How to get into a Flow

In the recent weeks I have been wrestling with the idea of „the flow“ or the lack of it. I wanted to know how to achieve it and how to keep it running.

On a few occasions I was able to get through my projects smoothly and efficiently. Without any lengthy preparations or any excessive thinking. Once I found my flow the rest followed. Other times it was a total drag. I was progressing but it was very inefficient. Like a stop and go congestion on a motorway. I found myself hitting walls frequently and had to think where to go next.

This made me think. If interruptions and distractions are so obvious of a problem, how can I better structure my work-flow to minimise the necessary stops and maximise the output.

There are generally two types of interruptions or distractions that I found to have troubled me in the past.

The first one is are those that are exogenous to the project or a task I work on. These can be planned, for example meetings, or spontaneous and unexpected, like e-mails or text messages.

The way to manage these is by being mindful about your environment. I schedule meetings in bulk to free up deep work times. I turn off my phone and disable e-mail notifications. Anything that is within my control I try to control.

The other type of interruptions is the endogenous type. For example, you are working on a project or an analysis and you get to the point where you are stuck. You do not know where to go next. If that is because of a "natural break" in the project, then all good. However, if your next step should be easy and almost natural then there is something wrong with the plan.

The approach I have been testing here is to off-load processes onto templates and checklists. All the items that are repetitive and the same are listed out. I then follow this template to go through the needed pieces, letting my mind focus on the creative part. There is a necessary investment that I had to make up front, but that time has been more than compensated by increased flow and greater productivity.

The second strategy I use is when there are multiple projects ongoing at the same time. In my work this is almost our bread and butter. I cannot remember the time when it wasn't the case. There are competing priorities and deadlines with new projects coming up all the time and old ones unfortunately not dying our as frequently.

To manage that I have created a "storage" for all the deliveries and projects. One place where all the headings are spelled out. This gives me an overview of what is out there and what needs my attention the most. From that list, I then funnel individual items into my "to do" list and break them down into smaller tasks as necessary. From then on, it is easy to allocate these tasks to the free spots in my calendar to help my focus on the content of the work and not on where to go next.

The key in all of that is thoughtful planning and organisation. On the days where I invest time and plan my activities, I notice that my output increases and I get "more done". On days when I try to "go with the flow" I end up jumping between topics and pick up work that may not necessarily be the most urgent at that moment.

I do not always manage to get my plan perfect. There are days when life gets in a way and "going with the flow" is the only solution. If that happens, I try to accept it and to make the best of it. There may be urgent requests or imminent deadlines where things will need to get done. That is normal and part of our modern lives.

Hope the above was interesting and useful. If you are curious to receive more of my thoughts and tips how to manage your productivity, please remember to subscribe.

Thanks for reading.

Until Next Time

M | K