MonthFebruary 2016

Finding Flow

State of Flow – Being fully immersed in a specific task with a seemingly inexhaustible amount of focus.

In his book, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi explores the phenomenon that is ‘flow’ and how it can be found in day to day life.

The book provides an insight into the state of flow, how it works, the benefits of having it and how to try and achieve a state of flow during your day. As a concept, I was familiar with flow before reading this book, but I was curious to find out more about it and how I could ‘integrate’ it into my work.

Flow is an area of study that has been a large focus of Csikszentmihalyi and therefore he has conducted lots of research and interviews around the topic. In this book he presents the 8 conditions of flow that kept reappearing as he spoke to people.

  • Confront tasks we have a chance of completing
  • Concentration
  • Clearly defined goals
  • Immediate feedback as to your progress within the task
  • Feels effortless and it allows you to forget about everyday worries and frustrations
  • Control (of actions, behaviour and success)
  • Confidence
  • Lose track of time

An aspect often repeated (and the take home message for me) is that flow can be achieved when the challenge you are about to face, matches your skill level.

flow

At this optimum you need to be fully immersed in the task to be successful. Too easy and you will be bored, too hard and you won’t succeed.

So how can you use this information?

It means you can’t be in flow unless you challenge yourself, unless you are working at your optimum. So if you want to achieve it, you have to push hard to find that limit, and once there you will be amazed with how focused and capable you are on the given task.

 

Overall it was a good book to read. Not the most exciting I’ve ever read, I will admit. However, it is worth reading! If you’re interested you can find the book here.

 

UPDATE – Wake Up!

Something a little different this week. I wanted to write an update post on last week’s post – Wake Up!

Why?

Well, because a lot of things came out of it – ideas, suggestions and results.

First – Some honesty

In the post last week, I spoke about the importance of having a reason to wake up. If you have a time bound activity, your mind will know you need to be up.

I followed my own advice for the following weekend. The next morning (Saturday) I had agreed to meet my brother at 9am for a game a squash.

You can guess what happened…. I woke up at 7:30am with my alarm, and…… fell back to sleep, not waking until spot on 9am!

So yes I did write about the importance of building a habit to wake up on time and then over sleep the very next day…. But for the record, I still got to the sports centre with enough time for a good game!

Ideas

The next morning (yes, the late morning) I had a message waiting for me on Facebook, sent from a friend of mine whilst they were on a night out, not a drunk text surprisingly, actually a message with their advice on how to wake up (why they were reading my blog on a night out, I’m still not sure…)

What did they have to say? – Build a routine.

Every morning, do the same thing instantly – drink some water, get out and walk to the bathroom, even sing a song. Do anything you want, but do it every day as soon as you wake up. The act of doing something straight away will get you brain in gear.

Suggestions

I’ve tried countless alarm clock apps, but I’ve found anything I like. The alarm noises are horrible, the app doesn’t work and so the alarm doesn’t even go off, or you can’t personalise it enough…

However one app I hadn’t yet tried was suggested to me – Sleep Cycle.

As I entered the app store to search for it, that very app came up as a suggestion on my featured page (a sign? Maybe…)

The app works by using the microphone in your phone or tablet to listen to you sleep and it uses that noise to determine how well you are sleeping. When you set an alarm, you set it in a 30 minute period. At some stage within those 30 minutes, when you are in a light phase of sleep, the alarm will go off… AND… the noise is nice! Soothing, easy music. Not those harsh, loads screeches.

As well as acting as an alarm, you can look back through your nights to see how well you slept, whether this is of much use, I’m not yet sure, but I am certainly interested and check it every morning!

Results

I’ve found it really difficult to build a habit. To do the same thing instantly each morning. However, I can see how it would work. I think this is something I will stick at and attempt over and over, but if it’s for me, I’m not sure yet.

However, I absolutely love this new app!

It works perfectly!! I have used it for four nights so far. Number of times I’ve overslept – 0. Number of times I’ve woken up feeling fresh – 4! I’ve had no issues, I’ve enjoyed seeing how I slept and I’ve felt good each day.

 

So if you’re a heavy sleeper, Sleep Cycle might be your solution!

Wake Up!

I love sleep. I also enjoy waking up, as it’s the start of a new day. However, I struggle to wake up.

I set an alarm, it wakes me up. A few weeks later, I find myself sleeping through the alarm noise. Sometimes, I’m not deciding to lie in, I literally don’t wake up until after my alarm (no matter how many I set). If I change the alarm noise, the cycle repeats.

For me, this is a challenge I want to overcome and overcome fast! I’ve put in place a number of strategies to try and wake up, however I also want to add some accountability. By writing this post, I’m committing to myself to wake up on time.

So what am I aiming for? At the moment my alarm is set for 7am each morning, with follow up alarms at 7:15 and 7:30. A number of times these past few weeks I’ve ended up waking up at 8:30am. So, yes, not late and early enough for me to be wherever I might need to be for the day, but it isn’t building a habit.

Extreme Alarm Clock

I get used to alarm noises, quickly! I can easily sleep through them. So how can I overcome it?

Change the senses.

Now, I’m not woken by noise, but by feel. An alarm clock that shakes my bed! This worked like a charm… until… I formed the muscle memory to turn it off and I then found myself turning the alarm off in a half-sleep state, away enough to move, not awake enough to make the decision to fully wake up – disaster.

Now, I’ve move the alarm base and so I’m not able to turn it off whilst half asleep – for now anyway!

A Reason

I want to wake up early so that I can get my day started, get more work done and be more productive. I have things to wake up for, however these aren’t time bound activities and I think that is where I have gone wrong. If I wake up 30 minutes later, I just start working 30 minutes later, I haven’t missed anything, I have slept through an activity, so in reality it didn’t make much difference.

Now I want to add a reason. Whether that be to wake up and go the gym early or go and meet someone early. I now set a time bound reason. If I wake up 30 minutes late, I might have missed the chance to go to the gym. The possibility of missing something will be a strong enough factor to get me awake.

 

So why post about this? Well, now I have made it known what I am trying to do, even if only to myself through the act of typing this. That accountability is the third factor that I hope will get me up in the morning!

P.S. If you have any techniques that get you awake in the morning, let me know 🙂

Why Go to University?

Build up debt for a degree that doesn’t even guarantee you a job? Is University worth it? Are you better off going straight into work or an apprenticeship?

In my opinion, it’s hard to know if the degree alone is worth the money. However, University as a whole is worth every penny! Here are my three main reasons, aside from earning a degree, for why I believe University is the place to be.

1 – The People

When you start at University, you jump into a community of thousands of other people in a similar position as you. It’s no surprise people meet friends for life or even their future husband/wife.

For me, I’ve loved being able to meet like-minded people, who are working on similar things, with similar goals. This is one of the main reasons a number of business students still go to University, rather than start their own venture – they want the network.

Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of people who you meet and think ‘how did they get into University?’ and you won’t get on with everyone. However, it only takes a few new, good people to make it worthwhile.

2 – The Freedom

University is the place to try things! The risks of giving something a go and hating it or failing are low.

Want to try and start a business, give it a try. Want to learn a sport, turn up to practice. If you fail there are no (or very low) consequences, you don’t have a job you’re putting on the line, you don’t have a family you need to provide for, you don’t have a mortgage to pay.

You start as a student and if it all goes wrong, you carry on as a student. The freedom to try is unique and won’t last once ‘in the real world’.

3 – The Time

Despite what many students will tell you, the work load isn’t that big. Around exams or weeks full of deadlines it can become pretty intense, however most of the time you only go to a couple of lectures a day at most and maybe prepare some answers every now and then.

This leaves lots of free time for other things; sports, societies, socialising etc. It’s incredible how many different things you can have on the go at once. If you’re in a 9-5 job it will be really hard to hold up the same level of commitments!

 
Whilst I do enjoy my degree and I do learn lots from it, it isn’t the only reason for being at University, I’m here to take advantage of everything it has to offer!

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