus towards the task at hand. How do you usually gain or regain focus? Our ways of gaining focus can vary. One thing that you can try doing is by starting with a focus exercise to help jumpstart your brain towards focusing its attention on something. This allows you to switch from having scattered thoughts about random stuff towards having a single-tracked mind towards a certain goal. Meditation or mindfulness exercises can be a great way of boosting your focus. By being in the state of now and by becoming more aware of yourself and your surroundings, you get to improve your focus levels and be ready to start working on your task without getting easily distracted.

2. Freedom

The next factor from the 4Fs of flow is freedom. This basically pertains to one’s freedom to do things. Try to recall the last time that you did something without worrying about being judged or being scrutinized. Do you remember how it felt? You felt free, right? That is what this factor pertains to. Your freedom from being scrutinized, not just by other people, but also by yourself. Sometimes, we tend to overthink and judge our own actions too much that it breaks the momentum of our actions.

A simple example to explain this further is when you walk. We all have our own natural way of walking. Depending on where you are headed or where you are walking, the way you walk might change. Especially if you are walking in front of a lot of people, with lots of eyes set on you. You might start thinking too much about what you look like and how your walking looks like, right? This can then affect the way your walk looks and feels, to a point wherein you might keep changing the way you put one foot in front of the other, then it just doesn’t feel natural anymore. It feels forced. This is because you are scared of being judged, and because you are also scrutinizing yourself too much.

Losing that sense of freedom can break your flow state even for the simplest of actions. By freeing yourself from judgement or scrutiny, you get to continue doing something without worrying too much about any errors or missteps along the way. One way to do this is by using the Pomodoro technique. Yes, Pomodoro is normally used to help improve one’s focus, but you can also use it to give yourself a break from judging your own actions. With Pomodoro, you can work on a task continuously for 20 minutes. Afterwards, you can give yourself 5 minutes to then review your work. You can keep doing the same practice until you accomplish your task. This way you get to have more opportunities to be free from self-scrutiny and improve your focus on your task.

3. Feedback

In everything that we do, be it a big or small task, we receive information that allow us to improve or adjust the way we do our work. This is why feedback plays an important role in helping a person achieve the flow state. As one of the 4 Fs of Flow, feedback can help you get closer to your goal. While working on your task, you can take some time to analyze how much you have accomplished so far and review what you might need to improve on until you achieve your goal.

To make sure that you are putting this third factor into play, you can also make use of the Pomodoro technique and play it alternatingly with the freedom factor. 20 minutes of freedom, then 5 minutes of giving yourself feedback. For each of those 5 minutes, you can check what you have done so far, review what you have accomplished so that you can better understand how much more you have to work on before you get to your end goal.

4. Four % Challenge

As for the fourth item from the 4 Fs of Flow, the 4% challenge is all about keeping the level of challenge high. It’s about helping keep your enthusiasm for a certain task up. If you look back at the times when you feel challenged about doing something, be it because you want to be better at someone from doing it or you simply just want to be better, it still is a challenge. To follow through on the 4% challenge, you should look into improving your craft and doing your task better than people who are better than you.

If you’re not into competing with other people, you can also just compete with yourself by working on doing things better. For example, if you can complete 50 repetitions of push-ups today, maybe you can go 4% higher than that. Try doing 52 repetitions today, then 4% more on the next day, and the next day and the next day. By slowly ramping up the challenge, you get to also improve yourself more and avoid feeling stagnant. This can help boost your motivation in doing what you should be doing.

Be in the Zone with the 4 Fs of Flow

By putting all the four factors of flow together: focus, freedom, feedback and four % challenge, you can boost your focus and be in the zone when doing your task. Once you have achieved the flow state, doing even the most repetitive of tasks will not feel boring or dragging. In fact, the most productive people are those who get to find their flow state even when doing the same tasks over and over again. Practice the 4 Fs of flow and see how your perception of your work changes.

Achieve Flow State with Kanban

Want to level up the challenge towards achieving your flow state? You can keep yourself and your team motivated and focused by making use of Kanban. As a task and project management methodology, Kanban can help you and your team maintain a state of flow when handling your tasks. With better task visibility and by having just one dashboard to monitor all of your pending tasks, it will be a lot easier for you to be in the zone.

Thinking about trying a virtual Kanban board to help with your flow state? Optimize your productivity and be in the zone with Kanban Zone.

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